Michael J. Ybarra, an author and reporter who had been covering extreme sports like rock climbing and kayaking for The Wall Street Journal, died, apparently last weekend, in a fall from a cliff in Yosemite National Park. He was 45.
Kari Cobb, a park ranger at Yosemite, said a helicopter rescue team recovered Mr. Ybarra’s body on Wednesday morning, about 200 feet below the edge of Sawtooth Ridge, a line of steep granite cliffs along the southern border of the California park.
Mr. Ybarra’s sister, Suzanne, said the family had reported him missing on Sunday after he did not return from what was supposed to be a two-day solo climb.
Mr. Ybarra had been the extreme-sports correspondent for The Journal since 2007. He was also the author of “Washington Gone Crazy: Senator Pat McCarran and the Great American Communist Hunt” (2004), about a Democrat from Nevada who sponsored anti-Communist and anti-immigration laws in the 1930s, ’40s and ’50s.
The New York Times Book Review listed the biography among the 100 Notable Books of the Year. It was also a finalist for the annual book prize awarded by The Los Angeles Times.
Michael Jay Ybarra was born in Los Angeles on Sept. 28, 1966, to Eugene and Lillie Decker Ybarra. His father was an administrator for the Los Angeles Unified School District; his mother was a social worker.
Mr. Ybarra received a bachelor’s degree in political science from the University of California, Los Angeles, and a master’s degree from the University of California, Berkeley.
He had written for a number of publications over the years, including The New York Times and The Los Angeles Times, which said in its obituary that Mr. Ybarra had essentially been living on the road while pursuing adventure and writing about it. Besides his sister, he is survived by his parents and his brother, Gary.
In 2008 Mr. Ybarra wrote in The Journal about climbing a frozen waterfall along the Shoshone River in Wyoming. “Part of the attraction (and no little of the terror) of climbing,” he wrote, “is problem-solving, figuring out what to do in a situation where there are no great options and no little peril in making a wrong move.”
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