Free solo climber Austin Howell fell to his death when climbing in Linville Gorge, North Carolina, on Sunday. Rescue services were notified of the fall at 11.46am (local time) and reached the victim by rappelling down a cliff.

Free soloing is climbing without a rope or any other supportive gear. The discipline was made famous recently by the Oscar-winning documentary film Free Solo, which followed legendary climber Alex Honnold on his ropeless ascent of a rock formation known as El Capitan in Yosemite National Park, California.

The rescue services arrived at the site of the fall at 1.18pm, and Howell was pronounced dead about 1.30pm.

“The victim, 31-year-old Austin Howell of Chicago, Illinois, was reportedly free climbing in one of the most difficult portions of the Linville Gorge,” a Burke Country Government statement said.

Howell was famous in his own right in the climbing world, and ran a podcast and an Instagram account called “The Process” detailing what it takes to climb without a rope.

In his last post, he showed all the climbing gear he needed for a climbing trip. The photo showed just his shoes.

“The specific details of the accident are unknown at this time,” the statement read.