John Bachar

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John Bachar
John Bachar, in Tuolumne Meadows, mid 1980s
Personal information
Born(1957-03-23)March 23, 1957
DiedJuly 5, 2009(2009-07-05) (aged 52)
Dike Wall near Mammoth Lakes, California
OccupationRock climber
Climbing career
Known forFree soloing

John Bachar (March 23, 1957 – July 5, 2009) was an American rock climber. Noted for his skill at free soloing, he ultimately died during a free solo climb.[1] A fitness fanatic, he was the creator of the climbing training device known as the Bachar ladder.

Early life and education[edit]

Bachar was born in 1957. He grew up in Los Angeles, California, and started climbing at the bouldering hot spot of Stoney Point in the northern San Fernando Valley. After attending Westchester High School, graduating in 1974, he attended UCLA, where his father was a math professor, but dropped out to climb full-time. Obsessed with the sport, he immersed himself in books on physical training and nutrition, and soon was able to outperform his fellow climbers. Fellow students at his high school remember him scaling the exterior high school gym walls on many occasions.

Climbing career[edit]

John Long, John Yablonski, Ron Kauk and Mike Graham, whom Bachar met in the early 1970s, all free soloed with him, starting with the classic Joshua Tree route Double Cross (5.7). He also put up notorious bouldering problems in Joshua Tree such as Planet X (V6) and So High (V5). The committing crux move of the latter problem is 25 feet (7.6 m) off the ground.[2]

Bachar was first noted for his climbs in Yosemite with his unroped ascents of New Dimensions (5.11a) and The Nabisco Wall, a three-pitch affair (Waverly Wafer (5.10c), either Wheat Thin (5.10c) or Butterballs (5.11c R), and Butterfingers (5.11a) as the final pitch).[3] Noted for his physical fitness, his campsite at Camp 4 was filled with exercise equipment, including the hanging ladders since associated with his name. At his peak he was able to perform a two-finger pull-up with 12.5 pounds (5.7 kg) of weight in his other hand, and two-arm pull-up with over 100 pounds (45 kg) of weight strapped around his waist.[4] While attempting the bouldering problem Midnight Lightning with Kauk and Yablonski in 1978, Bachar drew the iconic lightning bolt in chalk.[5]

Along with Ron Kauk and John Long, Bachar was part of the team that free-climbed the East face of Washington Column, ushering in a new age of free climbing with their first free ascent of Astroman. This route, containing numerous pitches of 5.10 and 5.11 difficulty, set a new standard for long and continuously difficult free climbs. He played a key role in making the first free ascent of the technical and difficult "boulder problem" pitch low on the route.

Bachar was a contemporary of John Long and Tobin Sorenson in a group they called the Stonemasters putting up daring new routes in the Idyllwild, California, area.[6][7]

Bachar posted a note in 1981 promising a "$10,000 reward for anyone who can follow me for one full day." No one took the challenge. That same year he put up Bachar-Yerian (5.11c R/X) in Tuolumne Meadows with Dave Yerian. A heady testpiece, the 300-foot (91 m) vertical-to-gently-overhanging route is protected by 13 bolts (including anchor bolts), each one placed either from a stance (9) or while hanging from a hook (4). Bachar was a vocal critic of climbing tactics such as bolting on rappel, which came into vogue during the 1980s. However, at the time of the first ascent, there were critics of his decision to place certain bolts from hooks, rather than drilling and placing each bolt from a stance.

In 1986, Bachar and Peter Croft made a link up of El Capitan and Half Dome, climbing a vertical mile in under 14 hours.[8] In the 1990s, Bachar free soloed Enterprise (5.12b) in the Owens River Gorge and The Gift (5.12c) at Red Rocks for the Masters of Stone video series. He was featured in the documentary Bachar: One Man, One Myth, One Legend (2005) by Michael Reardon.

Personal life[edit]

Bachar lived in Mammoth Lakes, California, and was Director of Design of Acopa International LLC, a company which manufactures rock climbing shoes.

On December 3, 1996, Bachar became a father when his only child Tyrus was born to Valerie Vosburg.[citation needed]

On August 13, 2006, Bachar was involved in a serious car accident while traveling home from the Outdoor Retailer Trade Show in Salt Lake City. He suffered multiple fractured vertebrae.[9]


On July 5, 2009, Bachar died in a free solo accident at Dike Wall near Mammoth Lakes, California.[10][11][12]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ Robinson, Rob. "John Bachar Southeast Tour - November 2008". Archived from the original on 9 July 2009. Retrieved 7 July 2009.
  2. ^ Robert Miramontes, A Complete Bouldering Guide To Joshua Tree National Park, K. Daniels and Associates, 2003
  3. ^ Mark Kroese, Fifty Favorite Climbs: The Ultimate North American Tick List, The Mountaineers Books, 2001
  4. ^ Michael Reardon, Bachar: One Man, One Myth, One Legend, Jumprunner Productions, 2005
  5. ^ "Midnight Lightning bolt, the icon of free climbing in Yosemite disappears for a day". 7 May 2013. Retrieved 9 May 2013.
  6. ^ Long, John; Fidelman, Dean (2009). The Stonemasters: California rock climbers in the seventies. Santa Barbara, California: Stonemaster Press/T. Adler Books. ISBN 9780984094905.
  7. ^ Long, John (2019). The Little Book of Outdoor Wisdom: An Adventurer's Collection of Anecdotes and Advice. Guilford, CT: Falcon. p. 81-85. ISBN 9781493034734.
  8. ^ Alexander Huber and Heinz Zak, Yosemite: Half a Century of Dynamic Rock Climbing, Menasha Ridge Press, 2003
  9. ^ Douglas, Ed (10 July 2009). "John Bachar". The Guardian. London. Retrieved 10 July 2009.
  10. ^ Ryan, Mick (6 July 2009). "John Bachar Passes". Retrieved 7 July 2009.
  11. ^ "Climbing icon John Bachar dies after apparent Mammoth Lakes fall". LA Times. 6 July 2009. Retrieved 7 July 2009.
  12. ^ Brick, Michael (8 July 2009). "John Bachar, Rock Climber, Dies at 51; Daredevil With Uncompromising Style". New York Times. Retrieved 10 July 2009.

External links[edit]