Acclaimed rock climber Brad Gobright dies in climbing accident in Mexico

Gobright and another climber, Aidan Jacobson, fell during a descent down the side of a cliff.

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/ Source: NBC News
By Caroline Radnofsky and Phil McCausland

Acclaimed American free solo climber Brad Gobright died Wednesday attempting to descend down the side of a cliff face in El Potrero Chico, Mexico, a popular rock climbing destination in northern Mexico.

Gobright, 31, was traveling with fellow American climber Aidan Jacobson, 26, who shared on Instagram on Nov. 13 that he was heading to the mountain for three weeks. The duo appear to have started climbing together at some point thereafter.

As the pair were making their descent at 3:30 p.m. ET on Wednesday, the two climbers fell from their route down the side of the cliff, state police Civil Protection Nuevo León confirmed to NBC News. Gobright fell about 300 meters to his death, while Jacobson fell a shorter distance and injured his ankle and other parts of his body.

Members of law enforcement then coordinated with rescuers and other climbers to help Jacobson make it the rest of the way down. Photos state police shared with NBC News show Jacobson seated in an ambulance with rescuers.

Aidan Jacobson was climbing down a rock cliff with fellow climber, Brad Gobright, when the two accidentally fell.Nuevo Le?n Civil Protection Authority

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The pair were traveling on the mountain's Sendero Luminoso or Shining Path Route, which authorities said rises to a height of 850 to 900 meters.

"It can be scaled in two days overnight either along a ledge or vertically," said Enrique Guadarrama, spokesperson for Nuevo León state police.

The U.S. State Department affirmed Gobright's death on Thursday.

"We can confirm the death of U.S. citizen Brad Gobright in Mexico on November 27, 2019," U.S. State Department official said. "We offer our sincerest condolences to his family on their loss. We are closely monitoring local authorities’ investigation and are providing all appropriate consular assistance. Out of respect to the family during this difficult time, we have no further comment."

After news of Gobright's death spread across social media, members of the climbing community shared heartfelt tributes to Gobright on Instagram. Many stated their shock at his loss.

"He had a magic about him on the rock, unlike anyone I’ve ever met," wrote Alice Hafer, one of Gobright's climbing partners. "He was so supportive and encouraging, always pushing me harder and believing in me. I can’t believe that not even a few weeks ago he was sitting next to me as we drove home from Arizona. I’ll cherish those moments always. He will be so missed, forever. Love you always Brad."

Others also shared stories of Gobright's commitment to climbing.

"Brad climbed for himself because that’s who Brad was, a climber," wrote Maison Deschamps, another Gobright climbing partner. "He didn’t have to talk to people, he didn’t need the best sponsors, all he needed was the freedom of the climb. Rest In Peace Brad. I will forever remember your hard work and bravery."

It is the second fall of a high-profile climber in less than two weeks. Professional climber Emily Harrington was hospitalized earlier this week after falling while trying to scale Yosemite Park's El Capitan, a treacherous 3,200-foot rock formation.

"Not much to say except I took a bad fall and pin balled a bit then somehow hit the rope w my neck," Harrington said in an Instagram post that showed her scraped face and long horizontal bruises across her neck.

Solo climbing recently gained a higher profile after the release of the Academy Award-winning documentary "Free Solo" last year. These climbers train and plan to scale dangerous rock faces without the aid of ropes or harnesses, though it is unclear whether Gobright and Jacobson were climbing in this manner at the time of their accident.