It’s a horrifying thought and one all rock climbers must put to the far corners of their minds. So when it happens, it can’t help put chills on the back of your neck.

A rock climber tackling an iconic route at Zion National Park has fallen to his death near the top of the 1,200 foot vertical cliff.

The Moonlight Buttress, as the giant slab of sandstone is known, represents one of the park’s most challenging climbs and a rite of passage for many rock climbers. 

The man appeared to be climbing by himself when several other climbers saw him fall around 12:30 pm Wednesday March 9. Park officials did not release the man’s name or offer many details as to the cause of the accident, according to a report by the Salt Lake Tribune. 

Park Superintendent Jeff Bradybaugh called the death “a very sad situation,” the newspaper reports.

“Our condolences go out to the individual’s friends and family,” Bradybaugh said.

It’s unclear whether the climber was strapped into ropes or not. In 2008, Alex Honnold made a name for himself for accomplishing one of the fastest free solos on Moonlight Buttress in 83 minutes. That’s without any ropes or harness at all, climbing a 1,200-foot cliff.

On a climbing website describing the route, it advises climbers not to make this ascent when it’s wet.

“The sandstone in Zion is fragile and is very easily damaged when it is wet,” it states. “Holds rip off and climbs have been and will continue to be permanently damaged due to climbers not respecting this phenomenon. After a heavy storm the rock will remain wet, sometimes for several days.”

Photo credit: Flickr CC