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Two Climbers Fall to Death from El Capitan

El Capitan

Jason Wells, 46, of Boulder, Colorado, and Tim Klien, 42, of Palmdale, California died after falling from Freeblast on El Capitan on Saturday.

Park Rangers received emergency calls reporting the falls on Saturday morning, the US National Park Service said.

Rescue staff responded to the scene but the two climbers did not survive the call, Park Ranger Jamie Richards said.

The two experienced climbers were speed climbing the lower pitches of the Salathe Wall, know as Freeblast on moderate terrain near Mammoth Terraces.

As Chris Van Leuven wrote for Climbing.com, “A scream was heard and both climbers fell, roped together, 1,000 feet to the ground.”

Van Leuven noted that the pair had dozens of ascents of El Capitan to their names and quoted Wayne Willoughby as saying, “This would have been Tim’s 107th [in a day] El Cap ascent.”

Wells once held the speed record, with Stefan Griebel for climbing The Naked Edge in Colorado in 24 minutes and 29 seconds. In 2012, Wells and Klein linked Salathe and The Nose in 22 hours.

Van Leuven pointed out this is the 25th accident resulting in a death on El Capitan. The first was back in 1968 when Jim Madsen rappelled off the end of his rope.

Tim Klein and Jason Wells / from Well’s Supertopo account

Earlier this season, Hans Florine fell while speed climbing The Nose and broke bones in both legs. In 2017, top climber Quinn Brett fell during a fast climb up The Nose and is now paralyzed below her waist.

As Tommy Caldwell and Alex Honnold have recently set the new speed record for The Nose at 2:10:15 and aim to break the two-hour mark, many climbers dismiss speed climbing as a reckless and dangerous pursuit.

Other climbers argue that speed climbing is not dangerous when done correctly, like all forms of climbing, and helps push the sport of climbing further.

Either way, speed climbing takes practice and experience. Another sad day in the world of climbing.

Freeblast 5.11+ on El Capitan

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