Fly'n Brian McCray Memorial


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Todd Gordon

Trad climber
Joshua Tree, Cal
Aug 31, 2014 - 09:14pm PT
Credit: Todd Gordon
Todd Gordon

Trad climber
Joshua Tree, Cal
Sep 1, 2014 - 09:13am PT
Credit: Todd Gordon
the albatross

Gym climber
Sep 3, 2014 - 06:44pm PT
Brian's first haul bag.  Ha Ha.  Love it.
Brian's first haul bag. Ha Ha. Love it.
Credit: the albatross

Brian's packs and haul bags would get a lot bigger and beefier in the next few decades.

the albatross

Gym climber
Sep 3, 2014 - 07:33pm PT
"Be the best "me" that I can be".  Photographer and location unknown
"Be the best "me" that I can be". Photographer and location unknown
Credit: the albatross

Here's a very crude and unedited little story I worked
a tiny bit on with Brian about six years ago. Thought
it might be appreciated, please feel free to add edits
or corrections
like I said it's rough. Enjoy:

Brian is a ropelength up a 6000' new route on the
Chingu Charpa, in Nangma Valley of the Karakoram,
Pakistan. He carefully double checks the haul system,
leans back as he has hundreds of times before and
suddenly he is plummeting. “So this is how it will
feel to die”, he thinks as he hurtles towards the
ground. In a twist of fate, the rope kinks as it
zings through the pulley and he lands upon a coffin
sized ledge after falling forty feet. Just below, the
wall steepens, and falls 180' to sure death below. It
later turns out that a partner had misunderstood the
system and mistakenly unclipped the haulbag from the
system which removed the counterweight that nearly
lead to his demise. This wasn’t the first time, nor
the last, that Fly’n Brian McCray would have a brush
with death, nor was it the first time that someone
misunderstood his intentions.

Fly’n Brian is a climber who has literally touched
the lives of thousands of climbers around the globe,
both with his astounding record of new routes and with
his climbing shoe resole business, Fly'n Brian's
Resoles. From the beginning, he has sought to master
the sport in all of it’s aspects and his record stands
to prove it.

Raised back in the day when new routing meant
something, he embraced the pursuit with a passion
matched by very few, from radical sport climbs, hard
trad routes, big aid and free walls, to difficult
routes on big mountains. It is perhaps his
proficiency at speed climbing which displays his
technical mastery of the sport the best. Brian holds more
speed records on El Capitan than all but a few.
Some of these routes are among the most difficult on the formation.
Most climbed on sight in a day’s time. Brian and Ammon McNeely
ran up many of the Zion classics in record time.
Moonlight Buttress 1:57
Spaceshot 1:36
Prodigal Son 2:36

But a portrait of Brian would be sorely lacking if it
merely sprayed about his remarkable climbing
achievements, because when we take the time to delve
under his rough and intense personality, we find that
he is a man of deep thought, emotion and many

He was introduced to climbing in 1989. The promise
of freedom found
in climbing opened whole new worlds of possibilities.
He was immediately hooked, exchanging a life based on
partying to one fully committed to the climbing
lifestyle (and was sober for twenty years of his adult
life). During the 1990's he fully embraced the
sport climbing revolution as it swept through the
traditional sandstone crags of the Southeast. Living
in his van, he began his now widely know shoe
business, “Fly’n Brian’s Resoles” with the motto “He
May Not Be A Priest, But He Can Save Your Sole”. Now
some 16 years later, he has resoled some 10,000 pair
of shoes of “some of the best, and some of the worst,
climbers in the country.”

At the New River Gorge, WV he established a
hundred .11-13 sport routes and was the primary
developer of The Cirque, which boasts the highest
concentration of hard routes in the area. Through
much of the 1990s he could be found at the Red River
Gorge, KY where he was a major contributor to bolting
and new routes, as well as repeating 95% of the .13s.

He has been on many of the big walls in the U.S.
and has traveled abroad, along the way climbing some
100 Grade VI routes. Scanning through his scattered
notes, one will often find the phrases, “first one day
ascent” or “first free ascent”. Of course many of
these routes were onsight and at the cutting edge of
difficulty. On these walls he has suffered through
all sorts of weather extremes, to dehydration and
badly injured partners.

His physique is not what one
would expect of a master free climber. Instead he
looks like an Ultimate Fighter: solid and thick, well
suited for the demanding rigors of extended suffering
to be found on the worlds great walls. He has never
trained for climbing except by climbing. His diet is
not what one would expect of an athlete of his
caliber: a typical day might consist of cold cereal,
canned soup, and chocolate, all washed down by loads
of coffee and soda. He is a fan of metal music,
enjoys painting and spending time alone. He has a
ferocious appetite for reading, especially Aleister
Crowley and the occult. Those who know him either
love, or hate, his passion.

