Brad Gobright is blowing people’s minds and you may have never heard of him, mostly because he is humble, unassuming and keeps a low profile. Nothing he does is for show, it’s simply because he loves climbing. You could say he’s obsessed. Every bus boy job, every scramble back to the car after dark and every night spent sleeping on boulders in Yosemite Valley was just a part of what it took to satisfy his with climbing. There simply aren’t enough hours in the day to do the amount of climbing that Brad wants to do.
“Climbing is my life and whether I’m feeling good or bad in the moment, I feel at home when I’m doing it,” he says.
Brad grew up in a time and place where rock climbing wasn’t exactly the sport of the youth, yet he found it in the mid-nineties at age seven in his hometown of Orange, CA. His first climbing experience was at the climbing gym Rockreation in Costa Mesa where he spent many childhood days. In his early years his fascination was more with how cool the climbing equipment looked at REI than anything else. His true obsession with rock climbing began in high school when he met a friend who liked to climb and they were able to get out of the gym and climb outside together. They more or less taught themselves how to climb which inevitably led to some major epics and a few near death experiences.
After a year of college, Brad left to pursue his dreams of climbing. He moved to Yosemite National Park and worked as a housekeeper at the Ahwahnee Hotel where he spent every free moment climbing massive granite walls. Yosemite is where he truly honed his skills and most importantly learned how to climb safely.
“After the experience of living in Yosemite, climbing became my life and that’s all I’ve been doing since,” Brad says. “I learn something new and improve as a climber after every big adventure. It always has been and always will be that way.”
One of Brad’s greatest accomplishments is making the first free ascent of El Capitan’s Heart Route. It’s not the most difficult route he’s done, but it’s the one he’s most proud of because it took time, hard work and dedication. Brad and Mason Earle spent five years preparing for the climb. If you ask Brad he’ll give all the credit to Mason for making that ascent happen, but that’s just the kind of guy Brad is.
Brad has been called many things, a dirt bag, a man with a death wish, but also the next great free soloist as proclaimed by Outside Magazine writer Devon O’neill (please see here). For Brad the draw to free soloing is that, “it’s just rock climbing and nothing else”. He doesn’t have to rely on anyone or hassle with gear and ropes, allowing him to do a lot more climbing in a short amount of time.
“I love how it’s an intense physical and mental challenge,” he says. “It also puts you in some unique locations and really lets you live in and think about the moment.”
Brad is always looking for a new challenge and it’s ever evolving. Right now he’s psyched on doing long routes as quickly as he can. Focusing less on strength and power and more on endurance and efficiency. Next he would like to focus on shorter harder routes.
What’s Brad’s next big goal? Linking three routes on El Capitan in a day, making it the most climbing he’s ever done in a single day.
Brad has made his way into the Gramicci family and they are happy to have him. “It feels good working with people that I know personally,” he says.
Brads after work adventure
I spent this past winter living in Las Vegas with my girl friend Taleen. We had a cheap place away from the strip and I worked a part-time job at a local casino. The job sucked. But it was by far the best winter yet. Red Rocks is a world-class climbing destination. It offers some of the tallest sandstone rock climbs around. Many of these climbs involve long approaches, soaring faces, and take most of the day (or longer) to climb. It’s a desert environment offering adventure. I knew these climbs could be done faster if I did them without a rope. I thought these were going to be fun after work adventures.
The morning started as usual. I stacked food shipments in the casino’s massive kitchen, trying to figure out what I was going to do after work. If I got out late I’d probably do some gym training, but if I left on time I’d run up a short multi-pitch route in one of the canyons. On that day my boss let me go an hour early. Out in the parking lot, looking west were the massive stone mountains of Red Rocks. And there stood Mount Wilson, the proudest rock face of all. You can see the mountain anywhere in Vegas. My watch showed 2:15. The day was more than half gone. Could I climb fast enough to make an ascent before dark? Yes, I thought so. It was game on!
I raced my Civic down the highway after grabbing some Cliff bars at the grocery store. There was a pleasant breeze and the temperature was perfect. I pulled into the dirt lot, parked, and threw my shoes and chalk bag into a small pack. Mount Wilson’s east face is massive and I couldn’t help but feel a little intimidated by its presence. I decided to climb Inti Watana, and then take the upper part of The Resolution Arête to the summit. It’s one of the longest sandstone climbs in the world. The approach to the base is complicated and long. I maintained a slow jog not wanting to waste time getting lost. After an hour of jogging and gully scrambling, I was at the base of the route. Inti Watana goes straight up the center of a massive tower that leans out from the main mountain. The tower gets steeper and narrower, soaring hundreds of feet skyward. The top is just about twenty feet across and overhangs slightly. It’s a thousand feet of small juggy crimps, crack systems pop up here and there, but most of the route is face climbing. I hesitated at the base thinking if I had to bail this was my last chance. Once I started climbing there was no turning back. I looked up at the huge wall, turned on my iPod, took a deep breath, and was off.
The climbing went super smooth. I maintained a steady pace up the route admiring the exposure. And it got better the higher I went. On the last hundred feet I hardly believed where I was. The position was amazing. A cool wind swept up from the base of the mountain. The air felt cold in the higher elevation. After an hour I pulled myself over the top of the tower. The view was incredible. Junky terrain hundreds of feet above guarded the summit. This was the upper portion of The Resolution Arête. The rock’s awful and the climb is easy to get lost on. I’m certain I was off route the whole time. After an hour of guesswork I reached the summit.
The spectacular 360-degree view felt like being in the high mountains. The cliff’s shadows stretched out to the east, crossing the desert floor. It was 6 p.m. The tricky decent seemed to go on, making it easy to get lost. I felt alone among the cliffs in the middle of nowhere. My thoughts kept me company in the vast open air as I made my way down. When I popped out of First Creek Canyon, the sun had set. The almost full moon allowed me to cross the desert without a headlamp. Mount Wilson’s moonlit face looked like something out of a fairy tale. It was eight o’clock when I arrived at my car. It took me five hours round trip.
That night I went to sleep, hoping my boss would let me out early again the next day.