Richie Copeland climbing accident?


Discussion Topic

Return to Forum List
This thread has been locked
Messages 1 - 146 of total 146 in this topic

Trad climber
New Joisey
Topic Author's Original Post - May 19, 2014 - 04:49pm PT
Got a text from a friend telling me Richie Copeland was involved in a climbing accident today and may have passed away.

Looking to see if anyone knows any details or if they can confirm it even happened.
Yosemite, Kings Canyon/Sequoia would be my guess as to where the accident took place

Dave Owens

Big Wall climber
Mammoth Lakes
May 19, 2014 - 05:04pm PT
Unfortunately it seems to be true.

Damn he was a great guy. One of the best ever. See you on the other side amigo.

Big Wall climber
May 19, 2014 - 06:08pm PT
All I know is it was on Liberty Cap. This is really terrible news. BE SAFE PEOPLE.

Gross Vegas
May 19, 2014 - 06:31pm PT
Sad and tragic..
RIP Richie and condolences to and friends and family.

One year to the day since Mason passed away.
Weird and sad coincidence.


Ice climber
mogollon rim
May 19, 2014 - 06:49pm PT
Damn, another one for the golden hall

Toyota Tacoma
May 19, 2014 - 06:51pm PT
Rich was one of those great ones in a cast of characters that only the Valley can create. Sad to hear this, RIP Rich.

Trad climber
RV, middle of Nowehere
May 19, 2014 - 07:03pm PT
I met Rich in 2002-2003. Super friendly and helpful at the time for a nOOb climber to the valley. I remember him working at the Ford factory assembling cars. Told me about the time he attempted to climb Mt. Hooker mid winter and had an epic on just the approach. Lost contact with him and heard thru the grapevine about a broken neck from a skydiving incident when the packer forgot to open and quarter the slider. Then there's the time he went to repeat Atlantis ( Dave T. route) fell and busted his ankle/leg? Self rescued

Last time I saw him was April 28, 2014 hiking loads to the BASE of El Cap. He still had the same excitement about climbing and enthusiasm as when I first met him. We chatted about climbing and I joked with him I wasn't hard enough to climb with him. He laughed and said he'd take the hard pitches. He just loved to climb.

I'm pretty sure the next day on pitch 3 it was him I heard harassing us from the meadow. After the summit we ran out of time and days and never got to catch up more.

Condolences to friends and family.
See ya on the flip flop Richie.

Big Wall climber
Typewriters and Ledges
May 19, 2014 - 07:24pm PT
I met Richie for the first time while I was soloing a route last month. He came zipping by on some fixed lines while I was lead and scared the crap out of me. We had a great conversation about the West Face of El Cap where'd he'd been spending time and his upcoming projects. Never met anyone so stoked and sunburnt at the same time. Talk about an instantly likable guy. He was super stoked on his 300lumen headlamp, "the nighttime is daytime now"

Hope there's virgin granite where he is now.

Trad climber
New Joisey
Topic Author's Reply - May 19, 2014 - 08:01pm PT
Don't know exact details. But he was climbing with a partner and the guy went to go get more water he came back to find Richie had fallen. (I assume soloing)

J-tree he bought that lamp on the way to
My first time to Yosemite. He sandbagged me into climbing Pineline at 2am telling
Me it was the 5.0 scramble to the nose. He showed me Every secret spot to dirtbag and not get caught. The whole trip he told me that my 5.9 gunks climbing and v5 onsights were good enough and that we were just going to solo the 4 days we were there. Walked me thru my first mental breakdown on after six when we soloed it.

We woke up a night after drinking and he had a glow in the dark nalgene to pee in. He forgot it back at Montecito and bought a new one at REI. I was running around before sunrise and came to wake him up. He sits up and takes a giant swig of What he thought was water. He made this face and swallowed it. "Richie did you just drink your piss bottle?"
"Yeah buddy I did." Shrugged his shoulder and moved along with his day.

We took a sled out to a climb in kings and
Since I was the third party he made me
Tow behind on my snowboard. Got to the base and my
Legs were so beat I had to Watch them climb it.

Hands down one of the most stoked dudes I ever met no matter how bad the situation was.

May 19, 2014 - 08:42pm PT
I am not a climber, but I knew Rich (the Dude) from his summer job at Montecito Sequoia Lodge. We met for at least a week for the last 6 years. He taught many of us old fat couch potatoes the basics of scrambling, took us to see Peregrine falcons on his time off, and was a joy with our kids.

I've never met a warmer, friendlier person, so happy to share his skills with whomever he met. RIP.

Yosemite/ Truckee
May 19, 2014 - 08:50pm PT

Love you Richie.

Big Wall climber
Crestline CA
May 19, 2014 - 09:01pm PT
I heard he fell on the approach to Libery Cap when some rocks he was standing on gave way beneath him. He was one of the brothers and a great friend. We here in Yosemite are crushed..... I'm at a loss for words... he was extremely well regarded here and wherever he went I'm sure..... He will be greatly missed as there was only one Richie......

Big Wall climber
Reno, Nevada
May 19, 2014 - 09:05pm PT
Richie, what the f*#k, bro? You’re not supposed to make us cry. You were the one that made us laugh, at all times, even when sh#t was grim. We laughed our asses off hiding underneath a rain fly, smoking weed and getting pelted by baseball sized rocks… because you said, “It might be the last time we inhale that tasty green”. So many laughs together, so many adventures. Following you to the hospital after a hard opening broke your neck skydiving. We just laughed and I told you that you need to go West before that steel freezes to your bones in Chicago. F*#k! I could go on forever. You’ve inspired me and so many with your adventures, kind and focused spirit… focused on being true and loving life to the fullest. Love you bro!!!


Sport climber
Made in California
May 19, 2014 - 09:13pm PT
Terrible news...
My sincere condolences to family and friends of Mr. Copeland.

~peace, Lisa Mae

Somewhere out there
May 19, 2014 - 09:19pm PT
My sincere condolences

Big Wall climber
Reno, Nevada
May 19, 2014 - 09:41pm PT
Remember that time you bought 1k$ worth of fireworks across the border and we went back to Chi-Town. Your idea was to go the sketchy-ist neighborhoods and rage, have fun and make friends. I thought we were going to have to use the fireworks as weapons a few times. BUT, somehow you're good nature always soothed things and we prevailed. That was some of the wildest sh#t I've ever seen. You're not supposed to leave us bro!!!


Trad climber
Kings Beach, CA
May 19, 2014 - 10:08pm PT
FUUUUUUUUUCk! I have known Richie for 7 years working with him in kings canyon and sequioa. He was mine and so many others brother. One of my best friends. Last year he made me jug up to hart ledge for his 50th bday. He seemed to know everyone in the valley and my heart goes out to all of you who got the priviledge to climb with him and have him in your lives. Really tough to swallow this one....

Trad climber
Ouray, Colorado
May 19, 2014 - 10:11pm PT
Damn....too often do we hear that one of us is gone, doing what they loved.

the flatness
May 19, 2014 - 10:13pm PT
Had to dig out my old login when I saw this. Richie, you were the best there ever was -- I can't think of a single second I spent with you that didn't feel like a constant party, whether it was rain or shine, chilling or suffering. You were one of the people who showed me how to get off my ass and go out there and get it, and I'll do my best to hold on to everything I learned from you. I'll never forget that grin that never left your face, and nobody ever said anything I believed more than when you'd say "Richie don't let go of the rope." Rest in peace, brother.

Trad climber
South Slope of Mt. Tabor, Portland, Oregon, USA
May 19, 2014 - 10:14pm PT
Richie was the man loaned me gear and was always willing to answer questions I had.
So welcoming and really helped me out and inspired me.
All the best to friends and famlly
I will miss him, but he will live in soul.
Thx Richie for the good times.

The Lisa

Trad climber
Da Bronx, NY
May 19, 2014 - 10:28pm PT
My condolences to his family and friends. I hope they get to see the many tributes to him here.
Captain...or Skully

May 19, 2014 - 10:47pm PT
Richie was at the last El Cap Barbeque I was at. I'll miss you dude...Cheers.

May 19, 2014 - 10:53pm PT
Now I am going to go hide.

Sending love, prayers and my condolences.



May 19, 2014 - 10:57pm PT
Very, very sad news. Every time Kate and I saw him in the valley he was always stoked and so happy. Damn. My condolences and prayers for his many friends and family.