In 1999, he traveled to Alaska with Jim Bridwell
to tackle the fearsome Bear’s Tooth. With Bridwell
injured by icefall, he was forced to lead many of the
difficult ice pitches, despite having learned to climb
on a Palm Tree in Bridwell’s front yard weeks earlier.
Bridwell has commented that McCray is among the most
highly competent and bold climbers he has known. This
same year he traveled to Kyrgystan to compete in a
Russian big wall climbing competition, where he
established a 3,000' new route and placed third in the
event. True to his character, he would later regret
placing after he learned how important this was for
the Russian climbers and their ability to receive
grants for Himalayan climbs.

Around this time he moved west to Las Vegas and
began serious climbing at Red Rocks, Zion and
Yosemite. At Red Rocks he tore up the Rainbow Wall,
freeing two aid lines, while adding another free route
and a very serious aid line. He also climbed two
routes free in a day on the wall: The Original Route
and —. When teamed up with Ammon McNealy, he was
climbing his fastest. The team climbed three Zion
Walls in twelve hours. On El Capitan they shook the
speed climbing world with record ascents of a half
dozen routes. Many of these Grade VI walls were
climbed as “first one day ascents”.

In recent years he has become enthralled with
mineral collecting, spending days at a time
underground in the search for specimens. He has a
couple of close calls in this activity as well. Once,
after climbing halfway down a 700' deep, sixty year
old metal ladder, he stepped off onto some massive
timbers, which promptly collapsed. He barely caught
himself with his arms and scrambled to safety. He has
exclaimed how difficult it has been to balance his
love of climbing with his fascination of the mineral

It should go without saying, that the drive and
focus required to send some of the most difficult rock
faces in the world takes a special breed of person.
He is no exception, and his intense personality has
landed him in more than one quagmire over the years.
It is only when one delves beneath his gruff outward
appearance they begin to understand his genuine,
concerned nature.

Recently his rock shoes have been collecting a
little more dust than in former years, as he has
settled into the responsibilities of home ownership
and full-time work in the cutthroat world of Las Vegas
rigging. That’s not to say he hasn’t been climbing.
At Red Rocks he has developed a couple of 5.12 cracks
and continues to work on routes in the Sacred Cave, a
little known limestone area east of Vegas. He
recently made the first one day ascent, onsight and
leading every pitch, of the mighty loose Tooth Rock,
via an obscure 1400', 5.11 route, and continues to work
on obscure big wall routes.

— Tough crack routes - Equinox, Acid Crack -

These are near new river in more obscure areas

—greatest show on earth13a, 2nd ascent of lynn hills
roof crack at meadow river gorge.

--Fa of temporary insanity13a (old project) at south nuttall.

Before heading west in ’98, brian repeated an estimated 95%
of all established routes at the new river and at the
red river gorge as well as adding many of his own routes.


la la land
Sep 4, 2014 - 09:15am PT
When Brian went and competed in the Big Wall Comp, didn't he go and try and repeat the winners route? I think he climbed high up it and was only shut down because of the weather. They may have weathered a decent storm before needing to decent. Sure someone else will remember more details of this.

Edge of the Electric Ocean Beneath Red Rock
Sep 4, 2014 - 09:20am PT
Albatross, thanks for the awesome read on Brian.

Social climber
Angelus Oaks, Ca
Topic Author's Reply - Sep 4, 2014 - 12:58pm PT
They got a lower score cause their route followed natural features! Brian said one if his a4 leads was one of the best leads he had ever done.i know rox and him went way up on 4810 and had a huge storm hit them, can't remember if they summited or not. He didn't being enough bolts to conquer the hardest route! Ha!
the albatross

Gym climber
Sep 4, 2014 - 03:41pm PT
Burt, I remember that photo of their whole rack covered with ice, frozen to the wall, during that storm you mentioned.

On The Silverback.  Photographer unknown
On The Silverback. Photographer unknown
Credit: the albatross

it is important to note others behavior when given something meaningful from ourselves. most will not have the ability to behave with respect. this will tell you what people to interact with and give things to later. if you find people that the give/take ration is circular instead of lopsided / disconnected chances are those people are more valuable as "friends". brian

the albatross

Gym climber
Sep 5, 2014 - 09:18am PT
Something has happened to the "Brian McCray" thread, please email the ST rulers and ask that they bring this back up. Brian deserves the recognition.

unknown photographer
unknown photographer
Credit: the albatross

More from Brian:

"one way for a climber to know if he loves to climb or if he just thrives on attention from climbing is to measure his involvement with the media.

word of mouth has always worked just fine. it is slower but seems more solid and reliable."

(Along these lines, I would urge everyone to be cautious of posting topos / maps to any area that Brian considered sacred).

Trad climber
Tucson, AZ
Sep 5, 2014 - 10:50am PT
I was very sad to see that the "Brian McCray" thread has been removed. It was wonderful to read all those great stories about him and to see those pictures.

Admins, please restore the thread or move its content to tbis thread.

