Climbing gym

Cody Bradford, climbing guide, dies

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Cody Bradford was a talented and well-known rock guide with a decade of experience as a guide under his belt. But his impact went far beyond in-person clinics and chance encounters on the rock; If you’re a climber who uses social media, chances are you’ve seen Bradford’s wildly popular instructional videos, including his #TechTipTuesday clips, an extensive free professional instructional resource.

Bradford, 34, died by suicide on September 1. His mental health was something he had openly shared and struggled with throughout his life, close friend Derek DeBruin said. “We’ve had a few conversations over the years where Cody wasn’t in such a good place,” he said. “He had had a difficult upbringing, he had had darker times. I know he asked for advice, and it seemed like he was doing the right thing, on the right track. But you never really know.

Bradford, raised in the foster care system, eventually found legal guardians in Virginia. After Bradford attempted suicide in 2008, one of his close friends in Virginia encouraged him to turn things around and “make a new scene,” DeBruin said. Soon after, Bradford moved south from Boone, North Carolina to attend Appalachian State University. He found a new purpose there: the city’s outdoor lifestyle. Bradford began an internship with the state’s Outward Bound chapter in 2010 (where he met DeBruin), shortly before graduating from App State with a bachelor’s degree in recreation management in 2011.

(Photo: Karsten Delap)

He earned his AMGA Single Pitch Instructor certificate the following year and went on to guide for several small outfitters in the Southeast before signing with Fox Mountain Guides (FMG), one of the oldest and largest mountaineering companies. guiding the area, in 2014. After four years at Fox, Bradford earned AMGA Rock Guide certification and moved west to chart his own path as a guide.

At the time of his death, he was living in Salt Lake City, regularly guiding in Wasatch and Red Rock, among other places. He was also an apprentice alpine guide, working towards obtaining his full Alpine Guide and AMGA Ski Guide certifications. Along with Rock, Ski and Alpine make up the other two-thirds of the IFMGA program, and Bradford hoped to achieve the prestigious IFMGA certification within the next few years.

Bradford has guided numerous outfitters in the western United States over the past four years and has been a key ambassador for guide booking platform 57Hours, among other brands. “It was [Bradford’s] love of people, enthusiasm for guiding, and determination to become a fully certified mountain guide that impressed us and motivated us to start this business,” 57Hours wrote. his author page in memory. “Cody was more than just an ambassador for 57Hours; he has become a great friend to all of us,” said founder Viktor Marohnic. “I learned from him every day by watching him work hard and take on challenge after challenge.”

On the wall, Bradford moved “smoothly,” DeBruin said. “It might just sink.” But for DeBruin, climbing with Bradford wasn’t special because he was a strong or skilled climber (although he was both). “On the one hand, I always knew that if shit hit the fan, Cody would be able to cope,” he said. “He had enormous resilience. But he was also very supportive of how you want your belayer to be – whether it’s tough, scary, confusing, loose – with certain partners you feel pressure, like ‘Oh you have to do this thing, it’s your pitch, you signed up for that.’ With Cody, I never already had that vibe. It was easier to climb hard because I knew if I wasn’t ready to go he wouldn’t be on me.

Cody Bradford and his partner Elizabeth
Bradford and his partner Elizabeth “Benny” Dalley.

Elizabeth “Benny” Dalley, Bradford’s partner of seven years, echoed that sentiment. “When I think of what I loved most about Cody and what made him such an incredible partner and guide, I think of his support, in a gentle, positive way,” he said. she stated. “There was never any judgment. If you needed to swear or cry or turn around, he always had your back. If you had to try a move over and over and over again, he would catch you with the most great patience. At the same time, he let you sit with your fear and convinced you that you were capable and strong and that there was no reason to be afraid.

“It was a tragedy that he couldn’t apply all of this to himself,” she continued. “He was always so hard on himself, always striving, always under pressure. Some of that was self-taught, but most of it came from an intense desire to prove the world wrong. everyone who told him he couldn’t.

Besides rock climbing, Bradford was skilled in many other hobbies, including bass guitar. He originally hoped to work as a studio bassist, before discovering rock climbing. “He was a good musician with a lot of instruments,” DeBruin said, “but he was a great, crazy bass player, like nasty good.”

DeBruin also recalled how “being the mega-nerds that we were,” the couple stayed in touch by sharing articles about urban planning, public transportation and city design. At times, Bradford floated the idea of ​​one day going to graduate school in urban design. “For Cody, it represented this confluence of social, economic and environmental justice,” DeBruin said. “He was like ‘Man, if we could just have public transit in these cities, think how much better things would be for everyone – air pollution would go down, fossil fuels would go down, people could commute to work more easily.…”

Bradford had an intense care for everyone he climbed with, whether friend or client, DeBruin said, bolstered by an unparalleled ability to shed light on the worst situations. DeBruin recalled a time when an individual suffered a heart attack while he and Bradford were at the rock for Outward Bound staff training. “We put all the ropes in place, we got together and Cody helped me organize the evacuation of this guy. Finally we got it down to the trail head and then put all of our co-workers in the van. Cody and I just slumped in the gravel on the pullback, huffing water, gasping for air,” DeBruin said.

“I was like, ‘Hey man, do you think my homie survived?’ and Cody just looked and said, “You know, surviving something like that would take a lot of heart.”

“It was a damn bad joke,” DeBruin said with a laugh, “but it was just Cody. Always ready to make the best of a bad situation.

While Bradford was still in the early years of his journey as a mountain guide, his instructional videos were already incredibly successful, perhaps more popular than any other online climbing instructor. Each of his Instagram videos – offering advice on building anchors, tying knots, placing gear and other crucial climbing skills – has steadily racked up several thousand likes, and he has thus attracted nearly 70,000 subscribers. With his death, climbers have lost more than a skilled climber and guide, but a passionate educator with a genuine knack for presenting valuable knowledge in an engaging and concise format.

Cody Bradford belays the climber from the top of a cliff.
(Photo: Colin Wann)

“One of the things that made him such a good guide was that he was a great educator,” DeBruin said. “But he was a great educator because he was really educating himself a lot of time. He honed his craft there, practiced with his peers, sought mentorship, studied, learned…everything he could get his hands on. .

When we spoke last week, DeBruin admitted he was both at a loss for words and able to talk endlessly about the beauty of Bradford’s character and his impact as a guide, educator and friend. “It’s impossible to encapsulate a person’s entire life in a phone call,” he said. “All I can really say is the world is a little less without him.”

“I’ve heard that trauma is described as a backpack you carry,” Dalley said, “a burden you can never put down. We all tried to carry some of that for him, but it was never enough, and at the end of the day, he wouldn’t let us carry that weight because he cared about us and he knew that would cause us pain.

“He no longer wears that backpack, and we can be grateful to him for that.”

Bradford’s friends and family have set up a GoFundMe to cover his memorial expenses, with the remainder going to an upcoming beneficiary organization that “will best capture what was important to Cody and the obstacles he faced in this industry”.


If you or someone you know is in crisis, please call or text Suicide & Crisis Lifeline’s toll-free number: 9-8-8. 988lifeline.org.