Boulder climber
May 19, 2014 - 11:13pm PT
We were just smoking a 50-50 down by the river, you said that you'd be right back. Goodbye Monkey. . .df

Trad climber
Santa Clara, CA
May 19, 2014 - 11:24pm PT
Never got to meet him, but it's obvious he was a good soul.

Rest in peace, Richie. God bless.

Social climber
May 19, 2014 - 11:48pm PT
hey there all, say... very very sad to hear this... :(
did not know him, though i know of close camaraderie in so many of the various trails of life...

climbers are one of the close ones, i know...

very sorry this loss, as to his life, his loved-ones' loss, and his buddies' loss...

my condolences to his family and loved ones...

thank you for sharing how very special he was, so those that did not know him, will know him, now...

May 19, 2014 - 11:57pm PT
Rich was a throwback form from the 70's only he appeared in a more recent time.

A real true hardman to the form we've all seen and dreamed how one would be.

He told us his previous life on the Ford motor company assembly line as we listened in awe.

A true pure bred blue collar dude, every mans working stiff we all so easily could relate to and admire.

You'll be truly missed by us lifer tribe you so loved also.

You're already missed dearly.

Goodbye our good friend until we meet again ......

Big Wall climber
Portland, OR
May 20, 2014 - 12:07am PT
Sad for his friends and family. . . . sad for all of us who could have called him a friend one day.

St. Louis, MO
May 20, 2014 - 12:36am PT
My name is Cindy, and I am Rich Copeland's sister. I just came upon this website and this forum as I was searching for more info on my brother. Thank you all for this tribute to him. It really touches my heart to see that he had so many people in this community who loved and cherished him. It means so much to me and our family. It comforts me greatly to know that he had such wonderful people around him when he moved out there. I also love the photos that were posted of him. I had never seen those before, and cried upon seeing them. This is an unspeakably painful time for our family and myself. So once again, I really thank you all for all of your love and support for him.

-Cynthia Copeland

Trad climber
May 20, 2014 - 12:39am PT
A real bummer to hear of this today. Would have liked to climb with him one more time. Rich was pure. He was always psyched about life. I am fortunate to have known and had the chance to climb with such an amazing and inspiring person. Love you man.
High Fructose Corn Spirit

Gym climber
May 20, 2014 - 12:48am PT
Clearly a true adventurer, at heart, and beloved by those who knew him.

One day at a time, Cynthia. One day at a time.

Thanks for posting up.

Trad climber
Sonora, CA
May 20, 2014 - 12:52am PT
I met Richie 2 weeks ago on a 2 day trek up at the Diving Board. I was late meeting the group & was heading up the Snake Dike climber's trail. I saw some water he was hauling up there by Lost Lake so I figured I would grab one to help out. 20 minutes later, Dude shows up and asks if I'm John. He was on his 2nd run and looked beat so I offered him a sandwich and some carrots. We spent the next several hours laughing, quoting movies, and planning some future adventures in Yosemite and Kings Canyon. On Saturday & Sunday, I walked behind Half Dome and looked in the Harding Hole because I knew he was planning to climb up there. Little did I know.. Richie had the heart of a lion and was such a positive influence on so many people. My heartfelt condolences to his family and friends. You will be missed, Dude.

Trad climber
Millbrae, CA
May 20, 2014 - 12:52am PT
My deepest condolences to his friends and family. It is wonderful for the family to have these recollections posted by his dear climbing brethren.

Big Wall climber
May 20, 2014 - 01:07am PT
I loved every minute I got to spend with Richie. He was dedicated to the life - eating cold canned soup when his friend offered him nice cooked (fresh) meals. His positivity and wild spirit brightened the world.
Todd Gordon

Trad climber
Joshua Tree, Cal
May 20, 2014 - 01:09am PT
A very very sad day for the climbing community......
Nudge Nudge

Trad climber
May 20, 2014 - 01:17am PT
I first met Rich in Chicago, and my first summer in Yosemite he took me up the fixed lines to Heart Ledge while his neck was still recovering, and had a night of beers and laughs. I haven't seen him in a couple of years, but often find myself laughing remembering his stories.
..."how many bottled waters do I need to hike to Venereal Falls?"

Trad climber
el portal
May 20, 2014 - 01:35am PT

This photo was taken a week and a half ago. A couple days later Richie came down to El Portal to dry out for a bit. Richie was so stoked about that mega-headlamp. He was so amped about getting off work in the winter and going "night snowboarding" and then he went on to another story about how his cats followed him for miles when he lead hikes for clients...and then another gut busting story after that...

We started calling him Night Shift Richie because he was the one who lead through the night on more than one occasion...

How about a story from the push on the NA Wall?

Trad climber
Phoenix, AZ
May 20, 2014 - 01:38am PT
I worked at a summer camp with Rich for at least 6 summers and I can easily say that he was one of the most influential mentors I've ever had the pleasure to work with. Rich was easily the most dedicated employee, spending his free time cleaning trails in the national forest and gathering wood for casual staff campfires, and I think he was an inspiration to everybody who met him. I know at least twenty people who he took to Yosemite for their first times! He taught me to climb, slack line, and led for my first sport, trad, and multi pitch.
He really knew how to make friends with anybody, from little toddlers to people older than him and he made climbing enjoyable for all of them.
One of my favorite memories is when we were trying to amuse ourselves while waiting for our turn to give some presentations to our clients. He got us to play a silly game where you blow a paper around a table and it got all of us laughing so hard that nobody could feel their fingers and one of our coworkers actually lost control of his facial muscles and couldn't move his mouth for about ten minutes. We got scolded for being so noisy, but it's impossible to sit still and not have a good time when Rich is around.
Rich would often joke around by telling people that he was a PhD from Harvard in subatomic physics, but I think we all know that the education he was able to spread to his friends, peers, and students he met through rock climbing were much more valuable than anything we've learned in school.

Sport climber
Made in California
May 20, 2014 - 02:00am PT
bump of love and respect ~

Trad climber
Las Vegas, NV.
May 20, 2014 - 02:08am PT
I only met Richie a few times in the Valley, but every time I saw him he always seemed so stoked and yet a really chill guy. I remember thinking instantly that he would be an awesome guy to have on the wall with you.

RIP Richie, and my condolences to his sister, family and friends that loved him.
SC seagoat

Trad climber
Santa Cruz, or In What Time Zone Am I?
May 20, 2014 - 02:14am PT
This hurts. He was so kind and funny and just a few words with him and I'd feel the energy...the stoke...another blow-to-the-gut loss.


May 20, 2014 - 08:39am PT
I met Richie a few years ago in Camp IV. My first impression was who was this lean looking dude with no body fat and a rugged look to him? We hit it off from our first conversation. Rich was super cool and as chilled as they come. His stories were clearly a cut above the rest of us. Rich was a total hard man in every sense of the word. He climbed the hard routes, the ones that have seen no traffic since their first ascent. I thought to myself after first meeting each other that this is a guy who the real deal! We had some things in common… we were about the same age, had worked in a factory type job and lived in the Midwest. However, Rich left all that sh#t behind and started living the climbers dream. I will miss seeing your smiling face Rich and hearing about your adventures. My trips to the valley won’t be the same. You are sorely missed my friend.
My condolences to Rich’s family and all that knew him.
~Tony Mayse
dirt claud

Social climber
san diego,ca
May 20, 2014 - 10:02am PT
As someone who just watches from the sidelines the exploits of some of the greats here, I am greatly saddened when I hear of a loss of another soul who gave and will continue to give so much inspiration to myself and others. From reading the stories about this man it is obvious he was loved by many and a great void is being felt in the Valley and many other places. Very sorry for your loss. Rest in peace Richie.

Boulder, CO
May 20, 2014 - 10:32am PT
Never met him nor did I know much about him but the stories you all share are telling. We lost a great one. So sorry to friends and family.
Rich is my hero

Social climber
May 20, 2014 - 10:45am PT
From the family (Mark) - Thank you all for the kind words and pictures. You really never know what you had until it's gone. Please continue to share pictures and stories so I can share with my family and boys. Your posts mean the world to me and my family.

Trad climber
el portal
May 20, 2014 - 11:31am PT

My buddy Richie lived life to the fullest every day! Sweet, charming, genuine, caring, daring, hilarious, inspiring and so many other great qualities. Richie went out doing what he loved to do in the place he called home. This is him and I two weeks ago on the summit of the lost brother wall. We had just finished a new route up the steep headwall. Richie loved the magic of adventure and is probably climbing some sweet line in the next level right now, cracking jokes all the while:) I'm thankful to be your friend and to of known such a great man! I'll carry with me the awesome memories that I have of you!

