In memoriam: John Bachar dies while solo climbing near Mammoth Lakes

John Bachar, a pioneer in free solo climbing and design director of the rock shoe company Acopa, died July 5 after a fall from the Dike Wall Cliff near Mammoth Lakes, Calif. He was 51.
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John Bachar, a pioneer in free solo climbing and design director of the rock shoe company Acopa, died July 5 after a fall from the Dike Wall Cliff near Mammoth Lakes, Calif. He was 51.

“Everyone is in a state of disbelief,” Duane Raleigh, editor in chief of Rock and Ice magazine, told SNEWS®, noting that nobody expected Bachar to die from a fall. “He was so calculating, so solid and good. He was safer climbing without a rope than many people with a rope.”

Raleigh described Bachar as a legend within the climbing community, a “principled and defined person who changed the sport.” He said that when Bachar began climbing in Yosemite in the 1970s, there was a high standard of roped climbing. He was able to achieve that standard, and by the 1980s began climbing ropeless “at a standard that was nearly as high, which is mind-blowing.”

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Bachar affected the sport of climbing by inspiring people to push themselves harder and change their notions of what they could achieve. He also helped to establish the concept of climbing professionally.

“Until he came along, there were really no climbers making a living just off of climbing,” said Raleigh. He also elevated the level of physical training among climbers.

In 2006, Bachar broke his neck in an auto accident, but trained hard and eventually continued solo climbing at a high level. “He was dedicated to training, read the latest science on it, and applied it to himself,” Raleigh said.

Bachar is also credited with bringing the first sticky rubber climbing shoe to the United States, further elevating the sport. In 1993, Bachar teamed with Dario Piana and Ernesto Vasquez to launch Acopa International, which manufactures climbing shoes in Las Vegas (www.acopausa.com).

In a past interview with Raleigh published in Rock and Ice, Bachar once estimated that he had free soloed 1.5 million vertical feet of rock. The idea of Bachar dying from a climbing fall was almost unthinkable.

“It’s like the moon vanishing from the sky,” said Raleigh. “You just don’t believe that it could ever happen.

Bachar is survived by a son, Tyrus. Funeral services are pending.

To read more about the life of Bachar, click here to read the 2008 Rock and Ice profile titled “Being Bachar.”

--Marcus Woolf



photo courtesy of Rock and Ice magazine

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