Modesto middle school educator dies while rock climbing in Yosemite

A California middle school special education paraprofessional died this month while climbing in Yosemite National Park, authorities said.

Originally from Detroit, Patricia “Trish” Stoops, 57, died June 8 in a rappelling accident at the Central Pillar of Frenzy, one of the popular rock-climbing lines at Yosemite on the north face of the Middle Cathedral Rock.

“She had taken the lead to get the team down before dark and something, what exactly still isn't clear, went horribly wrong,” her brother Michael Stoops wrote on a climbing forum. “She did not survive the fall, unfortunately. No one else was injured.”

A former architect who left a lucrative career in Manhattan Beach, Stoops worked at Glick Middle School in Modesto where she and Jamey Johnson-Olney, an English language development teacher, founded the HOPE Project, an extracurricular program that organizes service trips for students.

In February, Stoops and Johnson-Olney took a group of students to Paradise, Calif., to help a father and daughter who had lost their home in the Camp fire.

“Trish lived a bohemian lifestyle. She had her biological family, her climber family, her school family - the world was her family,” Johnson-Olney said. “Some people collect cards, some collect stamps. Trish collected people. She had a gift of bringing people from all walks of life together.”

Johnson-Olney said many students at Glick come from neighborhoods “where gang violence, drugs and instability are commonplace.” The mission behind the HOPE Project is to offer those students a chance to see the world beyond their neighborhoods. Johnson-Olney and her students are planning to build a house in Mexico for families in need - a trip she and Stoops had been planning for months.

“Our students and I are determined to honor her life and legacy by continuing to do the work she left here,” Johnson-Olney said.

An outpouring of support filled an online memorial wall for Stoops, expressing gratitude for her work with children and Habitat for Humanity, as well as her mentorship and friendship with other climbers.

“I never met a climber more dedicated to supporting our tribe than Trish,” one wrote.

“Goodbye to my dear 20-year climbing friend. I will miss your adventurous spirit,” read another.

According to a friend of Stoops and a fellow climber, a climbing route near the Arizona Dome in California's Alabama Hills will be renamed in her honor: “Next time you're in the hills, go climb it, and know that Trish was there.”

Last June, two climbers died at El Capitan in Yosemite National Park.

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