Boulder climber
May 20, 2014 - 11:36am PT

Trad climber
May 20, 2014 - 11:37am PT
wow, sorry to hear this

terrible news

Social climber
May 20, 2014 - 11:50am PT
Cynthia, I'm so sorry for you and your family's loss. As someone else said, one day at a time.

I've never met the man, but it's obvious he had a large positive impact on those that he met.


May 20, 2014 - 11:57am PT
Our tribes lost one hell of great guy .....


Gym climber
Roca Rojo
May 20, 2014 - 12:02pm PT
Golden Jah to Richie's family in this time.
Such a special dude.

I believe I met Richie on his first trip to El Cap. This was so many years ago I'm not sure what year it was.

I clearly remember the moment though at the base of Tangerine Trip.
Talking excitedly on his phone he had a rattlesnake cornered with a stick.
It sounded like whomever was on the other end of the phone didn't believe him, or share in his excitement.


Now the snake is all coiled up around the phone, pissed off...but NOW the person on the other end can hear the snake rattling. So, it's all good.

I tried to walk around him and act like this sort of thing happened all the time. I thought he was a kook.

That year Richie was on vacation from Ford. He was only getting 2 weeks off that year. I was impressed with only 2 weeks off you would jam out to Yosemite to try to solo El Cap.

While he didn't make it up the Trip we got to know each other in the way you do spending too much time in the meadow.

He was implicitly my friend, my bro, an adventure partner.

Messages, plans, trips, Hooker, jumping, years all roll together. I remember running into him in Ouray, sneaking into my van and catching up.

Richie got harder at an inversely proportional rate to me getting softer. I'm proud the direction he grew with his climbing.

I'm sad and nauseous writing this. Fly high my friend.
Make sure the rack is sorted, I will lead the next one.

Big Wall climber
Typewriters and Ledges
May 20, 2014 - 12:03pm PT

Big Wall climber
Ashland, Or
May 20, 2014 - 12:34pm PT
Richie was one of those few fixtures in Yosemite that made my annual visits to the Valley feel like returning home to family.

I never had the pleasure of climbing with him but spent countless hours just lounging with him doing the El Cap lieback, swinging in the alcove, sharing beers and smokes around the campfire, swapping stories and laughs.

He was always so encouraging about my adventures on the big stone, it seemed every route I was getting on he had some wild tale of his own epic on the same climb where he ran out of water, or forgot his headlamp and climbed by brail through the night. It felt like hearing his stoke on a route insured success, and I'd often postpone my departure just for the chance to chill with Richie a bit longer.

Never judgmental, ever humble, and ALWAYS treated everyone like an equal... I learned a lot from Richie and am glad I had the chance to know him. I think I'll always be looking for him in the usual spots. I know his spirit will remain in the Valley of the Gods, watching and rooting us onward and upward, rolling us a smoke for good 'ole times sake.

RIP brother.

Social climber
May 20, 2014 - 12:35pm PT
I only just met Richie two weeks ago and hiked and camped with him up on the diving board at half dome. He was so energetic and happy to help show off his backyard. A truly pure soul who will be missed greatly. Here he is just two weeks ago living to the fullest.

Ottawa Doug

Social climber
Ottawa, Canada
May 20, 2014 - 12:56pm PT
Only met Richie a couple of times. He was always friendly, humble etc...
He will be missed a ton.

May 20, 2014 - 01:42pm PT

To Mark and Cindy, your brother was always open and friendly to every soul he ever met. Seemed always stoked, upbeat and happy the few times I met him, willing to share whatever. Great guy. The world could do with a lot more like him, sorry for your loss.

Social climber
NZ -> SB,CA -> Zurich
May 20, 2014 - 02:41pm PT
This is tragic news - so obviously a great guy. My condolences to his family and friends. .... Roy
Tom R

Rainy England
May 20, 2014 - 05:37pm PT
Me, Richie and Nate all climbed our first El Cap route together way back in the day. It was such a mega epic and we were way out of our depth. It was amazing fun though and the photo that I have up in my living room of us at the rim of El Cap brings amazing memories. Everyone is just beaming out of their brains as we can't believe we topped out.

When all of us were too scared to lead one of the pitches, Richie stepped up and took it.

When we ran out of water, Richie just said he didn't need it and we should drink the last bit.

On one of the belays he clipped into a water bottle sling instead of the main point and when it ripped and he caught himself on a sling, he just shrugged and said "whoops, that was careless". No drama.

He had a really screwed knee that was due for an op after he got off the wall but he didn't complain once about it, and still carried a flipping heavy load down the ledges. He just soldiered on and wouldn't have anything but be a great team player.

One of the truly dependable and massively giving people that I've met in my years of climbing. It brings a smile to my face just to think of the funny things he did and said.

Rest in peace Richie.

Trad climber
May 20, 2014 - 06:59pm PT
Sad news. Condolences to family and friends.
Report here, although it says the accident was on El Cap.

Brian Corbett

May 20, 2014 - 07:09pm PT
This news breaks my heart. My precious brother and mentor Rich Copeland died in a climbing accident in Yosemite. Rich and I became friends many years ago, and have had so many adventures together I can't count them. I always loved the mountains, but Rich taught me that they are mine to enjoy. Over the years, he earned his spot among the Yosemite gurus.

Rich, in my experience, was the incarnation of laughter and fun. When things got difficult, Rich was at his best. Indeed when things seemed outrageous, Rich would bellow with song. It is hard to imagine a more positive human being, or one more ardently out for adventure. Rich was not afraid of much, and died doing what he loved most.

Sharing in a brotherhood with Rich was one of the great privileges of my live. I simply cannot find words to describe this man other than to say I couldn't have loved him more, and I will miss him more than I can say.

Thank you Rich, with all my heart. May your spirit spill over into me.

Sport climber
Made in California
May 20, 2014 - 07:16pm PT
This thread is beautiful and humbling...

Rest in Peace ~

Trad climber
May 20, 2014 - 08:01pm PT
Terrible News, I haven't caught up with Rich in a really long time. We climbed together some in 03-04 in Southern Illinois and took a trip to North Carolina to do some aid on Looking Glass. I'd hear stories through friends about his latest climb or other adventure, and it always started with "Man, your not going to believe what Rich has been up to". He was a hell of a guy, and will be missed. Here's a photo of him on belay in N.C. Spring of 04 I believe.

May 20, 2014 - 08:21pm PT
my condolences to Richie's friends and family.

the news article makes it sound like he fell off of the long ledge that traverses Liberty Cap-- is that true?
Erik Sloan

May 20, 2014 - 08:22pm PT
Cheers Richie! I have tons of awesome photos I will try to post up later. Woot! to a life lived fully! Love ya bro!


Trad climber
May 20, 2014 - 09:11pm PT
I met Rich when I tried my first big wall, The Shield on el cap in 2011, Rich and Ammon were climbing the second ascent of hole world and all the while we were epicing on the shield we could hear those two hooting at all hours of the night. When we bailed, they topped out I remember Rich handing me a cobra and offering humorous philosophical support to a whupped gumby (me). Topped out the shield yesterday and was thinking of Rich the whole time. Then i get down and find out he's gone. hits you hard, this stuff.

Trad climber
San Diego, CA
May 20, 2014 - 10:56pm PT
Raising my glass to a life well lived.

Hope I can do the same.

Trad climber
Burlington, VT
May 20, 2014 - 11:47pm PT
Two weeks in the Valley with Richie resulted in the highlight of my climbing career. He, our best buddy Jim Thurmond and I got together for The Zodiac in April 2010. Even though it was my first big wall and first time in Yosemite, Richie's boundless energy and expansive ability made it all happen -- wedged in between two snowstorms. He just kept going strong even after climbing through the spray of Horsetail Falls in a drysuit, having to hold his pee for hours because of the suit, leading every pitch, setting up portaledges at 2:30 in the morning on Day 3, dropping one, sleeping 3 in a 2-man, only a couple hours sleep, we never lost the laughter. He loved every second of it. After topping out at sunset on Day 5, he rallied us for the night descent to get Jim home for a family emergency. I remember Richie took great pride in his solo ascent of Half Dome (I think it was 9 days), but he was equally proud to show me around his favorite spots on the Valley floor even in a storm. It will be hard to make my second trip out knowing that Richie won't be there to greet me with a pot of Tuna Helper and a new bivy site. Knowing him, even for only two weeks, made my life brighter and fuller. With his energy and motivation, anything was possible. Climb on Richie!To Rich's brother and sister and parents, my sincerest condolences. Please feel free to request high res files of the photos. I'm deeply sorry for your loss.
Brooks Elder
ß Î Ø T Ç H

Boulder climber
May 21, 2014 - 03:48am PT
Report here, although it says the accident was on El Cap.
They somehow got it right in the text tho -- 300 foot high ledge on Liberty cap.

