It was the confirmation everyone was dreading, but had definitely seen coming. On Sunday, rescue personnel confirmed that Austrian alpinists David Lama and Hansjörg Auer as well as American climber Jess Roskelley had died after being caught in an avalanche climbing Howse Peak in Alberta’s Banff National Park.
The trio, part of The North Face’s Global Athlete Team, went missing late on Tuesday with authorities launching an aerial search the next day. Officials feared the worst after an aerial reconnaissance sighted the slide, and these fears were realised on Sunday when the climbers’ bodies were recovered from the avalanche debris at the base of the 3,295 metre-high Howse Peak.
“Lama, Auer, and Roskelley were right up there among the best climbers in the world”
The team was climbing M16, a 1000 metre route on the east face of the peak. The line is considered one of the most difficult in the area. According to reports, the recovered phone of Jess Roskelley appeared to indicate that the three climbers had reached the summit around lunchtime on Tuesday.
Lama, Auer, and Roskelley were right up there among the best climbers in the world. Roskelly, for example, was once the youngest American to reach the summit of Everest (it’s now Jordan Romero). He climbed it at the age of 20, in 2003, with his father – the legendary alpinist John Roskelley.
Perhaps best known for his successful free climb of the Compressor Route up Cerro Torre, many in the mountaineering community consider Lama to be one of the best alpinists of his generation. His ascent of Lunag Ri, Nepal’s tallest unclimbed peak, was the standout mountain climbing achievement of 2018. Rumours were also circulating that Lama, alongside Auer, was going to attempt the unclimbed southeast ridge of Annapurna III again after a failed go at it in 2016.
Our thoughts are with the climbers’ friends and families at this difficult time.