3 North Face Climbers Confirmed Dead After Avalanche in Banff National Park

Mountain peak in fog
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Updated April 22, 2019

Alpinists Jess Roskelley, David Lama, and Hansjörg Auer are confirmed dead in the Canadian Rockies after an avalanche on April 16, 2019, swept down the mountain they were attempting to climb on the Icefields Parkway, CNN reports. All three men, one American and two Austrians, respectively, are members of The North Face Global Athlete Team.

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We are deeply saddened by the loss of our athletes, Jess Roskelley, David Lama, and Hansjörg Auer. @jessroskelley was a natural. He grew up in a household steeped in mountaineering, his father, John, was a pioneering Himalayan alpinist having led the first ascent of Gauri Sankar in 1979. Jess loved climbing and as an alpinist had climbed Everest in 2003 – the youngest to do so at the time. Jess possessed a multi-faceted ability which found him at home on ice, big walls and multi day expeditions. Always game for adventure, Jess would show up with a smile, excited to climb. He balanced a constant dedication to progression on the mountain with a one of a kind sense of humor and deep dedication to practical jokes. The love he had for the mountains was only matched by his love for his wife, Allison and his bulldog, Mugs. He will be remembered not just as one of the best mountaineers of a generation but one of the best we have ever encountered in the sport.

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“With three of the world’s best alpine climbers having died in our backyard here in the Rockies sometime in the past 24 hours, it’s hard to make sense of it all,” Brandon Pullan editor of Gripped posted on the afternoon of April 18 as the news began to circulate among the outdoor industry.

Parks Canada was first notified of a potential problem on 10,810-foot Howse Peak the morning of the 17, when Roskelley’s father, John Roskelley, himself a renowned alpinist, called to report that his son had failed to make a check-in call on the evening of the 16.. Roskelley, Lama, and Auer were believed to be attempting a climb on the east face of Howse Peak called M16. First established in 1999, M16 is a notoriously challenging mixed rock and ice climb, among only a handful of such climbs where the ice is rated WI7—the most difficult possible. Before taking on M16, Roskelley, Lama, and Auer had warmed up the week prior on Andromeda Strain, a longer but less intimidating route, on Mount Andromeda on the Icefields Parkway.

Parks Canada responded to the elder Roskelley’s alert by deploying a helicopter to the scene later that morning. “We did see signs of multiple avalanches and debris containing climbing equipment along with strong evidence that the climbing party was deceased,” said Stephen Holeczi, visitor safety specialist. The organization has not yet released the names of the climbers in the party but has labeled the avalanche a size 3; large enough to bury a car or destroy a small building.

The North Face named the climbers in a statement issued on social media after business hours on April 18. “We have learned that three members of our Global Athlete Team David Lama, Jess Roskelley and Hansjörg Auer were presumed caught in an avalanche on April 16th in Alberta, Canada. They are missing and we are waiting for additional information as the search mission continues.”

Meanwhile, Parks Canada has put the recovery mission on hold due to continued risk of avalanche in the area.

David Lama
Courtesy of Red Bull Content Pool

In our recent feature Inside the Minds of the World’s Greatest Solo Adventurers, we profiled David Lama who said: “Mental preparation starts with asking yourself if you want to do it, if it feels right, and if it feels possible. I sometimes get the impression that it’s hard for people to understand how simple the process of it all is. In the end, it comes down to your confidence and knowing that it’s worth it because it’s a dream of yours.”

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