Sport climber
Made in California
May 21, 2014 - 12:27pm PT
What wonderful tributes, memories and photos shared...

Bump for a life well lived, and lived to the fullest.


Big Wall climber
Reno, Nevada
May 21, 2014 - 06:27pm PT

I will never forget you Richie. You were one of a kind and there will never be such a zany character like yourself. You made being stuck out in the Midwest for a few years VERY entertaining. Hell, you made life very entertaining.

How about that time we were all hiking up to climb at Devil’s Lake, you had a neck brace on from a skydiving accident and could only walk in slow movements. I was on crutches with a dislocated ankle from a BASE jumping injury. We started get separated from our group a bit, so it was just me and you limping along together. As people were walking down the trail the other way, or passing us by, you would start saying stuff like, “Man, I hope I don’t break my neck on them rocks… like last time”. And, “I don’t know how that knot came off”.

I caught on and started chiming in. “This time I shouldn’t tie the rope to my foot… that was a bad idea”. We were getting the funniest looks. At one point a guy pipes up and said, “It’s really none of my business but maybe you guys should find another sport”. Richie and I looked at each other and HOWLED with laughter. We used the line often where it fit.

We would just jump on our bikes in Chicago and start riding, most the time following the shoreline for days. We would just sleep on the beach or in parks like bums. It was simple and amazing. When we would get tired of being bums (soaking in views and culture) we would just take a train back to the city.

Your couch parties down in So Ill were LEGENDARY!! Who in their right mind hikes a couch for miles out in the boonies? We would just set the couch down and start drinking beer or have a smoke when we got tired of carrying it. Sitting out in the middle of the woods on a couch is something I only see myself doing with you. Then we fashioned a bridal for it and hoisted it up a cliff sixty feet, or so. The rope swing we made off the couch started getting out of hand, quickly. The next night Richie showed up with five gallons of white gas. “This is how we do it around these neck of the woods”, he told me.

One time, I showed up down there and Richie had bought a couple hundred dollars worth of wind chimes. Man, he must have bought every chime in the store, wooden ones, steel, bamboo… all kinds of chimes. We spent hours hanging all these chimes in the highest branches in the woods. We used a hunting climber tree stand and big wall techniques to hang them. Afterwards I made a comment about it going to be a bitch to collect them all. He laughed and said, “Those are there to stay, ha haa”.

I remember looking for a check in your apartment, for hours. We looked all day for that damn check. It was supposed to look just like any other check, like a payroll check, you said. We never did find it but I was curious once we gave up and I said. “They are going to have to cancel it”. And then ask, “How much was the check for, anyway?”

“Ahh, it was a check from Ford… just fifty thousand”. WTF, are you serious? Only you, Richie, ha haa

We would be coming back from a road trip somewhere and he would be like, “Hey, drop me off right here at this gas station”. Uh, ok… we would be out in the boonies. He would have no phone, just what he was wearing. He would just say something like, “I’ll probably meet up with a friend”. And you know, if he didn’t he would make one. But, it was strange just dropping him off like that, but he was just as easy going as they get.

I only did one wall with Richie, but have known him close to fifteen years. My partner bailed on me on Hole World and who showed up, but the man himself. He didn’t have a plan and he lit up when I asked him to join me. That was one of the best walls I’ve ever done. Bonding with my bro whom I was already close to is what life is all about. We laughed our asses off up there. The storm that rolled in will always be etched into my mind. Waterfalls everywhere!! Baseball sized rocks literally hitting us from the water pushing it over the edge. We are hanging under the rain fly because I couldn’t get the ledge up fast enough before the sh#t hit the fan. We were freezing! The last thing on my mind was weed and you say, “Hey man, you want to smoke a bowl? It might be the last time”. I just start howling at the absurdity. When I finally was able to control myself I say, “yes” and we somehow got the job done in between fits of laughter.

That was hilarious when we got off of Hole World. You had stashed a mason jar full of weed out in the woods somewhere. We spent all day wandering around looking for a jar of weed. It was supposed to be underneath a log, you kept telling me. We never did find it but boy did we laugh for hours trying to find it. We laughed even harder when we realized the facelift happened while we were up there, ha ha.

Richie was one of the most generous people I know. He would literally give you his shirt off his back, or his shoes off his feet. One time he knew I was pretty broke in the Valley and he hands be $200. “What’s this for?”, I asked. “Remember that time you surprised me and took my gear down from El Cap? I’ve been meaning to give this to you”, he would say. And then insisted I take it or he’s going to have to rough me up, ha ha. He had a heart of gold.

I’m not ashamed that I cry when my friends die, I think it’s natural. I’m openly sad that Richie is no longer with us. But, I can’t explain the happiness I have, that he was in my life. His pure joy of living and loving life is definitely Richie’s legacy.

Jim Clipper

from: forests to tree farms
May 21, 2014 - 07:03pm PT
^ Faack #2 and #13

speaks volumes (imho)

Sport climber
Made in California
May 21, 2014 - 08:31pm PT
Wonderful tribute, Ammon.

~peace to all

Trad climber
RV, middle of Nowehere
May 21, 2014 - 09:35pm PT

I forget who took this photo. Looking at it closer it shows how he lived his life. This is an amazing tribute of a photo. Absolutely breathtaking.
Brian Corbett

May 21, 2014 - 09:38pm PT
Mark and Cindy, my heart and deepest condolences are with your family. Cindy, we've met a number of times in St. Louis. I'm going to be at the service on Saturday in Yosemite. If there are any words you would like me to convey on your behalf, please let me know. I can be reached at
(314) 614-2137, or at: I'm going to call Liz Davis in a moment. I am devastated by this, and know you are too. With love, Brian

Trad climber
el portal
May 21, 2014 - 09:50pm PT
Friends and family we will be celebrating our friend Richie Copeland this Saturday, May 24th from noon to sunset at Cathedral Beach picnic area, here in Yosemite Valley. Please come celebrate and share stories about our hero Richie.

Gym climber
May 22, 2014 - 12:30am PT
There are so many people posting here who knew "Richie" from climbing together, but not so many who knew him as "The Dude" from Montecito Sequoia Lodge, the camp where my family has been spending the best weeks of our year for many years.

Our first summer at family camp six or seven years ago was when "The Dude" was just getting the climbing program started there. He had built the climbing wall under the deck, but wasn't given the budget to buy shoes small enough for the kids. He passionately wanted the smallest campers to learn to love the rocks as much as he did, so he encouraged parents to write on our end-of-the-week evaluations that this should be a priority. And, wouldn't you know it, the next year, there they were, the teeniest little climbing shoes, stiff in their newness, all laced together and ready to be worn by the next future superstar climber.

Where "Richie" could be crude and rough-edged with his climbing buddies, "The Dude" was sweet and gentle and encouraging with everyone from the smallest child to the most timid middle-aged couch potato.

He would stand right under the kids, patiently waiting for them to puzzle things out for themselves, but then also using one of those giant, craggy hands to guide them when they took a misstep. He’d grin that lopsided grin so widely and genuinely when they’d finally scramble all the way up (and they always did) that it was hard to believe that this was his job, that he could really be that excited about every single person pushing their own individual limits day after day, week after week, year after year. But he did.

A couple of years back, he put in a slack line on the beach. Watching him on it, with those cut up feet simultaneously tough like a mountain goat’s and flexible like a big old house cat’s, was poetry. “The Dude” made everything look graceful and effortless. He even inspired my own 70 year old mother to get up there; she and my dad put a slack line up in their own back yard upon returning home, trying to bring a little bit of camp magic back with them.

There were always a small handful of us who used our week at family camp to break out of our boring, desk-and-carpool-centered everyday lives and relive some of our youth when we didn’t have Responsibilities and Commitments. Right after dinner, we would excitedly sign up for the off-camp climbing expeditions he’d rave about, arrange for childcare for the next afternoon and pack our bags, complete with smooshed sandwich, juice box and fruit, like we were going off on a field trip with a beloved veteran teacher. The van rides with “The Dude” were the unexpected, unadvertised bonuses, when we got to hear those impossible stories of risk and redemption as we bounced along in the camp van on roads mere humans wouldn’t drive an armored tank on. He could drive those roads with his eyes closed, he knew them so well, dusty, covered in snow, in the dark.

