A Climber We Lost: Brandon Scott Burns, September 14

Each January we post a farewell tribute to those members of our community lost in the year just past. Some of the people you may have heard of, some not. All are part of our community and contributed to climbing.

Get access to everything we publish when you sign up for Outside+.

You can read the full tribute to Climbers We Lost in 2021 here.

Brandon Scott Burns

25, September 14

Brandon Scott Burns of Baltimore, Maryland, was just beginning his journey as a rock climber, having roped up at Seneca Rocks, Rocks State Park, and Great Falls a handful of times over the last two years.

His oldest brother, Richard, remembered him as an organized, motivated, and honorable individual and a passionate Christian. “Brandon just wanted to serve God, even from his teenage years,” he said. “He set the example in everything he did, from work to church to his personal life. Whatever he did, he did it with excellence.” Brandon was an avid drummer, performing in talent shows as a high schooler, and later for several church bands. He was also a dedicated snowboarder and backpacker.

Brandon Scott Burns (Photo: Richard Burns)

After his junior year of college, Brandon did a co-op (cooperative education stint, or preceptorship) in India with the international Christian nonprofit Engineering Ministries International (EMI), an experience that sparked a love of service work. All funds from the GoFundMe started after his death were donated to the nonprofit. At the time of his death, he worked as an engineer for Whiting-Turner Contracting Company, but hoped to work full-time for EMI overseas one day. 

“Whether he was building a well, a school, or a hospital, simply the fact that he had the chance to serve others was what drew him to that work,” his brother said.

Ian McFadden, Brandon’s pastor at St. Moses Church, said that Brandon shared connections across generations. “I’d be hard-pressed to find someone who had as many friendships with little kids or the elderly,” he said. Ian fondly recalled a time when Brandon, “a 25-year-old bachelor, invited my entire family of six over for lunch, [and] cooked a three-course meal for us in his apartment.” He also recalled how Brandon’s first week after moving from Westchester, Pennsylvania, to Baltimore, before he’d even come to a church service, he showed up to help a member of the community move out of an apartment. “He was just a guy who was always eager to help people out,” Ian said.

Brandon and his close friend and climbing partner, Mark Anthony Bacolod Stiles, died September 14 after being struck by a rockslide while deep-water soloing on the Mallorcan coast in Spain. The duo was backpacking around Europe at the time. Stiles’s mother, his only surviving relative, requested that Climbing refrain from including him in Climbers We Lost.

One of six children, Brandon is survived by his younger sister, Samantha; older sister, Bettina; and three older brothers, Steven, Jonathan, and Richard Jr; as well as his mother and father, Rachel and Richard Sr. 

—Owen Clarke

You can read the full tribute to Climbers We Lost in 2021 here.