Three of the world’s most accomplished and famous climbers were killed after an avalanche in the Canadian Rockies.
The two Austrian climbers, David Lama and Hansjörg Auer, and American Jess Roskelley, had been missing since attempting a climb on a remote face of Mount Howse in Banff National Park in Alberta earlier this week.
The alarm was raised by Roskelley’s father John, also a famous climber, after his son did not call, which triggered an aerial search.
A rescue flight identified avalanche debris, climbing gear and a partially buried body in the area where the men had climbed, with conditions still unsafe preventing a recovery effort.
A statement released by the Canadian Parks Service made it clear that it believed there was no chance of finding the men alive.
“Further investigation is underway, but recovery efforts are currently not possible due to additional avalanches and dangerous conditions at the scene,” the statement said. “Based on the assessment of the scene, all three party members are presumed dead. “
Steve Holeczi, who was part of the team that flew over the crash site, estimated that the avalanche that swept away the men would have been strong enough to destroy a small building.
The route the three men were attempting, named U16, is considered one of the toughest alpine climbs in Canada, first established in 1999 and very rarely attempted.
Parks Canada described the climb as a “remote and exceptionally difficult objective, with mixed rock and ice routes requiring advanced alpine mountaineering skills.”
When news of the crash broke, other mountaineers around the world paid tribute to the men and offered them their condolences.
“The pain felt is indescribable,” tweeted brothers Eneko and Iker Pou, two of the strongest climbers in the world. “Hansjörg Auer, David Lama and Jess Roskelley. We still do not believe it… The loss is irreparable both personally and for the mountain [community]. “
The American Alpine Club tweeted: “David Lama, Jess Roskelly and Hansjörg Auer were some of the best – each an incredible mountaineer, partner and friend who has greatly enriched our community. They will be sorely missed; May we continue to be inspired by their ideals and achievements.
The three-man’s sponsor, outerwear company The North Face, also released a statement. “It is with a heavy heart that we inform you that David Lama, Jess Roskelley and Hansjörg Auer… were allegedly caught in an avalanche on April 16 in Alberta, Canada.
“They are missing, and local search and rescue have assumed the worst. We look forward to obtaining additional information as the research mission continues. “
The three climbers were considered among the best of the current generation of mountaineers.
The son of a Nepalese mountain guide, Lama was a teenage prodigy and sport climbing champion before turning to some of the world’s most difficult mountains.
Lama notably made the first free ascent in 2012 of the “compressor route” on Cerro Torre in Patagonia, one of the most famous mountaineering objectives, especially for the controversy over his first ascent.
Last year, Lama, 28, made the first solo ascent of Lunag Ri, then the highest unclimbed peak in the Himalayas, after two previous unsuccessful attempts.
Equally famous was Auer, 35, for his rope-free ascent of the “fish” on the south face of the Marmolada in the Italian Dolomites in 2007.
His solo ascent of the 3,000-foot boulder has been compared to Alex Honnold’s much better-known ascent of El Capitan in 2017, the subject of the Oscar-winning film Free Solo.
Auer then made notable ascents of the southwest face of Kunyang Chhish East in Pakistan to the Karakorum mountains and the first ascent of the south face of Nilgiri South in Nepal.
Roskelley, 36, rose to fame as the youngest American to peak Everest with his father in 2003 to become one of the country’s top mountaineers.
Roskelley’s father, John, revealed the news of his son’s presumed death in a Facebook post. “As of this writing, I know from speaking with the parks and rescue personnel yesterday that Jess, David and Hansjörg are presumed dead.
“It is with a heavy heart that I have to say this, but they were hit by a massive avalanche off Mount Howse on Tuesday and there was visible evidence that they perished. Thank you all for your prayers and thoughts.
Describing the men’s goal, John Roskelley said: “It’s just one of those roads where you have to have the right conditions or it turns into a nightmare. This is one of those trips where it turned into a nightmare.
Describing the avalanche site, he added: “It’s in an area above a basin. There must have been a lot of snow that fell and washed them off the face. “
He added: “When you climb mountains, the danger is not too far … It’s terrible for my wife and I. But it’s even worse for his wife.”
On Thursday, he was preparing to travel to Canada to gather Jess’s things and see if he could enter the area.