A pair of experienced rock climbers fell to their deaths Saturday morning while scaling a massive rock formation at Yosemite National Park in northern California, the National Park Service announced.
Close friends Tim Klein, 42, and Jason Wells, 46, were climbing the Freeblast route on El Capitan (a large rock formation) around 8 a.m. when tragedy struck. A scream was heard as Klein and Wells, tethered together, fell 1,000 feet to the ground, according to Climbing.com.
“They are both no longer with us,” Klein’s wife, JJ, wrote in a Facebook post on Saturday, alongside a photo of the couple on their wedding day. “I know this is incredibly shocking and sad to so many of you who knew them, and it is still very surreal to the boys and I and our entire family and circle of friends. Our only comfort is Jesus right now.”
JJ said that Klein and Wells fell from the rock after a haul bag from climbers above fell onto the pair. Park rangers received several 911 calls after the incident and rescue teams found the men dead at the scene, according to the NPS.
As elite climbers, the men would often climb the 3,000-foot rock formation on weekends, a friend of the pair, Wayne Willoughby, told Climbing.com. Klein, of Palmdale, California, and Wells, of Boulder, Colorado, began climbing together during college in San Diego, he added.
In the wake of their deaths, family and friends have shared photos and memories of the men on Facebook.
“I’ve rock climbed more pitches with Jason than any other human being. His energy, laughter, and genuine passion for climbing were absolutely infectious,” Stefan Griebel wrote in a post on Saturday.
“And Tim … After my last trip up El Cap with Tim, I later confided in Jason that Tim was the most Jesus-like man I’ve ever known. So true, and also such a great topic for both jokes, laughter and deeper conversations. Both of them, humble and selfless. And yet, my hurt and sadness seems insignificant to that of what their wives and families must be feeling. A horrible loss.”
Friends have set up a GoFundMe page for Klein’s family.
Another friend, Greg Murphy, shared a Facebook photo of the men roped together while climbing a rope. He wrote simply: “Damn, I’m going to miss these guys blowing past me on El Cap. Much love.”
Ken Yager, president of the Yosemite Climbing Association, described El Capitan to the New York Times as a prime target for “serious climbers.”
“People from all over the world come to climb it,” he said. Although few details have been released about the cause of the fall, Yager described the men as “very experienced” climbers.
“Something weird happened. There’s no doubt in my mind,” he added.