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John Bachar Passes Away
Submitted By: John McNamee on Jul 6, 2009

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John Bachar fell whilst soloing at the Dike Wall, Mammoth Lakes, California yesterday and was found dead at the base of the climb. John was 51 years old.

See his tribute over on supertopo

Not sure what to say ... totally numb and speechless at this stage. His impact to climbing and climbers was more than inspirational and will continue to be felt for many years to come.

Rest in peace John.

Deepest sympathy to Tyrus (son), family and friends.

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Comments displayed oldest to newestSkip Ahead to the Most Recent Dated Jul 17, 2009
By Tradoholic
Jul 6, 2009
I feel sorry for the family, but I would have to say that at least he died doing something he loved. Lots of people will never understand this, maybe call him "selfish" or "reckless", but I think they simply don't understand the meaning of life live and then die.
By Kent Dunham
From: Alberta
Jul 6, 2009
I am always surprised that people are surprised by such an event. I won't say that soloing is reckless or selfish, but death is an inherent part of it. I don't want to bash John Bachar, he is so foundational to what climbing has become. But if the climbing community is going to praise his bravery, we also need to soberly look at the inevitable consequences of soloing.
By Seth Murphy
Jul 6, 2009
If anyone has had a conversation with John they certainly knew he wasn't selfish. I have NO problem with people dying doing what they love, soloing, race car driving, flying, etc. We should all be so fortunate.

Personally, my biggest fear in life is dying in bed.

Rest in peace John, you were a true pioneer of the sport, and thanks for all the good conversation.
By 1Eric Rhicard
Jul 6, 2009
What a bummer! My heart goes out to all those affected by John's death.
By Crag Dweller
From: New York, NY
Jul 6, 2009
According to one report, John Bachar was still breathing when the rescue team arrived and he died shortly after arrival at Mammoth hospital. I bring this up because it is worth mentioning that he was not completely alone when he passed.
By Chris Owen
From: Big Bear Lake
Jul 6, 2009
I'll reserve my comments about risk and the meaning of life for another forum, I'm very sorry to hear this and my heart and sympathies go out to those he left behind.
Jul 6, 2009
That makes me sad. To me Bachar was always an inspiration. Total badass and from the sounds of it a seriously quality human being.
By kevin murphy
From: Lafayette, Colorado
Jul 6, 2009
I met john in Bishop in early 2000. He was with his son @ the Happy Boulders, the Hulk Boulder, doin laps on "The Hulk" solid V6. His crash pad was a towel, and his son Tyrus was lounging all over it. I mentioned to Tyrus he may want to keep his head up in case his Dad takes a whipper. He looked up @ me quite seriously, "My Dad don't fall!" I laughed and looked up @ John topping out and he laughed saying something like "we all fall sometimes son." He seemed like a perfect ambassador to life in that 10 minutes I met him. Peace to his family, all he met, and John Bachar.
By Wade Griffith
Jul 7, 2009
Bachar was an amazing inspirational figure to me and his loss is stunning, I pass my regrets on to those he left behind. He died doing something he was passionate about and feel that is something to find some consolation in. His spirit will never be forgotten.
By richard magill
Jul 7, 2009
Bachar was THE gnarler of all gnarlers. If you have ever tried to grovel your way up The Gift (12c), just imagine what it would be like to free solo it... makes me shudder...

I have to think that Bachar knew he would eventually go out this way, and he must have been comfortable with that knowledge.

My guess is that he would not have really wanted a lot of sorrow or reflection at this event - probably would have just wanted the lads to hoist a few beers around the campfire and remember a true badass.

John Long's "Rock Jocks..." book is a great one to read if you are curious to learn a little more about him. Is there a fund or anything like that to help out Tyrus?
By Chris Owen
From: Big Bear Lake
Jul 7, 2009
UK Climbing post here.

A testament to his influence and prowess.
By Joe Vitti
Jul 7, 2009
When I was a teenager fumbling around on the crags near my folks house in central Connecticut, I wanted to be like John. It was the early 80's and my friends and I were beginning to catch the bug and Bachar's climbs set the tone for us, helped establish the style that we strove for. John's climbing embodied this idea that climbing is more than mere sport.

I met John in 1995 in Clark Canyon. He was bouldering and my friend Kevin and I were well into a month long tour. John had a boom box going when we first got there with P-Funk jamming and when he shut it off we asked what was up. He killed it because it made some folks "from the city" uptight. Later on he came by as I was climbing up and down a hard for me route called Dirty Dancing. I was working extra hard trying to onsight the the thing and Bachar sat quietly, turned the beats back up and watched. When I topped out he shut the box, invited us up to his house for a beer and went on his way. Never made it up for the beer, sure wish I had.

