Wife of Man Who Fell to His Death While Rock Climbing with Best Friend in Yosemite Speaks Out
J.J. Klein says her husband Tim had climbed the 3,000-foot El Capitan rock formation at least 100 times before his sudden death on Saturday
J.J. Klein, of Leona Valley, California, says she never worried about her husband, Tim, when he went rock climbing. As an experienced mountaineer, the 42-year-old had scaled the massive El Capitan rock formation at Yosemite National Park at least 100 times.
So, the mother of two had no idea Tim’s latest ascent of the 3,000-foot rock outcrop on Saturday — with friends Jason Wells and Kevin Prince — would be his last.
“Even on an easy climb they were always very safe,” J.J., 44, tells PEOPLE. “They both fell. The rope was severed when they found them.”
Tim and Wells, 46, fell about 1,000 feet to the ground while climbing the Freeblast route on El Capitan around 8 a.m. Park rangers received several 911 calls after the incident and rescue teams found the men dead at the scene, National Park Service announced. Prince was the only survivor.
J.J. says she had just returned from a local cherry festival when a pair of officers arrived at her home to deliver the news.
“It was devastating,” she tells PEOPLE. “[One officer] said, ‘There’s been an accident.’ I honestly didn’t think they meant he had died. I’d never worried once about Tim rock climbing, that’s where he gets his healing. He’s had a bad back for many years and that’s what actually got him into rock climbing.”
J.J. says Tim and Wells, of Boulder, Colorado, first met in 2004 and have been inseparable since, often meeting to go rock climbing at the northern California park. The men would sometimes climb El Capitan twice in one day, and J.J. says they knew the route like the back of their hands.
“They’ve done it over 70 times together,” she says, referring to the rock. “It takes most people three to five days to make it to the top … There were five occasions where they had the endurance to climb it twice in a day.”
The incident is under investigation.
“I guess there are just some answers I won’t have this side of heaven,” J.J. tells PEOPLE.
In the days since the accident, J.J. says she and the couple’s sons, Levi, 13, and Jack, 10, have been relying on their faith to cope. She says she has also spoken with Wells’ wife, Becky Johnson, who is pregnant with her and Jason’s first baby due in November.
“We had been praying for them to have a baby and when she got pregnant it was great joy,” J.J. says, noting that Tim officiated the couple’s wedding in 2016. “Just as Tim is well-loved here, Jason is iconic [in Boulder].
Tim was a teacher at Palmdale High School and also coached a soccer team for special needs children. J.J. and Tim had been married for 17 years, and the widow says she quickly fell in love with Tim, who had a caring, generous nature.
“He really was just a remarkable human being,” she says. “I always thought, someone needs to make a movie about this guy’s life, but it would never sell because it’s all just positive and there is no tragedy. And now here we are.”
Friends and relatives have set up a GoFundMe page for Tim‘s family.