While “The Dude” was the very embodiment of cool as he swaggered through camp, often barefoot and shirtless, his infinitely long arms hanging loose by his sides and his sparse hair looking like he just rolled out of bed, he wasn’t above getting silly at the variety show or morning pow wow. His “A-Lizard Face, A-Lizard Face” rendition was all the funnier for the contrast between the different extremes of his personality. When he cracked himself up at the sheer joyful ridiculousness of his job, it was hard not to laugh with him, too.

Last June, as we were bouldering by the forts, he was going on and on about the zip line that he envisioned running through the valley, maybe even ending over Lake Homovolo. He knew that this was a hard sell to those stodgy old suits who are always worried about liability and rules, but he also knew that he was one of the only ones who could set it up so that it would be foolproof. Safety was incredibly important to him. The only time I’d see him raise his voice was when a counselor training under him would take a shortcut or not keep their eye on their climber. We’re heading off to camp in exactly four weeks and I’m half-expecting to see that zipline of his dreams up there, one more physical fixture attesting to the undeniable, beautiful fact that he was there, that Montecito was one more place that he passed through on his too short, but enviably full journey. If anyone could make that zipline happen, it would be “The Dude.”

May your every climb be pure and unobstructed from wherever you are now. We’re going to miss you.

Social climber
1187 Hunterwasser
May 22, 2014 - 01:21am PT

Mountain climber
May 22, 2014 - 01:48am PT
I ran in to Richie here and there in the valley so many times, very nice guy with great smile. Pretty sad

Trad climber
dancin on the tip of god's middle finger
May 22, 2014 - 06:21am PT
loving cup.
cheers, richie and friends.

"i'm the man from the mountain.
won't you come on up?
i'm the ploughman in the valley,
with a face full of mud.
yes i am stumblin,
and i know my car won't start.
yes i am fumbling,
and i know i play a bad guitar.
give a little drink,
from your lovin' cup!
just one drink,
and i fall down, drunk"

[Click to View YouTube Video]

Big Wall climber
Reno, Nevada
May 22, 2014 - 06:47am PT


Trad climber
dancin on the tip of god's middle finger
May 22, 2014 - 07:14am PT
nice ammon.
a nice glimpse of your's and richie's travels.

i dreamed of this before i learned
of richie's passing,
but now that i've heard
some of his tales,
i am committed to
purchasing a case a scotch,
an a new pair of boots.

and i'm gonna start out at glacier point,
and begin an eastward solo sojourn
until either the case of scotch,
the new boots, or the liver
waives the white flag.

not this year.
or probably not the next.
i gotta see my offspring into,
i don't, somewhere, first.

or maybe i'll take one of my
daughters with me.
if their keen.

we'll have to tell mom
that we're spending the
summer at bible camp.

wink. winky.

Mountain climber
Anchorage AK, Reno NV
May 22, 2014 - 10:28am PT
I'm terrible with names and didn't realize who this was till I saw Tom's tribute and Ammon's photos

I only met Richie barely. I would see him around everywhere in the valley, C4, the bridge, base of el-cap or riding a bike somewhere. I only talked to him a couple times but he was friendly as could be to this stranger. As often as not I'd see him in a group of the valley local monkeys and having a lively conversation. Instantly recognizable , super fit and sunbaked.

He just seemed like a part of the Valley, like he belonged there.

Words seem inadequate but I am trying to wish those who knew him best and loved him most a bit of peace and joy as they remember him.

Trad climber
La Cochitaville
May 22, 2014 - 01:34pm PT
Bump for Richie


May 22, 2014 - 02:36pm PT
Mark, Rich and I were hanging out at the valley cafeteria one morning when conversation turned to what our brothers did for work. I told him that my brothers life was living in the executive world and there was no way I could do that... Rich said that he had just visited with you and that you had asked him how he started his day? He said with this big smiling grin "After getting up I usually go for a mountain bike ride, then smoke a bowl before going bouldering". He said you were blown away by that! We both laughed and continued with conversation about our families. I really enjoyed your brothers company Mark, he was a super nice person that loved his family and friends. My heart goes out to you and your family.
Richie will be missed big time.

~Tony Mayse

Trad climber
Kentucky, living in St. Louis
May 22, 2014 - 07:00pm PT
Here's one for you of the beautiful mad man in his element, having just sent the 2nd ascent of the crux pitch of Dave Turner's "Atlantis" on the Captain:
[Click to View YouTube Video]

(I've got many more videos and great photos from that week to share too- more to come :-)

I am grateful to have known Rich- he and I endured a week on El Capitan together in 2008 on the 2nd ascent effort of Atlantis- I learned a lot in the Vertical with Rich, and even more in his consistent response to every soul he met with absolute love and joy, passion and acceptance. He introduced an untold number of people of all ages to the wonders of the great Sierra's, and has made a bigger impact with his kind spirit than people may ever fully realize.

On a beautiful afternoon last September, it was the day before he turned 50 years old. I was hanging out in my favorite place on the planet- below El Cap with my son Manley Feinberg III and friend Chris West. Our amazing day was made even brighter by a surprise "MANLEY!!! MANLEY!!! WAZ UP MAN!!!!!" from deep within the woods, then the vagabond Vertical mad man himself gave me the kind of bear hug you cherish forever, especially when you realize it was your last on earth to receive from him.

Climb on my friend!
I've still got you On Belay in my heart and mind Rich!!!\

Big Wall climber
Reno, Nevada
May 22, 2014 - 10:28pm PT
Richie and I were jumping out at the CSC dz around '07 screwing around on the lawn in between loads and Richie hears this train coming.

He looks at me and yells, "Hurry Run" and takes off running towards the train. Like a dumbass, I follow. We're both running and the train is getting closer, I have no idea what Richie's plan was. There were double tracks and there was already a train parked on the far tracks. We get to the first tracks and Rich jumps between the two tracks.

"Hurry or you're going to get hit", he shouts over the noise of the train. I jump in between... Like a dumbass. And have our backs plastered to the parked train as the other one sped past us blaring the horn. The next five minutes we held on for our lives trying not to get sucked under the fast moving train.

After it went by I looked and Richie and said, "that might be the most stupid thing I've ever done". He just says, "yup, but it sure makes you feel alive. Don't it? Now, let's go jump!"

Our low pull contests were always amusing, as well! Haahaa

Trad climber
dancin on the tip of god's middle finger
May 22, 2014 - 11:03pm PT
the best way to die
is with life in the bag.

it sounds like richie
carried a torch.

none of this bullshite kicking stones
down economic highways,
gettin lost in your own attic
as you sink into financial records.

none of this bullshite counting
coins or whatever the hell it is that
a,a. imparts,

just a reckless life,
managed with requisite responsibility but no more.

each day building one to stand behind.

i lament my inclination to follow
the dumb suit
and hyper-focus on my role as a father
and as bread-winner,

i'm just an accomplished drunk.
but that's not all.
i intend for a well-rounded life
spent hanging my rotten toes
over the edge of absurdity.

bludgeon the day upon you.
if you f*#king worship it
and treat it like a flower,
you will die disappointed.

and your venerable kids,
with open eyes and watching you,
will learn to surrender to ignorance,
rather than raising to meet new fears.

good boy, richie.
i look up to you and yours.

Social climber
Ridgway, CO
May 22, 2014 - 11:37pm PT
RIP Richie . . . we should cherish every moment with anyone, anything, anywhere . . . for it may be the last.
Ironmanof Photography

Big Wall climber
San Diego
May 23, 2014 - 01:18am PT
Richie, myself and several others took on the Diving Board two weeks ago and what a time it was. An image that eluded me for over twenty years finally was captured thanks to The Dude. Here is our video sharing some of those amazing moments we had. I wish I recorded the conversations we had about the larger brotherhood (All of you reading here)... Hope the video brings that Richie Love!
mouse from merced

Trad climber
The finger of fate, my friends, is fickle.
May 23, 2014 - 11:51am PT
I met this fellow last year and I was immediately drawn to him as a very dedicated follower of his own way.

It is such a thing which brings home how dangerous our craft is, even in the most benign-seeming places.

He'll get along well with Blitzo, no doubt.

My condolences to the folks who knew him on a daily basis.

