Most people would agree that it takes a certain type of person to get a thrill out of climbing mountains. Adrenaline junkies from all over the world can attest to the fact that even though a large hunk of rock may not look to imposing, actually climbing up to the top of it is a whole other story. The challenge is intense, and sometimes even the most experienced of climbers can get a little nervous.
For a tight group of friends from Santa Rosa, California, their buddy Brad Parker was pretty much a rock climbing legend. Not only was Brad a fearless climber, but he was also a kind and loving friend to everyone he met. So, one day when Brad took his girlfriend out for a very special day of climbing, he couldn’t wait to get a chance to be able to share his world with her. Unfortunately, their romantic day together ended up taking a tragic turn…
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If you asked Brad Parker’s closest friends about him, they would probably all tell you that Brad really had a gift with people. He was one of those guys that everyone just gravitated to – a truly larger than life personality.
It was easy to see why. After finishing up high school in 1996, the Santa Rosa, California native was then lucky enough to get a chance to travel the world. He passed through places like Indonesia and New Zealand, and what’s more, he also jumped head first into any type of extreme sports that he could find. By the time he’d reached his thirties, Brad had successfully catapulted himself into the upper-echelon of rock climbers, even earning a cover spot on California Climber Magazine in 2012.
“Rock climbers knew him as an awesome climber,” Brad’s best friend Jerry Dodrill said. “Surfers knew him as an awesome surfer, and yoga instructors knew him as an amazing yoga instructor.”
Naturally, Brad’s friends and family were delighted when in June of 2014, the 36-year-old let everyone know on social media that he was in love with a girl named Jainee Dial. Jainee managed an online store that sold outdoor adventure products for women, and she always faced life with the same kind of enthusiasm as Brad. So, two months after Brad’s romantic Facebook post, the couple set out for a special trip to Yosemite National Park.
What Jainee didn’t know, however, was that Brad had planned a huge surprise for her there. He decided to unveil it after a fun Saturday morning climb to the summit of Cathedral Peak, a 10,900-foot mountain in the area. Using their climbing ropes, the couple scaled up the face of rock wall for several hours before finally reaching the narrow peak of the mountain. Then, on a piece of rock just big enough for two people to stand on, Brad lowered himself to one knee and asked Jainee if she would marry him. Of course, she said yes.
Minutes later, as the two descended back down the mountain, Brad told her, “this is the happiest day of my life.” He didn’t know it yet, but that feeling of elation following the surprise wedding proposal may very well have been the moment that Brad’s life peaked.
Once the couple had finally reached the base of the Cathedral Peak, Brad suddenly felt the urge to climb yet another mountain that day before it got dark. So, while Jainee headed back to camp, Brad decided to hike up to Matthes Crest, a massive ridge located just three miles away.
In hindsight, it wasn’t unusual that Brad had left his fiancé behind in order to climb again. In fact, he’d been training for a major climb that he had planned for the near future, so he needed all of the practice he could get. However, as he made his way up towards Matthes Crest, other hikers on the trail noticed that something was off about him.
One of those hikers, Cedric Ma, saw Brad on his way up to the crest. “He said he was dehydrated and was having cramps,” Cedric wrote. “After that, he continued to solo up the north summit, and then he disappeared from view.”
Even though he was feeling cramped, dehydrated, and fatigued from climbing at high altitudes earlier that day, Brad still went ahead and tackled the vertical face of Matthes Crest. Then, at about 5:45 p.m., just hours after his romantic surprise proposal…Brad slipped. Other climbers in the area watched in horror as Brad fell 300 feet from the top of the ridge. He hit the rocky ground below with a thud, and then, silence.
By the time Park Rangers could locate Brad, it was too late at night for a helicopter to fly in for extraction. The Rangers were forced to leave him there overnight, and then early the next morning, they removed his body from the park. Word of the tragedy quickly spread to all of Brad’s family and friends.
There was little solace to take from his passing, but somehow, just as Brad himself would’ve done, his loved ones were able to turn something so tragic into something beautiful. Soon after his funeral, they decided to spread his ashes along the California coast.
As more time passed, Brad’s friends and family came up with even more creative ways to honor his memory. His memorial service even featured a “paddle out” into the Russian River Mouth near Jenner, California – and it was there that Jainee and Brad’s mother mourned their loss together.
When the wounds had healed further, those close to Brad decided to take a memorial trip back to Yosemite Park. Together, they all climbed to the top of Cathedral Peak, the very place where Brad had enjoyed the happiest moment of his action-packed life.
It wasn’t until later, when the pain of the moment didn’t sting so deep, that Jainee finally sat down and reflected on everything – recording her thoughts in a 2016 Facebook post. “To Brad Parker,” she wrote. “It’s so bittersweet. So brutal. And yet, so precious and true. You not only live on in me, but you continue to live on in others and give them life. Not only life, but that great consciousness of life that reminds us what truly matters. You continue to give me life, and what an awful, stinging irony that is.”
As tragic as his untimely passing was, Brad Parker was lucky to have lived a thousand lives in his 36 years, and he undoubtedly improved the lives of every single person he came in contact with. His spirit continues to live on in the laughter of those who were closest to him.