California rock climber Brad Gobright reportedly reached the top of a highly challenging rock face in northern Mexico and was rappelling down with a companion when he fell to his death on Wednesday.
Climber Aidan Jacobson of Phoenix, Arizona, told Outside magazine that he was with Gobright and said they had just performed an ascent of the Sendero Luminoso route in the El Potrero Chico area near the northern city of Monterrey.
Jacobson also fell, but a shorter distance, after something went wrong in the “simul-rappelling” descent, the magazine said.
The technique involves two climbers balancing each other’s weight off an anchor point. In online forums, many climbers described the technique as difficult and potentially dangerous.
Civil defense officials in Nuevo Leon state said Gobright, 31, fell about 300m to his death. The magazine account described the fall as 600 feet (183m).
Jacobson sustained minor injuries, officials said.
Gobright’s body was recovered on Thursday.
The publication Rock and Ice described Gobright as “one of the most accomplished free solo climbers in the world.”
Friends on Friday described him as a dedicated climber who would travel the US’ west coast, living out of his Honda Civic, following the weather on a diet of gas station food.
“In some ways, I think he was such a fixture of the climbing community and such a big character on the scene, I feel like I’ve always known him,” said his friend Alex Honnold, who was the first person to ascent Yosemite National Park’s granite wall known as El Capitan without ropes or safety gear. “He spent almost every day of his life doing exactly what he wanted to be doing.”
Jacobson said the pair might not have evened out the length of the 80m rope between them, to ensure each had the same amount, because Gobright’s end was apparently tangled in some bushes near a ledge below them.
That might have caused Gobright to essentially run out of rope; without the balancing weight of the other climber, both would fall.
Jacobson fell through some vegetation and onto a ledge they were aiming for, injuring his ankle.
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