Gym climber
Roca Rojo
May 23, 2014 - 12:23pm PT
The memorial for Richie is this SUNDAY????
Please confirm location/time.


Big Wall climber
May 23, 2014 - 02:07pm PT
It's tomorrow, Saturday at noon. Cathedral Beach : )
Clint Cummins

Trad climber
SF Bay area, CA
May 23, 2014 - 03:50pm PT
[Click to View YouTube Video]
A direct link to the Diving Board video by Ironmanof Photography

Trad climber
el portal
May 23, 2014 - 07:19pm PT
See all who can make it tomorrow.

Yeah Richie! These stories and photos are great.


Big Wall climber
Reno, Nevada
May 23, 2014 - 11:07pm PT
Give lots of love and hugs at the memorial. Seems these memorial events happen too fast and most of us cant get to them.

Love you BRO!!!

Big Wall climber
May 24, 2014 - 05:20am PT
I just found this sad message...
Richie was one of a toughest guy I ever met and he had truly big wall spirit
Thank you for inspiration.
RIP, respect, thanks God , I met you Richie
Handjam Belay

Gym climber
expat from the truth
May 24, 2014 - 03:01pm PT
Cheers my friend.
All my love. Glad you were my friend.
Thanks for the moments we shared. All real as a mofo. a kite right now. RIP dawg.

Trad climber
Kentucky, living in St. Louis
May 24, 2014 - 08:54pm PT
Here's one for the West Coast Celebration of Rich's life today-

Much love to all of you who are there or anywhere else on the planet today, thinking of our man Rich and the joy he brought us in his 50 years on our planet....
Ezra Ellis

Trad climber
North wet, and Da souf
May 25, 2014 - 08:55am PT
Wish I had known him,
Bump for the real deal!!!!!
Condolences to his friends and family.

May 25, 2014 - 03:51pm PT
I met Rich in a diversity training class back in St.Louis when the Ford plant was still open.I remember going to his friends house who had a make shift climbing gym in the garage and we would goof off all night. He once climbed the rafters at Ford in a pink too too on Halloween.What great person. I know ill remember him for ever.
Midwest Bum

Trad climber
St. Louis, MO
May 25, 2014 - 07:28pm PT
Anyone remember Richie coming into the valley years ago? Riding his BMW motorcycle with the 'Kill Your TV' bumper sticker. Back stacked with a full size haul bag like an extra passenger. All his camping and climbing gear piled on. Might as well of had 2 people riding on back. Somehow he managed to keep it upright. Seems like everything he did was an adventure. Love how he didn't mind how difficult an outing would be. Just glad to be doing something exciting with friends. New or known, young or old. Some with friends where it was the next adventure. The other half, with friends where it was an adventure of a lifetime. He just loved the experience of feeling life. Not watching it. A couple weeks, or a couple hours. He was ready to bring life to the table. Even if that table was a rock in the woods, the tailgate of a truck, or a bear box in camp 4....and boy those rangers sure wish they had a map of all those bivy spots he frequented. Ha! The woods are ours, and Richie knew that well. Thanks Rich!!!!!!!!

ps. No. He did not get any green from the guy in the green VW
Midwest Bum

Trad climber
St. Louis, MO
May 26, 2014 - 12:02am PT

When Richie made it to the top of the climb. He says to me. Don't ever do that again! If you fell you'd be dead. Referring to me. Placing no protection on the last pitch. He always put safety first. We couldn't expect him to bolt down every last rock in the valley. It just goes to show that life is fragile. No matter how strong we come. Can't help but re-appreciate the soul that he gave us to experience. Or the thought of how many more things were born the second he passed. Give thanks for this life we live.

And now, in all seriousness. As the dude would abide to. I bring to you silliness in the form of...

"Mary Poppin's Tribute To The Dude"



Los Angeles
May 26, 2014 - 12:13am PT

I'm so grateful for this thread and for getting to meet everyone that came to the memorial on Saturday - this picture is from his home, Montecito Lake Resort, where I know him from, and a place where he was loved and appreciated truly for the bright spirit he was. There are 2 Facebook pages to visit as well 'Fans of The Dude' and "Friends and Family of Rich Copeland" - please keep the stories coming, I can't get enough! All love, Shiva

Big Wall climber
Reno, Nevada
May 26, 2014 - 05:05am PT

Anyone remember Richie coming into the valley years ago? Riding his BMW motorcycle with the 'Kill Your TV' bumper sticker.

Yeah, MidWestBum… that was the year I met Richie. What year was that? Ha ha. ’03? My brother and I kept seeing this BMW cycle and kept thinking, what hardcore bastard is riding that thing. Then we met Richie and it all made sense.

Another time Richie is planning a keg-costume party on heart ledges. I think he had a tutu and was looking for something to go with it. I get the idea to raid the free boxes in all the employee housing and it was on. I think Richie ended up with some ladies pink pajamas with flowers on it, or something. He just loved to do the whackiest sh#t, just to get a good laugh out of you.

Yo MWB, doe’s your first name start with a T?

Big Wall climber
Reno, Nevada
May 26, 2014 - 06:49pm PT
Brian Corbett

May 27, 2014 - 02:55am PT
Yo El Cap Pirate, we missed you on Saturday, but truly you were there in spirit. Without a doubt, if Rich had a kindred soul in this world, it was you. I was amazed to hear that you'd only climbed one wall together, because I was constantly hearing stories of you. Those years in Chicago must have been pretty rad indeed. I wrote a few words about Rich on Saturday, and will post them tomorrow when I'm back in the space of my own computer. Sincerely, respect!
Rich is my hero

Social climber
May 27, 2014 - 11:49am PT
To the entire crew who helped coordinate and make the last 4+ days for my family and I happen at Montecito and Yosemite…...THANK YOU! Words cannot express what this means to the family. It’s very clear the love and great memories you have for him as well as the love he has for all of you. The outpouring of support has been phenomenal.

You welcomed my family to yours. It’s an honor and privilege to meet the folks who played a role in the “Richie legacy”. My family and I will be sharing the many stories with friends/family, the boys children when the time comes… and so on.

We will do our best to convey to the St. Louis family/friends the Yosemite/Montecito Richie. Your pictures and words will be forever etched in our memory and shared with the folks in St. Louis.

My son (Ryan) will be working on a “Chronicles of Rich” project. The pictures/stories you continue to share are much appreciated, please don’t stop. My email address is if you would like to reach out. As you share information you may receive a communication from Ryan seeking additional info. Appreciate your patience as he/we piece this together.

Regarding the St. Louis memorial… Sharing info for the locals:
Rich's Memorial in St. Louis: Visitation and service will be held on May 31st at Collier's Funeral Home,
3400 N Lindbergh Blvd, St Ann, MO ...63074
(314) 298-1212.
Visitations will start at 11:30. The Memorial will start promptly at 1:00.

Best regards!
Patrick Sawyer

Originally California now Ireland
May 27, 2014 - 07:48pm PT
Condolences to family and friends.
Peter Amend

Visalia, CA
May 28, 2014 - 04:01pm PT
Met Rich one night when he invited me to their little secret bonfire spot at Montecito.

Only had the pleasure of spending one evening with him, but I'll never forget this rugged kindhearted man.

Climb on, dude.


Trad climber
RV, middle of Nowehere
May 28, 2014 - 06:19pm PT
What headlamp did Richie use? Anyone know? Should contact the manufacture and rename it the Copeland Ed. or The Dude. His light did shine bright after all.

And to the gentleman who took the photo of Richie on top of the poreclain wall can you blow up that photo? I'd be interested in purching it.


the flatness
May 28, 2014 - 07:28pm PT
Second on wanting to buy a larger version of that porcelain wall pic, especially if the proceeds go to some memorial cause.

Austin, TX
May 29, 2014 - 12:17am PT
It is so great to read all of these stories about Richie. I met him 2 weeks before with the group that climbed to the diving board. I kept calling him hoss and told him he was stronger and tougher than all of the special forces operators I work with. I was blown away when he told me he was 50. He was so excited when I told him it was my first trip to Yosemite and that he always loved to join first timers. On the climb, he pointed out things he had always been amazed at like the construction in the 30's of the stairs on Mist Falls Trail. As we talked, by the campfire he talked about his new headlamp, snowboarding in the dark, and many of his crazy climbing stories. He tried to convince us to go on "the swing" that he hung, but we all declined. I asked him if he ever brought a girl up on a climb and you know, he spit out most of the brownie he was eating he laughed so hard. As he stuffed tobacco in his pipe he told me his favorite thing about Yosemite was the comradery in the valley and everyone was like one big family. He was emphatic about this and repeated it several times. He spoke of when he came to the valley he was welcomed with open arms and how much people gave him. He said he tried to give back to every person. A couple of us planned to wake up early and head down. Richie told us to wake him up because he would feel safer taking us back down himself. He said, "Seriously, I am a heavy sleeper so come wake me up." Out of appreciation for all the hard work he had done, we felt bad waking him up the next morning and so we left. Selfishly, I wish we had. I feel blessed that I had the opportunity, although short, to hang with him.

