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Bodies of David Lama, Hansjörg Auer and Jess Roskelley recovered

© The North Face

UPDATE: 23/04 - A press release from Roskelley's family states that collected evidence points to the three climbers having summitted Howse Peak via their chosen route before their deaths: 'Jess Roskelley's phone was recovered, and photos indicate the three climbers had reached the summit on Tuesday, April 16 at 12:43pm and looked to be in absolute joy. Though we have no concrete answers, evidence suggests that the team was hit by an avalanche during the descent.' The family shared the summit photo on Instagram:


The bodies of world-class Austrian mountaineers David Lama and Hansjörg Auer and leading US alpinist Jess Roskelley have been recovered following an avalanche on 16th April on Howse Peak in Banff National Park, Canada. The three climbers were attempting to make the first repeat of M16 (VI WI7+ A2), a route on the peak's East Face established in 1999 by Steve House, Barry Blanchard and Scott Backes when a size 3 avalanche is presumed to have killed them.

David Lama, Hansjörg Auer and Jess Roskelley.  © The North Face
David Lama, Hansjörg Auer and Jess Roskelley.
© The North Face

A statement in a press release from Parks Canada reads:

'Parks Canada extends our sincere condolences to their families, friends and loved ones. We would also like to acknowledge the impact that this has had on the tight-knit, local and international climbing communities. Our thoughts are with families, friends and all those who have been affected by this tragic incident. Parks Canada thanks our first responders and all assisting agencies for their invaluable support and professionalism including our Visitor Safety Specialist and the entire Incident Command team, Lake Louise RCMP, Lake Louise Fire Department, Bow Valley Victim Services and the skilled pilots from Alpine Helicopters.'

The group had planned to climb together on an extended trip in the Canadian Rockies, having already ticked the classic Andromeda Strain (VI M5, 700m), on Mount Andromeda and Nemesis on the Stanley Headwall in the week before the accident.

Roskelley's father, the acclaimed US mountaineer John Roskelley, alerted Parks Canada on the morning of Wednesday 17th April when the three climbers became overdue on Howse Peak.

An initial statement from Parks Canada read: 'Based on the assessment of the scene, all three members of the party are presumed to be deceased.' Further investigation and recovery efforts were delayed due to additional avalanches and dangerous conditions at the scene.

Lama (28) was born in 1990 to an Austrian mother and a Nepalese mountain guide father. He showed promise on rock from a young age and quickly began winning indoor national and international competition titles. Lama became the first competitor to win both a lead and boulder World Cup in his first senior season in 2006 and won the IFSC European Championships in both disciplines in 2006 (Lead) and 2007 (Boulder) while redpointing sport routes up to 9a outdoors. In 2011, he retired from competition climbing to focus on alpinism and mountaineering. In 2012, Lama made the first free ascent of the Compressor Route (South-East Ridge) of Cerro Torre in Patagonia with Peter Ortner in 24 hours. Last year, Lama made the first ascent of Lunag Ri's main summit (6907m) (UKC news), solo and after two unsuccessful attempts in the previous three years.

Describing his approach to alpinism on his website, Lama wrote:

'What matters to me is that I can stand behind my decisions and actions. Obviously, a series of misfortunes can lead to a fatal end on any of my adventures. There is no point in denying that fact. It is my willingness to commit that demonstrates the total conviction of my actions, and that gives great personal value to my alpinism.'

Hansjörg Auer (35) was known primarily for his bold free solos of long alpine rock multipitches, most notably of The Fish (7b+/ 850 m), a 37-pitch slab on the south face of the Marmolada in the Italian Dolomites, which he achieved in 2007. In 2010, Auer made the first ascent of Waiting for Godot in Patagonia's Torres del Paine, while his 2013 first ascent of Kunyang Chhish East (7400m) alongside his brother Matthias Auer and Swiss mountaineer Simon Anthamatten via the southwest face is widely considered a milestone of modern alpinism. In 2016, Auer attempted the unclimbed southeast ridge of Annapurna III alongside Lama and Alex Blümel.

A quote on Auer's website reposted by his family from 2015 reads:

'Climbing and mountaineering on the borderline of possible is a game – a risky game… but one that I cannot live without. The game is simple, the rules always the same. The present moment counts for everything. I want to do things that push me. With all my heart or not at all. The more intense it is, the more enriching it is, and the stronger the feeling that I am heading in the right direction. […] I do, however begin to ponder. Especially when I am injured or after a close call. I think about my friends […] I think about what it would be like if one day I didn't return, if I had to pay the price for the mountains. And yet I cannot resist to take on the challenge time after time. […] I will never stop searching, because what I find fascinates me every time I head out.'

Jess Roskelley (right) pictured with his father, John.  © Cam Burns
Jess Roskelley (right) pictured with his father, John.
© Cam Burns

Jess Roskelley (36) summitted Mount Everest in 2003 at the age of 20, becoming the youngest American to achieve this feat at the time. He went on to make significant repeats and first ascents in North and South America, including a new route in Alaska's Kichatna Mountains on the Citadel, named Hypa Zypa Couloir, which he climbed alongside Ben Erdmann and Kristoffer Szilas in 2013. In 2017, Roskelley made the first ascent of the South Ridge of Alaska's Mt. Huntington.

On his website, Roskelley wrote about his passion for climbing, inspired by his father, John:

'I grew up climbing but never intended it to be a part of my daily life. I saw first-hand the difficulties intertwined with climbing and family. As I became more involved, I realized what my father had felt as I was growing up. It becomes an addiction...an obsession. I feel lost and useless without it.'


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23 Apr, 2019

What a tragedy. I read Auer's book last year and just watched Lama's Cerro Torre movie the other day (it's free at Red Bull).

23 Apr, 2019

UPDATE: 23/04 - A press release from Roskelley's family states that collected evidence points to the three climbers having summitted Howse Peak via their chosen route before their deaths: 'Jess Roskelley's phone was recovered, and photos indicate the three climbers had reached the summit on Tuesday, April 16 at 12:43pm and looked to be in absolute joy. Though we have no concrete answers, evidence suggests that the team was hit by an avalanche during the descent.'

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