ElCap Report 5/20/14  Remembering Richie Copeland and Sean Leary.

By Tom Evans

On 5/18/14 we lost one of the best climbers and friends the Yosemite climbing community has ever known.  Richie Copeland was, as best we can figure, at the base of the first pitch of a Liberty Cap route, after hiking there with a friend to do the climb.  He put down his pack and scrambled around to, perhaps, get a better view of the climb, when the rocks he was standing on suddenly collapsed, causing his fatal fall down the cliff. 

Richie was a totally unique man who was always upbeat and ready for any adventure that presented itself.  He was, I think, about 50 years old and had the body of a 25 year old Navy Seal.  The man was totally ripped and easily put the rest of us to shame!  The only other climber I could compare him to, in shear toughness, would be Ammon McNeeley, and what a team they made!!  Below you will see some shots of them climbing together.

I remember one day he was hanging around and decided he needed some exercise... so he ran up and down the Snow Creek trail, a distance of 14 miles, round trip...... in his bare feet!!!  On another day he ran around Yosemite Valley for a distance of 28 miles!  He liked to hike to obscure places around the Valley, looking for new routes to climb. But don't let that toughness fool you, for he was among the kindest, caring men I have ever known.  He was loved... yes loved... by all of us who knew him, here in Yosemite and elsewhere too.  He had a wonderful sense of humor and loved to tell tales of his adventures, and misadventures too.  I can see him now as I write these words... head thrown back and laughing hard at some story one of the "Monkeys" (climbers) was telling.  He made every one feel like they were a special friend of his... and truly we all were special to him and he to us.  We are all better people for having known Richie because he made us better by his example.  I could go on and on about Richie but I am so heart broken that I just have to stop writing now....His passing just too near to wear the edge off the grief....

Richie, on the left, with his friend Gabriel Mange,

















Richie hanging out on ElCap. Photo by Ammon McNeeley.






















Richie leading on Hole World.  My photo.




























Ammon leading with Richie at the belay on Hole World.  My photo.




























Richie on the wall.  Ammon photo.























Richie waving at the Bridge Crew after breaking his ankle on Atlantis, an un-repeated, Dave Turner, route on ElCap.























In March of this year we lost one Yosemite's most skilled and respected climbers.  Sean Leary, like Richie above, was a unique and loved man.  He lost his life while base jumping near Zion National Park.  Sean started out in Yosemite by working his way up the grades of free and wall climbing.  He was noted for his high level of expertise free climbing and quickly became world class.  He held several speed records on ElCap routes and with Alex Honnold climbed routes requiring not only expertise but tenacity and determination.  They astounded us by climbing three ElCap routes in a single day, in the heat of June!  Sean climbed with expeditions all over the world and was highly respected in that arena of climbing.  When the worlds best rock climbers came to Yosemite they would seek out "Stanley" to climb with. 

With such credentials one might think that Sean might have an air of arrogance about him.... nothing could be further from the truth.  He never bragged about his exploits, instead letting his climbing do the talking.  He was so humble that he never got quite the credit he was due in the world, outside Yosemite... but we knew... we knew...  He liked to hear about what his friends were climbing and was always encouraging those who were just coming up in the sport.  His quiet manner and sincerity made him a friend to all he encountered.  Branching out from climbing he became one of the foremost BASE jumpers in America.  He loved to find new "exits" ie new places to launch from.  I remember his last post on Face Book was from the Zion area and spoke of a wonderful day he had doing a new exit and meeting his friends hiking up to him.

He was 38 years old and left his wife, Mieka and an unborn child.  He was one of the best, of the best people I've ever known.  Sadly... like they say...the good die young....


Sean seen here with Alex Honnold, Jason Pickle, Allister Lee and Leo Houlding at the ElCap Bridge.





























Sean seen here with Alex Honnold starting out on their third ElCap route in a single day.  Incredible!!! My photo.




























Sean with friends Leo Houlding, Oli Lyon, and Chris Bevins at the ElCap Bridge.  My photo




























Sean enjoying a call from a friend, at the Bridge.  My photo.




























Sean climbing on the Great Roof, Nose route, ElCap on the day he and Mayan Gobat set the mixed record of 3:36. My photo.






























Sean climbing the pitch above Dolt Tower on the Nose route.  Protection??  What protection??  Competence was his protection!




























Sean chillin on ElCap.  Martina Potard photo.





























Two fine men... lost to us now but never to be forgotten...... we will try to live up to the example they have set for us... the bar is high....

Please feel free to add things in the comment section below that will correct what I have written or add to the stories and information about these men.....


Tom Evans



Very sorry to hear Richie and

Very sorry to hear Richie and Sean are no longer with us. I never met Sean, but I knew Richie from interactions on RC.com and spent some time chatting with him at the base of El Cap a few times those years I was trying to solo Zodiac. He was always encouraging me and stoked about my goals. He was an ever present fixture in the Valley for many years and his presence will be missed.

Oh no

Tom I was just talking to you at the bridge this morning. You mentioned Richie's passing at liberty cap. I was wrong , I had met him several times.. I'm just terrible with names as we both commented about. He was always everywhere in the valley it seemed to me.

So bummed. So sorry

Derek Roland

bad start but....

Bad start of a season. That's for sure. RIP.
But as we all think and deeply believe, better die out there than live a stupid life.

I ve been teaching science to 150 kids this year.
A fool's job. I'm sure you remember it well.
I'd rather be in yos now, i certainly would.

Sabine a

This Hurts...

Mentor and friend to so many. Such a unique human being. I will miss him everyday..