It takes a certain type of person to climb mountains. Adventure junkies across the globe know that while a hunk of rock might look unimposing, actually scaling that massive front is another thing entirely. It’s a challenge like no other, and sometimes even professionals get scared.

For a tight group of friends in Santa Rosa, California, a man named Brad Parker was a legend. He wasn’t just kind and loving, he was also a fearless climber. When Brad took his girlfriend out on a very special climb, he couldn’t wait to share his world with her. He had no idea that his day was about to take a truly shocking turn.

If you asked Brad Parker’s closest friends about him, they would all sing similar praises: he had a gift with people. He was one of those gems everyone just gravitated to — he was larger than life.

Brad Parker / Facebook

And it was easy to see why. After finishing up high school in 1996, the Santa Rosa, California, native traveled the world. He passed through Indonesia, New Zealand, and more, and jumped head first into any extreme sport he could find.

Brad Parker / Facebook

In his thirties, he catapulted himself into the upper-echelons of rock climbers, earning a cover spot on California Climber magazine in 2012. On the side, he taught yoga — his energy and enthusiasm captivated even those he barely knew.

Brad Parker / Facebook

“Rock climbers knew him as [an awesome] climber,” Brad’s best friend and climbing partner Jerry Dodrill said. “Surfers knew him as [an awesome] surfer, and yoga instructors knew him as an amazing yoga instructor.”

Brad’s friends, family, and even minor acquaintances were delighted in June 2014, when the 36-year-old let his friends and family on social media know the truth: he was in love with a girl named Jainee Dial.

Brad Parker / Facbook

Jainee managed an online store that sold outdoor adventure products to women, and she faced life with a similar enthusiasm as Brad. In fact, two months after Brad’s Facebook post, the couple set out for Yosemite National Park.

Jainee Dial / Facebook

And though Jainee didn’t know it, the ever-smiling, always-excited Brad planned a surprise for her there. He unveiled it on a Saturday morning climb to the summit of Cathedral Peak — a 10,912-foot mountain.

Jainee Dial / Facebook

Using ropes, the couple ambled upwards for a few hours before reaching the narrow peak of the mountain. There, on a piece of rock just big enough for two people to stand on, Brad lowered himself to one knee and asked Jainee to marry him.

For nearly 40 years, Brad chased every thrill he could find, but chances were, his heart never beat harder or faster than in the split-second silence following his proposal. To his delight, Jainee said “yes.”

Minutes later, as the two descended the mountain, Brad told her, “this is the happiest day of my life.” And though Brad didn’t know it, that moment of pure elation that followed the couple’s commitment to marriage was the moment his life peaked…

…because once they reached the base of the mountain, the climber caught an itch — an itch to climb another mountain. So while Jainee headed back to camp, Brad hiked to Matthes Crest, a massive ridge just three miles away.

In hindsight, it wasn’t unexpected that Brad left his fiancé to climb again — he’d been training for a major climb he planned for the future. But as he hiked up towards Matthes Crest, other hikers noticed something was off about the man.

One of those hikers, Cedric Ma, saw Brad on his way to the crest. “He said he was dehydrated and had cramps,” Cedric wrote. “After that, he continued to solo up the north summit and disappeared from view.”

Nevertheless, cramped, dehydrated, and likely fatigued from climbing earlier in the day at high altitudes, Brad tackled the vertical face of Matthes Crest. At about 5:45 p.m. — hours after his proposal — Brad slipped.

Other climbers and hikers in the area watched from afar as the experienced climber and soon-to-be-wed man fell 300 feet from the top of the ridge. He hit the rocky ground below with a thud. Then, there was silence.

This silence was not like the momentary one that followed Brad’s proposal to Jainee. This was the silence of death, total and deafening, a finite sort of thing broken only by the park rangers when they hiked in to recover Brad’s body.

By the time rangers found Brad, it was too late for the helicopter to fly in for extraction. They left him there overnight, and in the morning, they removed him from the park. Soon, word spread to all of Brad’s friends, family.

There was little solace to take in Brad’s death, but still, as Brad himself would’ve done, his loved ones turned the meaninglessness of his demise into something beautiful. They spread his ashes around the California coast — and more.

As time passed, Brad’s friends found more ways to honor their friend. The memorial service for Brad featured a “paddle out” into the Russian River Mouth near Jenner, California. There, Jainee and Brad’s mother mourned together.

Jerry Dodrill

And when the wounds healed further, those close to Brad ventured into Yosemite. Together, they climbed Cathedral Peak, the place where Brad enjoyed the happiest moment of his action-packed life. That moment with Jainee.

Jainee Dial / Facebook

It wasn’t until later, when the pain of the moment didn’t sting so deep, that Jainee sat down and reflected, 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…”

Jainee Dial / Facebook

She continued. “You not only live on in me but continue to live on in others and give them life. And 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.”

Jerry Dodrill

As tragic as his early demise was, Brad Parker lived a thousand lives in his 36 years, and no doubt, improved the lives of all those he interacted with.

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