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. At some point was not clipped to an anchor and Jason slipped,” 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. “ 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. “It takes most people three to five days to make it to the top … There were five occasions where they had the audacity to climb it twice in a day.”
Authorities initially believed a haul bag dropped from climbers above and caused the fall, J.J. says. But officials have ruled that out, leaving a shroud of mystery around the men’s deaths.
“I guess there are just some answers I won’t have this side of heaven,” J.J. tells PEOPLE.
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In the days since the accident, J.J. says she and the couple’s sons, Levi, 13, and Jack, 10, have been relying …
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