Wyoming Rock-Climbing Legend Falls To Death In Yosemite

Todd Skiner Was First To Free Climb El Capitan

A rock climber was was killed when he fell 500 feet after taking a new route up a rock face at ,Yosemite National Park was a world renowed climber, a national park spokeswoman said.

Todd Skinner, 47, was rappelling when he fell to his death Monday on Leaning Tower, Adrienne Freeman said. It was not immediately clear why he fell, but park officials and the the Mariposa County coroner's office were investigating.

A family spokesman, Steve Bechtel, said authorities had told him that their preliminary finding was that Skinner's climbing harness broke.

Skinner, of Lander, Wyo., was celebrated for having climbed hundreds of rock faces from Yukon Territory to the Himalayas using a technique called free climbing, in which climbers use no artificial aids except for a rope to protect against falls.

He was the first to free climb a now-famous route called of the Salathe Wall on El Capitan, a granite monolith in Yosemite that rises 3,000 feet from the valley floor.

Skinner, who wrote "Beyond the Summit," claimed to have set 300 climbing records in 26 countries and had his own Web site.

In 1995, Skinner told The Denver Post that there are three types of fear in rock climbing: "What you have been afraid of, what are you afraid of now, and what you will be afraid of. The last one is the worst. It is the part of the climb that you cannot fight with right now, and for some climbers, the specter of it above their heads is too much for them."

"Someone might have climbed a peak or a crag or a cliff before, but never the way Todd Skinner did," said fellow climber Hans Florine. "His mission was to be the first person to free climb all the biggest faces in the world."

Skinner and his party were climbing near Bridalveil Fall, one of the park's best-known waterfalls, Freeman said.

Skinner was born in Pinedale, Wyo. He is survived by his wife and fellow climber, Amy Whisler Skinner, three children and a sister.

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