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On Friday, March 6, accomplished climber and BASE jumper Nolan Smythe died in a climbing accident near Basaseachic Falls National Park, Chihuahua, Mexico. Smythe and his longtime climbing partner, Aaron Livingston, were climbing Logical Progression (5.13), a free route on the 2,800-foot tall El Gigante wall. Smythe was leading pitch 14 of 28 when he came to a stance on a ledge to rest. The ledge suddenly broke beneath his feet and the resulting rockfall severed the rope. He fell 1,500 feet to the ground.
Livingston was stranded in the middle of the wall without his partner and a cut rope. According to information on a GoFundMe page organized by Heather Lightfoot to help the family with recovery costs, Livingston was eventually rescued by Mexcian climbers Tiny Almada and Jose David “Bicho” Martinez, who rappelled in from the top of the wall. The page referred to the location as a “logistical rescue nightmare.” It explains, “To approach El Gigante is a 4 hours drive into the village from Chihuahua Mexico, then a 2-hour drive to the top of the road, followed by a one and a half hour hike into the wall. In which you must then rappel in from the top of the monster face.”
Sasha Digiulian publicly broke the news Saturday on her Instagram with the message: “On Friday, March 6, one of our team members who was climbing and rigging with Aaron Livingston on El Gigante, Mexico, died in a terrible, unpredictable accident … The devastation is so poignant and heavy and incomprehensible. The world is spinning and I can’t process yet.We have been gears in motion on the rescue and body recovery.”
Smythe was a resident of Moab, Utah, where he was a prolific climber and BASE jumper. He was a beloved member of the community and is survived by friends, family, and his girlfriend, Savannah Cummins. She wrote on her Instagram in memoriam: “I’d never met someone so genuine, so kind, with so much passion for everything they do.”
Several members of the community have opened up on social media, expressing their love for Smythe, appreciation for his unrelenting psyche, and showing support for his family. Matt Segal wrote: “Some people just have the spirit. You meet them and you know you’ll be friends and you know there’s many adventures ahead … It’s rare that you come across someone so genuine and so psyched on life.”
Adrian Ballinger wrote: “25 years old and somehow wise, compassionate, passionate, and with a drive and work ethic I admired immediately. So fuck. The world needed more years with you. I am heartbroken for [Savannah Cummins] and [Aaron Livingston] and all of Nolan’s family and friends. Let’s all hold the ones we love tight…nothing else to do”
A recovery mission is currently underway. Cummins and Livingston, along with friends, family, and assistance from the Mexican military, are setting out to locate Smythe’s body and bring him home. [Update: Smythe has been located.] Cummins wrote on her Instagram, addressed to Smythe: “I’m driving into the park to find you with my closest friends, your best friend/climbing partner and family … There are so many unknowns in this moment, and it hurts. Like, where are you, how will we get you, can we even get you, when will it stop raining?”
She continues: “Aaron [Livingston] is now here with me, comforting me, telling me how much fun you were having, how you weren’t scared when you fell, that it all happened so fast, and how much you loved me, it’s easing my mind. I know exactly why he is your best friend. I love you forever Nolan.”
To help support Smythe’s family during this difficult time and alleviate costs related to the recovery donate to the Bring Nolan Home GoFundMe page.