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Rock Climber Free-Soloing Falls to Death

The climber was on El Cajon Mountain in California when the accident happened

A rock climber was free-soloing on El Cajon Mountain in San Diego on Sunday when he fell to his death. The identity of the 22-year-old has not been released [update Dec. 8: the climber has been identified as Nathaniel Masahi Takatsuno].

A group of nearby climbers witnessed the accident and rushed to help. By the time search and rescue arrived the climber was pronounced dead. One climber, James Faerber, said that he was “traumatized” after witnessing the fall. “I’ve been through a huge range of emotions for sure,” Faerber told the San Diego-Tribune.

Lt. Ruben Medina with San Diego County Sheriff’s Department said, “By the time we were able to get to where the climber was, it’s about 2,500 feet in elevation, and it’s about a two-hour hike to get to the climber. So it made yesterday’s recovery impossible.” On Monday, crews spent more than 12 hours making the recovery with the aid of a helicopter.

Billy Ortiz, who’s lived in the area for 63 years, told CBS 8 that the climber was on a route at a crag called The Wedge. “It goes up to the left and then the right, and then there’s an overhang,” Ortiz, who filmed the recovery mission, said. The area has several single- and multi-pitch routes from 5.6 trad to 5.12 sport.

One of the deceased climber’s friends, Dachel Fohne told Fox5 SanDiego that she learned about a fatality on the mountain and then found out that it was her climbing partner. “I just didn’t want to believe it, and I still don’t want to believe it,” she said. Earlier in the day, Fohne had left a note on the windshield of her friend’s car. “I waited until 5 p.m. for you,” she wrote. “Hit me up when you are safe. Text me anytime.”

Fohne, known as Adventure Tick on Instagram, expressed her sadness in a recent post, and her gratitude for the climbers who tried to help. “‘My heart hurts so much,” she wrote. Our condolences to the deceased climber’s family and friends.