A record-breaking veteran climber fell 600-feet to his death off a steep Mexico mountain after failing to tie a knot in his rappel rope.
Brad Gobright, 31, had been rappelling down El Sendero Luminoso at El Potrero Chico on Wednesday with climbing partner Aiden Jacobson, 26.
Gobright and Jacobson met each other for the first time on the day of the climb. The night before, the veteran climber had posted to Instagram asking whether anyone wanted to join him. Jacobson, from Phoenix, answered the post, and the pair met up the next morning.
The pair used a 260ft rope to simul-rappel down the side of the mountain after they reached the peak, according to Outside. The climbing technique is where two climbers, using opposite ends of the same rope, descend down the side of a mountain. The rope is rigged to an anchor, and each climber acts as a counterweight to the other. If one stops weighting the rope, it could cause the other to fall.
In this case, Gobright and Jacobson did not tie potentially life-saving stopper knots in the ends of their ropes because it could cause the ropes to get stuck, according to Outside.
As the pair descended, they misjudged the length of rope they had on either side – with Gobright having less than he thought. And as they hadn’t tied knots into the rope, when it reached its end it slipped out of his rappel device, causing him to fall 600-feet.
Jacobson fell at the same time, but his fall was broken by bush and he injured his ankle.
Jacobson told Outdoor that before the fatal fall they had reached an anchor at pitch nine, they opted to go down to pitch six, just 50 feet above the ledge.
The rope at that point was slack, and the climbers did not pull it to its midpoint. At that stage, Gobright’s side of the rope was tangled in bush to the side, and Jacobson’s was touching the ledge.
Jacobson told Outdoor: ‘I asked if we were good and he said “yes, we can untangle the rope on the way down. We didn’t tie knots in them either … I was a bit above him. I was on the left. He was on the right. Then all of a sudden I felt a pop and we started dropping.’
The climbers were about 30 feet above pitch five when they fell at the same time. There had been less rope on Gobright’s side than the pair initially thought, and because there were no knots in the end of the rope, it caused him to slip.
‘It was basically a blur. I screamed, he screamed. I went through some vegetation, and then all I remember is seeing is his blue Gramicci shirt bounce over the edge,’ Jacobson told the publication.
Costa Rican climber, Gino Negrinni, who was on the mountain at the time said he saw the climbers and then later heard their screams.
Negrinni said he and his climbing partner saw the two drop to the fifth pitch and went down to help Jacobson.
The rope was also on the fifth pitch but Gobright was not and it was assumed he continued falling down to an area known as the Skull Ampitheatre.
Gobright had landed in Mexico a few days before and was collected from the airport by Joel Heriberto Guadarrama Garcia. Who received details of the accident from Negrinni.
‘I arrived with Brad in Potrero at 3:40 in the afternoon and Brad just dropped his bag, and fifteen minutes later went and free soloed Yankee Clipper,’ Garcia told Rock & Ice.
Gobright had been climbing since he was seven years old and is one of the few who have climbed the Salathé Wall free in a single day.
In June 2015 he made the first free ascent of The Heart Route with Mason Earle.
With Scott Bennett he climbed Zodiac, The Nose and Lurking Fear in less than 24 hours in 2016.
In October 2017 he set a speed record for ascending the Nose route of El Capitan in Yosemite National Park, one of the world’s most technical and dangerous verticals.
Gobright and climbing partner Jim Reynolds raced up the nearly 90-degree, 2,900-foot precipice in just two hours and 19 minutes.