Brad Parker, a 36-year-old veteran rock climber and Sebastopol resident, died from a fall while climbing alone in the Tuolumne Meadows area of Yosemite National Park on Saturday — the same day he had proposed to his girlfriend.
Parker, a world traveler and climber since he graduated from Santa Rosa’s Montgomery High School in 1996, had completed a climb to the summit of Cathedral Peak with his girlfriend, Jainee Dial, and she had accepted his marriage proposal, said the climber’s father, Bill Parker, a former Santa Rosa resident.
“This is the happiest day of my life,” Parker told Dial, according to his father.
The couple separated, as Parker headed off by himself to climb Matthes Crest, a dramatic ridge of upturned rock about three miles from Cathedral Peak.
Other climbers saw Parker fall about 5:45 p.m., Yosemite Park Ranger Kari Cobb said. He was climbing alone and without ropes on the granite crest, an established route, known as a “traverse” for the lateral direction of the climb, Cobb said.
While challenging and exposed, Matthes Crest is not known as a technically difficult route. The website Backpacker.com describes the crest as “a dramatic fin of rock” with features that “make for ladder-like, easily protected climbing.”
Park rangers hiked in, located Parker’s body and remained with it overnight since it was too late to summon a helicopter, Cobb said. On Sunday morning, a helicopter brought his body from the backcountry.
Parker’s death was the second climbing fatality in Yosemite this year. Cobb said there are typically one or two a year.
Bill and Gayle Parker, who flew back from their new home in Kauai on Sunday, were at the county coroner’s office in Modesto on Monday to begin making arrangements to have their son’s body cremated. Bill Parker said they were accepting the advice of others familiar with climbing deaths not to view their son’s body.
“We’re all so stunned,” Parker said. “What happened is so unbelievable.”
Brad Parker was a capable, careful climber in top physical condition, his father said. But he thinks fatigue from the climb up Cathedral Peak and the run Brad made from there to Matthes Crest may have been a factor in the mishap.
Parker had once climbed the face of Yosemite’s Half Dome in near-record time, his father said. Their son’s passion for climbing, nonetheless, was “always a concern” for his parents, Bill Parker said.
Brad Parker, whose photograph appeared on the cover of California Climber magazine in 2012, was also an avid surfer and mountain biker who enjoyed backpacking and fly fishing trips in the Sierra Nevada with his father and brother, Mat.
A Sebastopol resident for the past five years, Parker was also a yoga instructor and practitioner of deep tissue massage.
“He was all about fitness and spirituality,” said his uncle, Kit Kersch. “He did more in his 36 years than most people do in 75 or 80 years of life.”
Lindsay Ptucha, a Santa Rosa resident and a roommate of Parker’s when he attended California Polytechnic University-San Luis Obispo, said her longtime friend was “the best human being he could be.”
“He always had this big, big smile,” she said. Ptucha said Parker was also a good cook who enjoyed holding potluck dinners with friends.
After graduating from Cal Poly, Parker took “a two-year walkabout of the planet,” including visits to Thailand and New Zealand.
Sarah McKay, a co-owner of the Vertex Climbing Center in Santa Rosa, said Parker — a regular at the center — had been a close friend for a dozen years. “An amazing human being,” she said. “Eternally positive, always putting out this vibe of good juju.”
“His whole life was about getting out and enjoying the world.”
Family members, including his parents, his brother Mat and his wife and two friends were planning to hike today to the Cathedral Peak area.
“It’s the only closure we’re able to get,” Bill Parker said.
In a week or two, the Parkers will return to Modesto to claim their son’s ashes. Some of his ashes will be spread in the Tuolumne Meadows area, some in the Pacific Ocean along the Sonoma Coast and some in the ocean around Kauai, where the Parkers moved eight months ago.
A celebration of Parker’s life will be held at 2 p.m. Saturday in Sebastopol’s Ives Park. At 9 a.m. Saturday, local surfers will hold a “paddle out” in Parker’s honor, forming a circle on their boards in the ocean at the mouth of the Russian River.
You can reach Staff Writer Guy Kovner at 521-5457 or firstname.lastname@example.org.