Kayah Gaydish, a champion of the outdoors and expert rock climber from Asheville, North Carolina, died Sunday after a 50-foot fall from a cliff in the Hidden Valley Lake area of Washington County, Virginia.

According to a statement released by the Washington County sheriff’s office, the accident occurred around 4 p.m.

“At approximately 4:15 PM, Sunday, December 20, 2015, Washington County Central Dispatch was advised of a rock climbing accident that occurred in the Hidden Valley wildlife management area of the county,” the statement reads. “Initial information received was that a female had fallen approximately 50-feet from a rock cliff during a repelling outing. Friends attempted to resuscitate the victim without success. She was pronounced dead at the scene.”

In addition to her love for rock climbing, Gaydish, who was 36-years-old, was a tireless advocate for conservation efforts in Western North Carolina. As a Linville Gorge Wilderness Ranger for a conservation organization called Wild South, she put in many grueling hours locating and removing invasive plants from the famed wilderness area. She also served as a board secretary for the Carolina Cilmber’s Coalition.


Photo Courtesy of the Carolina Climbers Coalition

“Kayah was someone who could always be counted on for a peaceful smile and gentle encouragement that came from a place of deep passion for the outdoors and her commitment to experience the joy of the wild with everyone she met,” said former Wild South Executive Director Ben Prater in a note posted to the Wild South Facebook page. “If you were fortunate to spend time outside with Kayah then you will know how cherished these memories are. Hold these memories dear and your loved ones close. Kayah will be forever missed and loved always.”

Gaydish is survived by her two children, Caleb and River. To donate to Kayah’s memorial fund click here.