3 Top Climbers Presumed Dead After Avalanche In Canada

Apr 19, 2019
Originally published on April 19, 2019 3:14 pm

Three of the world's most elite climbers are missing and presumed dead by park officials after an avalanche in Alberta, Canada.

Jess Roskelley, a U.S. citizen, and David Lama and Hansjörg Auer, who are both Austrian, had been attempting to climb the east face of Howse Peak in Banff National Park. They were reported overdue on Wednesday, according to the park.

"Based on an assessment of the scene, all three members of the party are presumed to be deceased," the park said.

A statement from Parks Canada said that responders "observed signs of multiple avalanches and debris containing climbing equipment."

"Search and recovery efforts are not currently possible due to weather and dangerous avalanche conditions," it said. The avalanche hazard is expected to continue, Parks Canada said, because of more strong winds and precipitation.

Washington native Roskelley, 36, was the youngest American to summit Mount Everest. He accomplished the feat when he was 20 with his father. John, who is also a well-known climber.

Jess Roskelley has been called "one of America's boldest alpinists," Men's Journal wrote. The Spokesman-Review said he made first ascents in Alaska and in northeast Pakistan.

"It's how he lived, really. He took life by the horns," his father told the newspaper. "When you're climbing mountains, danger is not too far away. It's terrible for my wife and I. But it's even worse for his wife."

Austrian climber David Lama climbing the Kursaal building during the 2013 San Sebastian International Film Festival in San Sebastian, Spain.
Juan Naharro Gimenez / Getty Images

David Lama, the 28-year-old son of a Nepali mountain guide and an Austrian nurse, made waves early in his career. According to the trio's sponsor, The North Face, "at age 12, David became the youngest climber in the history of the sport to complete an 8b+," an extremely difficult rock climbing grade.

Lama made the first free ascent of the southeast ridge of Cerro Torre in Patagonia, which was documented in a film called Cerro Torre: A Snowball's Chance in Hell.

Auer, 35, who grew up in the mountains of Austria, was known as "one of the world's top solo climbers," as Outside reported. In 2007, he famously free-soloed "The Fish," a legendary route on the south face of Italy's Marmolada.

"All three of them, they had in common this similar goal of going and doing remote climbs on big mountains in a very pure, alpine way," Gripped magazine Editor-in-Chief Brandon Pullan told CBC. The difficult route that the group was on had only been climbed once, according to the broadcaster.

Parks Canada described the route as a "remote and an exceptionally difficult objective, with mixed rock and ice routes requiring advanced alpine mountaineering skills."

The Howse Peak area has been closed to all traffic and travel until further notice. The area generally sees "few travelers," according to the park service, and was used by the First Nations "as a route through the mountains to bison."

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