Richard Wright, a prolific Colorado new-route and crag developer, passed away January 4 after three years of fighting mantle cell lymphoma. According to his obituary, Wright died at home in the company of his wife, Anna Brandenburg-Schroeder.
Wright developed countless new routes along the Front Range of Colorado, though he is perhaps best known for putting up the first sport climb redpointed in Rifle: Rumor Has It (5.11b), along with longtime climbing partner Mark Tarrant, in 1989. On the Front Range, he developed sport routes in Clear Creek Canyon, Boulder Canyon, South St. Vrain Canyon, and many other areas.
“He has FAs at every crag in the Front Range, seriously,” said Jason Haas, whose Fixed Pin Publishing has produced several guidebooks to Front Range areas. “If I had to pick just one area it would be Clear Creek. I'd say at least half of the mega classics in the canyon are his, like Peer Review (5.12b) and Solid Gold (5.12a). So many classics for so many decades.”
Mark Tarrant began climbing with Wright in the mid-1980s, and the two collaborated on numerous four-star routes in Colorado. "Richard was the best climbing partner I ever had," Tarrant said. "Not only was he a joy to talk with on the drives to the crags, but on the rock he was the only partner I ever had who was fully positive in every way. People have asked why I climbed with him so much when I may have gotten better by partnering with younger or stronger climbers. The reason is simple: He was perpetually positive, extremely intelligent, ethical and interesting, and most of all a good friend."
In recent years, Wright had been developing crags in the foothills near Interstate 70, including the cliffs above Empire and a series of crags near the tiny town of Dumont. This writer ran into him last summer at a new cliff called the Lisa Randall Wall, where Wright and partners had just completed four gently overhanging 5.11 routes. Fixed ropes still dangled from potential new lines. He looked as buff and powerful as ever and happily shouted beta as we climbed his latest creations.
Wright had a Ph.D. in molecular genetics and worked most recently as a researcher at the University of Colorado’s Anschutz Medical Campus.