I just got word that friend and climbing partner Zach Parke, 25, was killed by a hit and run driver while biking home on his seven-speed in Santa Cruz, California. Around midnight, he was struck by a burgundy Nissan or Infiniti. His lifeless body was found eight hours later by a cyclist who noticed the debris by the side of the road. He was 20 feet from his bicycle. The driver, unknown at this time, is at large.
I met Zach in Yosemite during the winter of ’09. We climbed over several weekends… too many to recall… I remember him as always always psyched to climb and making really cool climbing tools. He sewed or patched his own clothes, made chalk bags, bags, and crash pads. He even made a custom nut tool, that weighed a ton, but was very effective. He was multi-talented, a friend to all, and pulled down hard.
Our first route was Stone Quest, a four pitch 5.8+ at Parkline Slab. As the rest of Yosemite was soggy with snow, we climbed in jeans and T-shirts on dry rock, down-Valley. With us was his Santa Cruz friend Elliot Faber, who we called ‘Iceman” because of his resemblance to the character in Top Gun. I recall that day as perfect climbing conditions. A little bit of nip in the air, but the rock was warm from the low sun casting directly on the slabs. Stone Quest follows a tips and finger crack positioned near a giant arête for 500 feet of polished granite. Since that day it remains my all-time favorite 5.8.
Parke was fantastic athlete. He was into raw foods, biked hard several days a week as a courier and frequented California’s climbing hot-spots. Yosemite was his favorite. He did not own a car and climbed in conditions that kept most people away. He liked winter big wall climbing, wet trad routes, run-out shit and desperate high-balls. He dressed like a hipster in tight jeans, but somehow this didn’t restrict his movement as he floated up lines.
I remember his positive attitude, enthusiasm, creativity, and drive for adventure. His stories of cruising through Santa Cruz made me want to be a better rider. We’ve stayed in touch through Facebook, his last post on my wall came three days before his death. “Is this kind of danger factored into the E grade?” he commented to a pic of a climber being barraged by seagulls on a sea cliff. His FB profile pic still cracks me up.
I miss you Zach.