PS - I read the posts of the people wanting the photo. Abe Blair ( took that photo and I will make sure he gets the message.
I took this of Richie with my Iphone.

Midwest Bum

Trad climber
St. Louis, MO
May 29, 2014 - 03:12am PT

A lot of these photos, are of Rich in the Valley. There was much he went through to get there. Before he was able to be in a place so perfect....he was stuck in the midwest. He'd do anything he could to get ready for those big walls! Climbing in gyms until he was on the rafters. Climbing make shift garage walls. Even chiseling out mortar. From between the bricks on his rental house.(Hope his landlord isn't reading this...) There was another thing he did too. No one was there to experience it with him. No one to tell the story first hand. I enjoyed hearing it from him though. On the south side of Chicago. Underneath the main highway coming into that grand city. There were some large ditches for the road to cross. Here were these concrete walls some 80 or so feet tall. Richie would glue these rocks to the wall. Some big enough to grab with both hands.Then launch himself to the next hold.
There was no underpass. This was a space he had all to himself. Where he could get in the zone and practice freely. Then one day while nearing the top...he saw this helicopter over his shoulder. It's relatively low, and close to him. I remember him saying, "I thought it seemed a little close". The Dude kept climbing. Noticing another helicopter nearby he started to wonder. When the third one came up on him. TV camera out and pointing at him...he gave in, and directed his attention their way. Taking closer notice he realized some of them are cop copters. Then the cars, with their red and blue lights pull up. Followed by more. Followed by the fire department and a few ambulances. Now stuck in a "O SH#T" state of mind. He wasn't sure if he was under attack, or being rescued. From something he doesn't need to be rescued from. When it all comes together....he realized they thought he was a terrorist! (This was soon after 911) They were picturing him up there. Placing explosives in an attempt to shutdown access to the city. Ha! Who knew a motivated rock climber. Could get so in the way. Only Rich and his love for nature would get those guys stirred up. They were wrong about one thing though. He was a terrorist. He BOMBED us all with adventure!!! ;-) Arrrr ya pirrrate! Those little elves were wrong. It's not Chips Ahoy, It's Ships Ahoy!!!!!!! Will always miss ya brother....and look for your energy. In the people I see along the way. -Love&Light

Big Wall climber
Reno, Nevada
May 29, 2014 - 05:38am PT
I remember Rich telling my that story, MidWest Bum.

Classic Richie!

May 29, 2014 - 09:02am PT
Will always miss ya brother....and look for your energy. In the people I see along the way. -Love&Light

Nice words, keep em' coming.


May 29, 2014 - 09:08am PT
As sad as it is, this is also a beautiful thread.
Thanks for letting us share.

Brian Corbett

May 29, 2014 - 03:37pm PT
To be among Rich's Yosemite family last weekend was so healing. So many laughs and tears! I know that many others would have been there if they could. I read more or less the following words on Saturday, and wanted to pass them along to those that weren't there. Thanks everyone for the stories, for the love, and for the beautiful photos. I also want to buy a print of that particularly spectacular photo above Porcelain Wall. Sincerely, Brian

"Rich grew up in St. Louis essentially a red neck Missourian. He started climbing in Southern Illinois and Missouri, but became truly addicted after a trip to Hueco Tanks in the mid-90’s. I met him around then at the mountain shop I worked at, and Rich and I were immediate brothers. Rich seemed born to climb, and his improvement was meteoric. What underpinned Rich’s rise was an extreme level of commitment, even if he didn’t have all the skills yet. Among the community of climbers to whom Yosemite is home, commitment is not a unique quality. This group are willing to commit everything to their lifestyle. All the same, Rich was radically committed.

He became good friends with Jim Thurmond, one of the pioneers of climbing in southern Illinois, and the owner of a local gym. Rich's first multi-pitch climb was in the New River Gorge in West Virginia, a couple of rope lengths. His second go at multi-pitch was an attempt of the Nose with Jim, probably in the later 90’s. They got about halfway up the wall when a storm hit, and they descended amid waterfalls. I remember this story vividly, because it has an ending that gives me comfort. A couple hundred feet off the deck, almost down, Rich became convinced that he had bungled somehow tying into his rappel device. He grabbed the belay chains in a death grip, only to look down and see that he had both daisy chains clipped, and was also properly geared to rappel. This story comforts me because I don’t ever remember seeing Rich terrified, which I often was around him, whether hanging onto the back of his bike at 100 + in the rain, or chasing him up some project I probably didn’t belong on. He must have gotten it out of his system that day, because Rich was not afraid.

Rich worked at the Ford plant in St. Louis for a long time. When he discovered Yosemite, he was able to establish an understanding with a doctor who helped Rich milk the benefits of the autoworker’s union, and he was able to get out of work 5-6 months a year. He would pile into somebody’s vehicle, or load haul bag and boulder pad onto his BMW Enduro, and launch himself across the western states to California. As part of his training, he rollerbladed back and forth at full pace to work, twenty miles each way. One day, infuriated by our entrance into the second Iraq War, Rich packed some spray paint, and on every stop sign he passed on the way home in the wee hours, he wrote “war” underneath “stop.”

As anybody who has hung around with Rich knows, not all of his efforts were successful. He was the first to tell the stories. He constantly overreached his ability in the earlier days, but had a steel trap for all he learned. I found rope work in the vertical environment intimidating and often bewildering, but it just made sense to Rich. I realized how far he’d come on a trip to El Potrero Chico in Mexico for the Y2K New Year. He was totally in command, and seemed almost preternaturally at ease. He was utterly in his element.

One of my favorite stories of Rich was of a failed attempt at Mount Hooker in the Wind River Range, somewhere in the late 90’s. He and Jim were determined to climb this massive alpine face in winter. They skied in, and had planned to have a pilot drop them additional food rations once they were near the route. The weather was nasty, and the pilot couldn’t get a window. He finally was able to get in the air, but was rushed, and he tossed out the wrong haul bag, full of extra gear. Nearly out of food and fuel and a solid couple days from the car, they aborted the attempt and headed out. Then they decided that they might as well just crack out the whole trip to the car in one shot, and they figured the best way to do that would be to drop some LSD, which they did, apparently copiously.

Around 2005, the Ford plant in St. Louis closed. Rich was transferred to Chicago. Ammon McNeely was there then too, and he and Rich became very close. If ever Rich had a kindred soul, it was Ammon. After just a couple years, Ford offered to buy Rich out of his retirement in a lump sum. He took them up on it. Ammon, perhaps, reminded Rich of his love of flying. In 1991 Rich had gotten his pilot’s license, and when he left Ford he pretty well moved to an airport to learn to skydive. In Richie form, he got really good quick. One morning before a major jump, one of those where a whole gang of people link up midair, he took up some kid up on an offer to pack his chute for him for a few bucks. The dude packed it badly. When Rich pulled the cord, it deployed in 1 second instead of 8, and stopped Rich so fast his neck was broken. He was barely able to move his left arm. With it he steered away from the crowd, and managed to head toward a freshly plowed field, which he wrecked into hanging limp from his harness. “I left a pretty good divot,” he told me. Somehow he lived. Liz Davis, his lifelong best friend and sometimes lover moved to Chicago to take care of him, a task that lasted six months. Just afterward, Ammon broke his ankle BASE jumping, so they recovered together. Rich was told by the docs, none too surprisingly, that he couldn’t do any strenuous activity perhaps ever again. When he was finally able to walk, he drove to California, dumped his car in the Bay Area, took a bus to Portland, Oregon, and rode a recumbent bike back to San Francisco to get his legs back. Then he came out to the Valley, but behaved himself quite well for the whole climbing season, and didn’t climb. By late fall he was feeling fit again. He had learned how to siege walls soloing Half Dome years before. Determined to climb again, he decided to go at it on El Cap. That winter was mild, and Rich ran laps. Piton Pete, Eric Sloan and others came to join him.

