Yosemite speed climbers who brought passion to the sport before their tragic death in the park last month.
On Saturday morning, June 2, spectators kept their binoculars pointed toward the Nose route on El Capitan in Yosemite, California, hoping to witness speed-climbing history made on the famed 2,900-foot formation. But a record wasn’t completed that day. Instead, tragedy struck on the nearby Salathé Wall route, when Tim Klein and Jason Wells fell to their deaths while simul-climbing and roped together. The third member of their team, Kevin Prince—climbing on a separate rope—was unharmed.
Klein and Wells were one-third up their route on the Big Stone and well on their way to making a one-day ascent, traveling quickly and efficiently as they had done for years. Then something happened to cause one partner to fall and subsequently pulling the other off. Their rope severed during the fall and they both plummeted 1,000 feet to the ground.
Klein, 42, was a father of two boys, husband to Tamura Klein and teacher at Palmdale High School in California. “It’s so devastating to lose him. I can’t tell you how much I loved Tim,” Wayne Willoughby, his climbing partner for a one-day ascent of El Capitan in 2016, told EO.
Wells, 45, married to Becky Wells, was a father to a girl from a previous marriage and worked as an investment manager at Granite View Asset Management in Boulder, Colorado. He also holds the speed record for Colorado’s most famous climb, 650-foot The Naked Edge, which he and Stefan Griebel ascended, bridge to bridge, in 24:29. “He would fly out to Yosemite and bang out two El Cap routes and fly back in a weekend. Nobody does that,” says Brady Robinson, a close friend of Wells and former Executive Director of the Access Fund. “He was unstoppable, a force.
“We’re humans we need each other,” says Robinson. “And when we’re sad we need each other that much more. One of the best things you can do when someone dies is to spend time with people who were close to them and to honor them, and honor them in our sadness.”
The Park Service is still investigating the exact cause of the deadly accident.
—Chris Van Leuven