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Brad Gobright in 2014 during a “practice lap” up the Naked Edge in Eldorado Canyon. In October 2014 he and Scott Bennett set a record time of 24 minutes, 57 seconds. Eleven months later, Stefan Griebel and Jason Wells beat that time by 28 seconds.
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“I pretty much just live for climbing,” Brad Gobright told me back in 2015, when he appeared in my column as Breakthrough Climber of the Year. “I gotta work here and there, save some money, hit the road. It’s pretty much all I do.”

Scott Bennett (left) and Brad Gobright (right) enjoy a beer after another speed climb of the Naked Edge in 2014.

Gobright was living in Boulder at the time, working as a busboy at the St. Julien Hotel and, as always, climbing as much as possible. He would often climb a full day in Eldorado Canyon, then, when his partner was wrecked, climb several more hours in the gym.

“His days out here in Boulder were legendary,” said his friend Scott Bennett, with whom Gobright held several inconceivable speed records on the Naked Edge (reaching sub-25 minutes!) — a 6-pitch 5.11 in Eldo that takes most climbers the better part of a day.

Tragically, on Nov. 27, Gobright died in a rappelling accident in El Potrero Chico, Mexico. He was 31 years old.

Gobright was uniquely driven to climb. I ran into him several times this fall in Yosemite, where he would spend weeks, often months, each year. He did what generations of Valley climbing bums have done: he lived frugally, he slept under rocks, he ate other people’s leftovers.

“When you want to climb as much as Brad did, you figure out a way to make it work,” said his friend James Lucas. “He spent summers in Squamish with only $60. Yet he climbed all the time.”

Gobright in 2012 on one of Eldorado Canyon’s hardest trad routes: Musta Been High (5.13c R). Here he cops a kneebar rest and hams it up for the camera. He never took himself too seriously.

In the process of chasing his dream he also did what few climbers in the world have ever done: he rose to the top of the sport.

Yet beneath his outstanding climbing achievements — a new El Capitan free route, 5.14 trad and sport routes, seven “in-a-day” free ascents of El Capitan, world-class speed records, cutting edge free solos, 5.13+ long routes in the desert, and on and on —- he simply loved climbing.

I remember seeing him in a back brace at Movement in Boulder after he had broken his back and ankle in Boulder Canyon. We shared a laugh as he hobbled and crutched back and forth between the fingerboard and campus board, training his fingers while, ostensibly, the rest of his body healed. He just never had an excuse not to climb or train.

“He was the most confidence inspiring partner that I had,” Bennett said. “He was always so strong, but it was more than that. He really had a deep belief in himself. He would always go for it, and almost always succeed. The days we had together made me feel like anything was possible.”

Gobright was raised in Orange County, California where he started climbing at 8 years old. He was a natural. He competed in his early teens, then eventually dropped out of community college to climb as much as possible.

“He lived simply. He kept his diet pretty basic. He didn’t really drink much,” said Bennett. “He happily drove his Honda Civic. And then once that died he got a new Honda Civic. He wasn’t going to go into debt to get some fancy van just to have to work all the time to pay it off.”

In fact, Gobright took money almost as seriously as he took his training. He once told me he would make himself reach specific savings goals each season before quitting his job and hitting the road.

When he would road trip it was always somewhere big, like the Black Canyon, Moab, Zion National Park, Red Rock, Yosemite or Squamish, B.C. — somewhere with “long, hard climbs and big days,” he said back in 2015. “That’s what I enjoy the most.”

There was a rare purity in Gobright’s passion to climb and in his willingness to sacrifice for it. It was the kind of unabashed desire that escapes most people — whatever it is that drives them.

He didn’t let life, love, work, finances, or anything else get in the way of what he really wanted, of what made him truly happy.

Does living get any better than that?

Contact Chris Weidner at cweidner8@gmail.com. Follow him on Instagram @christopherweidner and Twitter @cweidner8

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