Geir Hundal
Gnome Ofthe Diabase

Out Of Bed
Sep 5, 2014 - 11:16am PT
My family climbs on that man's soles & have now put those favorite shoes away, only to be used on halloween '14 the last day of a rock climbing season that has been so full of highs and lows
What has become of us that such a light would not stay lit ? Reach out, sisters and brothers
we will carry you if we have to...or find a way if your pride demands that you crawl this earth solo
My boy & girl,(both under 10) asked Mom why is daddy crying...
the albatross

Gym climber
Sep 5, 2014 - 02:32pm PT
It is healthy and normal to go through various stages of sadness, guilt, anger and confusion during the grieving process. Brian was an extraordinary man is so many facets of his life, thus many still mourn for him. I would encourage anyone who is feeling "stuck" in a particular phase of grief to call a loved one, go for a walk, or do anything that might bring you pleasure. That is what Brian would want, he would not want us sitting around crying ourselves away. Be the best "you" that "you" can be this weekend. "You" owe it to yourself and you owe it to Brian. Have fun.

I try to remember that Brian, unlike most of "us", is going to live forever. Through these stories, through his hundreds and hundreds of new routes and all the many other ways he touched the hearts of so many people around the world. It is time to celebrate people. Become the best person that you can be. The time is now, especially considering your own end is near. Do something adventurous, help out a friend, spread kindness, set some goals and make your dreams come true. That is one reason we should feel inspired by having Brian pass through our brief lives because that is how he lived.

"The key to being immortal is living a life worth remembering." - - Bruce Lee

Please keep the stories and photos heading this way and enjoy your weekend.


Nor Cal
Sep 5, 2014 - 03:10pm PT
it's okay klaus, we'll just post a photo of a broken sunroof...ha

Trad climber
Tucson, AZ
Sep 6, 2014 - 06:58am PT
Albatross- that most recent photo of brian that you posted is amazing!
the albatross

Gym climber
Sep 8, 2014 - 06:37pm PT
It is unfortunate the other thread disappeared, so many photos and stories. I should have listened closer ten years ago when Brian warned me about the character of a certain individual. If any of you can read this, you might want to reach out to that person cause what happened ain't right.

Brian would have dug this mailing I got today.
Brian would have dug this mailing I got today.
Credit: the albatross

One aspect of Brian's climbing legacy is how damn fast and competent he was on vertical terrain on the airiest granite, steepest limestone, from the hardest to the softest sandstone and even into the bowels of the earth. I think this confidence came from a near mastery of both difficult free climbing and cutting edge aid climbs. There are lots of very talented free climbers and some gifted aid climbers but to combine the skills put Brian into a league in which few in all history have made the team. Also, he was very much into new routes in undeveloped areas, establishing the majority of them ground up.

Brian placed about 35 homemade beaks on this pitch of a grade V  f.a. ...
Brian placed about 35 homemade beaks on this pitch of a grade V f.a. (difficult aid climb)
In the area he has a grade V, 5.12+ f.f.a.
Credit: the albatross


Big Wall climber
Ogden, Utah
Sep 9, 2014 - 04:45am PT
It is unfortunate the other thread disappeared, so many photos and stories. I should have listened closer ten years ago when Brian warned me about the character of a certain individual. If any of you can read this, you might want to reach out to that person cause what happened ain't right.

What's not right is all the sh#t I got for mentioning the secret cave. I got stalked over on Facebook, disrespected, threatened and accused of taking one last jab at Brian. The person requested I take down the content... so I did. What is unfortunate is that one hater can ruin it for the rest.

I loved Brian like a brother and we are the only ones that truly knew what kind of relationship we had together. It's bad enough losing a friend and amazing climbing partner without all the bullshit drama that the thread created. Exactly why I seldom read or post here anymore.
the albatross

Gym climber
Sep 9, 2014 - 07:45am PT
Thanks for explaining things Ammon. I know you had your disagreements I've got to admit I thought you were taking one last stab at Brian when you pulled that thread.

People have been talking about "the secret cave" for years and it has even been mentioned in one of those shitpaper climbing magazines when those two idiots did that "profile" of Brian which hurt him so deeply (about 5-6 years ago).

Is there anyone in charge of ST that could tag that content onto this thread? What about that guy that launched the FBI investigation to New Zealand? Anyone? There were some nice tributes and photos on that other thread, the world deserves an honest look at the memory of Brian McCray.

Your right Ammon, posting on websites such as this is stupid, Brian told me to avoid places like this like the plague.

Social climber
Sep 9, 2014 - 08:26am PT
FYI, the original thread:

the albatross

Gym climber
Sep 9, 2014 - 08:36am PT
Thanks NBB.

Ammon, can you tell us what it was like when you and Brian did three walls in a day in Zion? Am I remembering correctly that Brian told me he lead Moonlight Buttress 95% free when you guys raced up it? I'm guessing you guys didn't slow down too much to place gear?

Trad climber
Tucson, AZ
Sep 9, 2014 - 02:17pm PT
Respectfully, I would be in favor of adding those posts on to this thread. I am sorry to hear that there was drama with thread. I really just want Brian to be remembered well. Many thanks to those who knew him well and posted up so much great stuff about him.
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