It has been a week of highs and lows on El Capitan in Yosemite. Last week we learned that Alex Honnold and Tommy Caldwell set a new speed record on the icon rock face’s Nose route, but over the weekend tragedy struck that same mountain. On Saturday, veteran climbers Jason Wells and Tim Klein fell to their death while attempting Freeblast, sending a wave of grief across the climbing community.
Wells and Klien were too excellent climbers with years of experience under their belt. They were also very good friends who brought another climber – Kevin Prince – along with them. Prince wasn’t as quick as this comparison, so he was clipped in on a separate rope and following behind. While the group was making its way up, something unexpected happened and Wells and Klein fell from the rock face while tethered to one another.
National Park officials were contacted via 911 call at 8:15 AM on Saturday morning and were on the scene quickly, but the climbers fell from more than 1000 feet (304 meters) and were pronounced dead at the scene.
Both men had plenty of experience climbing in Yosemite (this was Klein’s 107th ascent) and the cause of the accident is still under investigation. It is unclear whether there was an error on the part of the climbers, an equipment failure, or if part of the rock face came free, causing them to fall. Authorities say that they were on one of the easier sections of Freeblast when the accident occurred. It could be some time before everything gets sorted out and an investigation determines exactly what happened.
Our condolences go out to the friends and family of Jason and Tim. These two men were elite climbers who flew below the radar simply because they were passionate about other parts of their lives too, and were not professional, full-time climbers. But, they had the skills and experience to be amongst the very best in the sport. They will certainly be missed.
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