Nice post by Mikey at DPM about the sad passing of legendary route developer Flyin’ Brian McCray from an apparent suicide:
Brian’s impact on New River Gorge climbing cannot be overstated. He moved to Fayetteville, West Virginia in the mid-90s, quickly progressed to climbing the hardest routes, and then set about equipping the routes of the Cirque with his then girlfriend Roxanna Brock. In just more than a year, Brian established over 20 climbs on the intimidating blank canvas including Proper Soul, the region’s first 5.14a. And then he was gone—off to the West to claim speed records on El Cap big walls, first ascents on the big walls of Zion, alpine walls in Alaska, hundreds of sport routes, and many more adventures.>
My most vivid memory of McCray’s routes was down in the Red River Gorge a few years back when we visited a recently rediscovered crag that he had apparently developed in the 90’s before moving on to other things. Most of the routes had been rebolted, but above the anchors of one of the routes remained two rusty anchors from a different day and time. In between burns on what was an incredible route I distinctly remember staring at those bolts trying to put myself in the shoes of McCray as he was bolting this crag some 15-20 years prior.
What was it like to come across this wall when it was still a blank slate? What were those days spent bolting like? The rusted anchors I saw were maybe 10 feet above the present day anchors, could he have actually climbed the blank section between the two? Could he have ever imagined that people would think that some of the routes he bolted there were runout? The answers are, of course, not that important, but I’m guessing that McCray’s work has been felt in similar ways by many climbers over the years.
My condolences to Brian’s family and friends.