SEBASTOPOL — A veteran Northern California rock climber died in a fall in Yosemite National Park, just hours after proposing to his girlfriend during another climb, authorities said.
Brad Parker’s girlfriend, Jainee Dial, had accepted his marriage proposal Saturday after the couple reached the top of Cathedral Peak. His father, Bill Parker, said his son told him it that was “the happiest day of his life,” the Santa Rosa Press Democrat reported Tuesday .
Later in the day, the couple separated as Brad Parker headed off by himself to climb nearby Matthes Crest, a ridge of upturned rock about 3 miles from Cathedral Peak.
Then tragedy struck. Other climbers witnessed Parker fall about 5:45 p.m., Yosemite Park Ranger Kari Cobb said. Parker, 36, went climbing alone and without ropes and fell on an established route, Cobb said.
Park rangers hiked in and located Parker’s body, remaining with it overnight before a helicopter retrieved it the next day, Cobb said.
Parker’s death was the second climbing death in Yosemite this year, the typical average annually, Cobb said.
A resident of Sebastopol, California, Parker appeared on a cover of California Climber magazine in 2012. He also worked as a yoga instructor and was an avid surfer and mountain biker. He also enjoyed backpacking and fly fishing trips in the Sierra Nevada with his father and brother, Mat.
Jerry Dodrill, 41, a longtime friend and photographer who has taken pictures of Parker on his climbs, said Tuesday that Parker has climbed Matthes Crest with relative ease on several occasions.
Dodrill said he and Parker were scheduled to climb on the High Sierra this weekend. Instead, Dodrill will be attending a memorial for his friend Saturday.
“I have no idea what happened on that climb. It blows me away about what happened,” Dodrill said. “I keep replaying what might have happened on what was supposed to be the best day of his life. I can visualize where he fell and it makes all of this even harder to accept.”
Parker’s father said he thinks fatigue from the climb up Cathedral Peak and the run his son made to Matthes Crest may have been a factor in the fall.
“We’re all so stunned,” Bill Parker said. “What happened is so unbelievable.”
Dodrill described Brad Parker as a very outgoing person who usually greeted people, even strangers, with not only a big smile, but a big hug as well.
“He could just interact in different circles very fluidly,” Dodrill said. “No matter how bad it seems things were, he always made the day seem brighter.”
About 150 people attended an impromptu vigil for Parker on Monday night in Sebastopol, Dodrill said. And the climber’s father said some family and friends planned to hike to the Cathedral Peak area Tuesday.
“It’s the only closure we’re able to get,” Bill Parker said.