Alpinists Jess Roskelley, David Lama, and Hansjörg Auer are presumed 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. All three men, one American and two Austrians, respectively, are members of The North Face Global Athlete Team.
“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 notoriously challenging, and among only a handful of ice climbs with the highest difficulty rating (WI7). Prior to 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.
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.”