Two experienced climbers fell to their deaths on Saturday morning whilst speed climbing on the lower pitches of the Salathé Wall on El Capitan, a section called Freeblast, in Yosemite National Park.
Jason Wells, 46, of Boulder, CO and Tim Klein, 42, from Palmdale, CA were simul-climbing through Pitch 9 or 10, 5.7 terrain approaching Mammoth Terraces when the incident occurred at around 8:15 am. A scream was heard and both climbers fell, roped together, 1,000 feet to the ground.
Wells had dozens of El Cap ascents under his belt, many of them with Klein. It wasn’t uncommon for the pair to ascend the 3,000-foot formation, a wall that takes most experienced parties several days, multiple times together in the same weekend, or sometimes twice in one day. The pair began climbing together while living in San Diego during their college years.
“Tim told me that Jason was the strongest and best partner he ever climbed with,” friend Wayne Willoughby said.
Park Rangers received multiple 911 calls reporting the incident and responded to the location, along with Search and Rescue staff. The climbers did not survive the fall. The exact cause and circumstances surrounding the fall are still under investigation.
This marks three visitor deaths in Yosemite so far this year. The first was a man who fell from the cables on Half Dome on May 21.