Rich finally moved to California, and has been happier and fitter in these past few years than ever. He never belonged in a factory on a line. He has earned his place among the monkeys of Yosemite. Acceptance in that community was incredibly validating to Rich, because they were the only people truly able to appreciate his lifestyle, his talent, and his extraordinary resilience.

Most of his family and friends in St. Louis don’t have the foggiest frame of reference to understand what a first ascent or second ascent means. I don’t think many people there realized that he was world class.

Finally, Rich was ridiculously fun. Indeed he was by far the funnest person I’ve ever known. Long before I trusted Rich as a mentor, I loved him as a friend. He had a wonderful mind, when he chose to use it. He was intensely intellectually curious and loved books. Laughter, of course, not only poured endlessly out of him, but was hopelessly contagious. His wellspring of mirth had no limits.

Liz and I feel sure that when Rich became aware that he was falling and couldn’t stop it, that in his last few seconds he consciously enjoyed one final flight."

Trad climber
Nevada City
May 29, 2014 - 06:48pm PT
Would have loved to meet him, RIP.


Big Wall climber
Reno, Nevada
May 30, 2014 - 04:57am PT


Trad climber
from Kentucky, living in St. Louis
Jun 3, 2014 - 10:52am PT
My last visit with Rich last September, the day before his 50th birthday - it was a great surpirse to us both to run into each other in the woods below the Nose.... man that was a good Rich hug I got!

Trad climber
the middle of CA
Jun 3, 2014 - 02:16pm PT
Wow, so sad to lose such an excited and friendly guy.

I only met him once atop Big Baldy in Sequoia. Didn't know who he was at the time, I just remember thinking how nice and excited he was about everything we talked about.

Positive people like him are what make the climbing community a fun group to be part of.

Big Wall climber
Reno, Nevada
Jun 6, 2014 - 01:40pm PT
This was such an awesome day! I took a huge whipper for the camera (Sender Films) and pulled Richie into the rock, banging his face pretty bad. He just looked at me with a bloody face and big old Richie smile and said, "That was f*#kin COOL", ha haa!


Trad climber
el portal
Aug 10, 2014 - 09:53am PT
Thinking about you today Richie.
Roger Brown

Oceano, California
Aug 10, 2014 - 04:22pm PT
I was thinking of Rich today also. Rich, Joe, and I had breakfast at The Lodge that morning and laughed about our bolt replacement adventure on the route 10 years before. They broke the mold when they made that guy.
Erik Sloan

Aug 10, 2014 - 09:46pm PT

"Being Dead is Sooooo Cooool"

I love you brutha!


Trad climber
South Slope of Mt. Tabor, Portland, Oregon, USA
Jan 22, 2015 - 09:04pm PT
One of the greatest guys ever!
I'll never forget you my friend.
Think of you often.

mouse from merced

Trad climber
The finger of fate, my friends, is fickle.
Jan 22, 2015 - 11:40pm PT
Scott, I was just yesterday thinking of Richie, and how pleasant he was to run into when on day trips to the Ditch.

I had no idea he was fifty-ish, for his vibe was so full of energy and his eyes were so bright and intense when speaking of climbing. I really regret not knowing him better and at the same know--when they die so young, one wishes not to have known them so well, so as not to miss them so much.

Brian C., I loved the story about Richie tagging the stop signs. Thanks!
RIP it up upstairs, Richie!

Trad climber
Jan 23, 2015 - 08:27am PT
Richie told me about this one but I never saw the photos...

stop war....START PEACE
Gnome Ofthe Diabase

Out Of Bed
Apr 9, 2015 - 03:32am PT
Came. Whipping through a waking dream
All miss seeing him, the Grinning smile
Another lizard for peace
Missing grin,
give 'em if you got 'em
Luv YA man
Peace out!

Jun 2, 2015 - 03:08pm PT
Yeah. I was just in the valley and was thinking of him. ie, that Richie was one of the (many) good folks it would have been nice to get to know better and to have climbed with.

Was there another thread that detailed what occurred? He rode a block/rock down near Liberty Cap wasn't it?


la la land
Jun 2, 2015 - 08:49pm PT
Well, he was one fun mofo. Hell of a nice guy!
ß Î Ø T Ç H

Boulder climber
Jun 2, 2015 - 09:14pm PT
Was there another thread that detailed what occurred?
No, but here's a few posts of what supposedly happend:
A park spokeswoman said Tuesday that Copeland fell off a 300-foot ledge of Liberty Cap.
he was climbing with a partner and the guy went to go get more water he came back to find Richie had fallen.
he fell on the approach to Libery Cap when some rocks he was standing on gave way beneath him.

Social climber
humboldt nation
Jun 2, 2015 - 09:40pm PT
thinking of Richie, he set the bar high for life

Trad climber
Jun 2, 2015 - 10:22pm PT
Yeahhhh Richie was a rare breed. So funny. When things got late on the wall he would go, "I'll work the night shift boys. Don't you worry." Then he would be leading up in the dark in the middle of the night and call down to ask, "Do any of you guys have a chicken dinner down there for me?" Guy was hard as nails.

Big Wall climber
Crestline CA
Aug 1, 2015 - 10:04am PT
Bump for Richie... Miss you bro... still an inspiration for all of us!
Handjam Belay

Gym climber
expat from the truth
Aug 1, 2015 - 11:38am PT
Darnell :)

Trad climber
Louisville, CO
Apr 21, 2016 - 01:35pm PT
just caught myself thinking about Rich and found this thread, can't believe I missed it before.

So many good memories with him, many already chronicled here from the Chicago days, a period in life that I treasure. I find myself thinking about him on a very regular bases, one of the best people I've ever known.

I was really bummed when i didn't get a response from asking him to join Amber and I for our wedding in Estes, i was destroyed when i found out the reason why.

Thanks ya'll for posting the great memories and photos.

Trad climber
Apr 22, 2016 - 09:06pm PT
I met two guys in the Whitney Portal last summer who knew Richie from Missouri. They talked about how well loved he is there. He was so loved here too.
ß Î Ø T Ç H

Boulder climber
Apr 22, 2016 - 09:31pm PT

c/o BlindmanPhotos (upthread)

Big Wall climber
Apr 23, 2016 - 12:18am PT
Richie, 2010

Trad climber
Apr 23, 2016 - 08:46am PT
Yeah Richie! Miss you buddy. thanks for the good vibes
The Alpine

Apr 23, 2016 - 09:24am PT
First time I went to climb 1/2 Dome, Rich and Laban Swafford were also climbing. My partner was Justin Griffin(rip). Rich and Laban were attempting to free the route and were a HILARIOUS junk show! 'Twas the first time i ever heard someone call down from on lead "Tag me up the bong!!!"

RIP Richie.

the flatness
May 17, 2016 - 09:03pm PT
Not quite two years, but damn I miss you Richie. Thanks for showing me what it means to be alive. Finally going to Yosemite for the first time this year and I can't believe you won't be there in person.

Oakland, CA
Apr 26, 2017 - 02:58pm PT
One time, I showed up down there and Richie had bought a couple hundred dollars worth of wind chimes. Man, he must have bought every chime in the store, wooden ones, steel, bamboo… all kinds of chimes. We spent hours hanging all these chimes in the highest branches in the woods. We used a hunting climber tree stand and big wall techniques to hang them. Afterwards I made a comment about it going to be a bitch to collect them all. He laughed and said, “Those are there to stay, ha haa”.

Reading through, bump.
'Pass the Pitons' Pete

Big Wall climber
like Ontario, Canada, eh?
Apr 26, 2017 - 04:43pm PT
Richie and Nanook as we were about to blast off on our wintertime push of Zodiac, March 2008.

Richie led the first block, including the direct start. It was a trifle aqueous as you can see by the water pouring down just right of us.

My block - being the caver - was to lead the graveyard shift through the night. In places I was right under the meltwater waterfall, leading in full Goretex head to toe. Brrrrr.......

When we got to Peanut Ledge in the morning, we just sat in the sun and warmed up for three hours. I had been deluged under zero-degree water for quite some time, so was pretty thankful for a still sunny morning. We had the entire crag to ourselves.

There was a foot of snow on the descent, but it wasn't really slippery, thankfully.

I miss ya, Bro.....

Messages 1 - 146 of total 146 in this topic
Return to Forum List
Our Guidebooks
Check 'em out!
SuperTopo Guidebooks

Try a free sample topo!

SuperTopo on the Web

Recent Route Beta