James Welton climbing at the City of Rocks, June 2008
Last June, Tristan and I were climbing next to three other climbers in Castle Rock State Park. We next wanted to climb the route they were on. One of the climbers, James Welton, asked if we wanted to top-rope the route, using their ropes. All three climbers were very friendly and we teamed up with them to do another route around the corner.
That evening, they invited us to visit at their campsite and plied us with homemade pie and other delicacies. The next day, we climbed with Jim, James, and Tara again. Tristan wanted to climb difficult routes that my shoulder wasn’t ready for, and James Welton also wanted to climb harder routes, while Jim and Tara were happy on easier climbs and I needed to baby my shoulder’s injured supraspinatus tendon.
We had a great time climbing with the three of them, and hoped that we would meet up again, either at the City of Rocks or another area.
Sadly, we won’t have that opportunity. Today Jim Barnes sent an email that James Welton tragically died a few days ago in a climbing accident at Zion National Park. When I look at our climbing photos from last June, James looks like such a happy, vibrant, person. He seemed very competent and safe, and not one of the climbers where I thought, “He won’t last long.” He lead Wheat Thin at City of Rocks using only passive gear (stoppers and hexes) rather than cams, a sign of an experienced climber who knows how to place protection gear.
I’m always sad to lose climbing partners. I try to learn from their mistakes, and I do my best to enjoy the climbing partners that I still have.