Most sincere condolences to John's friends and family, I'm sorry for your loss.
By JVonD
From: Boulder, CO
Jul 7, 2009
He was one of my favorites for sure. I thought he'd never fall because his intelligence seemed larger than the edge.
By Bjorn
From: Leadvegas, CO
Jul 7, 2009
Just goes to show, it only takes one. Gravity's always waiting for you.
Sure beats dying in a hospital bed at 89 with tubes up your nose and peckerhole. I'm happy for his sake that he ended his days doing the best thing he knew to do. I always admired John's intrepid soul.
By JasonT
Jul 7, 2009
Arent you a skater?
By Darren Mabe
From: Flagstaff, AZ
Jul 8, 2009
very well put tony.
By steve edwards
From: SLC, UT
Jul 8, 2009
John will be missed. My respects are paid here.
By timoteo
Jul 8, 2009
I too mourn John's death, having met him once, and having watched him solo "Leave it to Beaver" as if it was a 5.6 jug-haul. An amazingly gifted, and bold, rock-climber (and a fine sax player too). And I also hear what Mr. Hawk is saying, and similarly urge all of you out there with responsibilities, love relationships, family ties, etc. to take a good hard look at whether or not the extreme risk-taking you may thrive on is worth the pain, loss, and vacuum you leave behind for others to deal with, never mind your own personal pain and life-long disability should you happen to survive a long ground fall. In my opinion, having done it some myself, you flip a coin every time you climb high and hard, ropeless: heads, you win and walk away, tails, you don't.
Rest in Peace, John, Derek, Charlie, Todd, and all the others, and condolences to their families and friends.
By bhoran
From: Boulder, CO
Jul 8, 2009
Sad news of another great , world class climbing figure passing on. I met John in 1978 in Yosemite Valley, and although I was not a close friend, over the years we would cross paths again and again, mostly in Yosemite and Joshua Tree. Watching him climb was always a treat and I always was inspired to climb better after being in his presence. His climbing legacy is one that is hard to match and his training and climbing methods are a template for the more contemporary rock jocks. Along with other valley climber's like Ron Kauk, Dale Bard, Tony Yaniro, to name a few, a camp four training gym was formed complete with slack line, crack machines, and the infamous Bachar Ladders. Bachar's routine ascents of the Midnight Lightning boulder problem was way ahead of its time and only but one or two, such as Ron Kauk, the first ascentionist could compete with such athletism. Bachar established with others, classic routes such as Astroman, Bachar-Yerian, Hotline, to name just a few in Yosemite, as well as the incredible one day ascent with Crofts of El Cap linked with Half Dome. Bachars soloing feats were also numerous. In Jtree some classics like Leave it to Beaver, Baby Apes, Equinox, More Monkey Than Funky again just to name a few are classic lines enjoyed by many today. In Colorado he climbed free D1 and D7 on the Diamond of Long's Peak as well as the full free ascent of the Wisdom Route in Eldorado Canyon again to name a few. Recently he was in Boulder, Colorado with a presentation on his climbing experiences. He was in good health and appeared to have recovered from his tragic auto accident, he said he was beginning to feel comfortable in the upper 5.11/5.12 range again and was pretty excited for that. He was in good spirits then. He will be greatly missed by the climbing world and especially to those who knew him best. For those who would like to see an in depth portrait, one that tells the story of the man, myth, and legend. If you can find a copy on DVD, it simply called "Bachar". I found a copy on the Neptune shelves about a year ago, it was produced by Micheal Reardon and it is full of excellent interviews depicting, again, the man, myth, and legend.
By John McNamee
From: Littleton, CO
Jul 8, 2009

Really nice comments about JB on your Blog.


By mark kerns
From: denver, co
Jul 9, 2009
Thank you Mr. Hawk for putting this into perspective.
By Martin le Roux
From: Superior, CO
Jul 9, 2009
The New York Times has an obituary. See
By kevin jenkins
Jul 10, 2009
Bachar was an amazing man, humble about his skill but very well aware of his limits. some would argue he crossed the line between bravery and stupidity, but I choose to honor a man who helped push our sport to its absolute.

The climbing community mourns yet another loss.

Much love John
By Steve "Crusher" Bartlett
Jul 13, 2009
Bachar ripped it up around here back in the day. He and Billy Westbay freed D1, a slap in the face to the locals. And thanks Bob, I’d forgotten about the Wisdom. Probably about the same time he tried to solo Clever Lever (he’d led it, and wondered if the drag from the rope had helped on the crux swing, so decided to try it sans rope), and famously came flying off the crux. He landed okay, decided that yeah, maybe the rope did help reduce the swing, dusted himself off, and walked away. And then there was Silly Putty, the free version of West Owl Direct on Twin Owls. I remember Mark Wilford griping about how damn hard and serious that was (he and Skip were up there doing a photo shoot for Glen Randall’s Vertigo Games book)--and it takes a hell of a lot to get Mark to complain. D1 and Silly Putty were climbed in 1978, way back when leading runout 5.12 was pretty rare.

John learned to climb back at a time when soloing was just another aspect of the climbing experience. No better or worse. Soloing for him was never a “coin-toss.” He knew exactly what he was capable of. He had his own comfort level and kept within it, and sheer hard work put his comfort level far beyond most people’s. Most people’s? Hell, far beyond everybody else’s comfort zone for the longest time. Perhaps his only mistake was to think that he could sustain the same high level of mental and physical focus forever.

Yes, he should have lived longer, and the people around him will be hurting for a while, but he packed more climbing into his 51 years than most of us can dream of. His death is a sad loss to us all; but in his unique and inspired approach to our crazy sport I think we gain far more than we lose.
By Ross Swanson
From: Pinewood Springs
Jul 17, 2009

One of the first images I remember as I was becoming a climbing addict, was JB on New Dimensions, what an inspiration.

It was good to read all memorial posts on Super Topo, and some of the posts here. With so much on the line it truly is a mystery why we occasionally risk everything, alone, out there, again and again.

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