By Neil Vigdor
An experienced ultramarathon athlete who has listed several of the highest mountains in the world was found dead this week in Yosemite National Park in California, according to the National Park Service.
The tourist, Fred Zalokar, has been missing since Saturday, according to park officials, saying his body was found by park rangers on Tuesday near the summit of Mount Clark, a granite peak that rises more than 11,500 feet.
The Park Service did not immediately reveal how Zalokar, 61, died, but longtime friend Sean Krom said in an interview Thursday that Zalokar fell. An autopsy is not scheduled until next week, according to the sheriff’s spokesman and coroner for Mariposa County.
Zalokar, who was from Reno, Nevada, went on an off-piste day hike Saturday and never returned, park officials said. He was reported missing on Sunday.
Crom, who first met Zalokar about 35 years ago while preparing for the 100-mile ultramarathon, said they climbed mountains around the world together and that his friend is fearless.
“Fred will be the one to climb the technical side and throw the rope to everyone else,” said Crom, who climbed Mount Aconcagua in Argentina, the highest point in America, with Zalocar and Mont Blanc on top. border of France and Italy.
The family of Zalokar, who was husband and father, said Thursday that it was not ready to comment.
His death prompted an outpouring of tribute to Zalokar, who was well known in the field of running and mountaineering competitions.
At the age of 55, Zalokar ran the New York Marathon in 2 hours 43 minutes 10 seconds in 2015, finishing first in his age group, according to official figures. In 2011, he finished the Boston Marathon in 2:34:52, the fastest time in the 50-54 age group.
According to his website, he was the first runner in his age group to win all six Abbott World Marathon Majors in New York, Boston, Chicago, London, Berlin and Tokyo. He also raced in marathons on all continents, including Antarctica, where, according to his website, he finished first in February 1999 at just over 3:45.
“When I heard about the 1998 Antarctica marathon, I thought, ‘Hey, I can do it! “- said Zalokar on his website.
He said the marathon was more practical and cost less than trying to climb Vinson Massif, the highest peak in Antarctica and one of the seven peaks, the nickname for the tallest mountains on every continent.
According to his website, he conquered at least four of them – Aconcagua (South America), Denali (North America), Kilimanjaro (Africa) and Elbrus (Europe). The fifth mountain, Kosciuszko, is considered the highest mountain in Australia.
“He didn’t climb Everest, but he tried,” Crom said.
Zalokar’s website is a cross between a scrapbook and a catalog of his exploits. On one page is a list of the countries that he said he visited, 137 in total, from Azerbaijan to Zimbabwe. There are photos of him walking down a granite mountain, standing with his hands up on a sand dune in Namibia and, of course, running.
“He was very adventurous,” said Crom. “He would have chosen a goal and stubbornly pursued it.”
From climbing every mountain over 14,000 feet in California to exploring the tallest volcanoes in Mexico, Zalokar has marked the peaks he has climbed on his website. This is known as “peak sacks,” said Crom, explaining that it is not unusual for Zalokar to go hiking up the mountain alone.
“We don’t know yet if he made it to the top of the mountain,” he said of Mount Clark, noting that park rangers would likely check the logbook at the summit. “Fred always signs in the logbook.”