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Tragedy on Howse Peak: David Lama, Jess Roskelley, and Hansjörg Auer Presumed Dead in Avalanche

According to Parks Canada, three celebrated young alpinists—Jess Roskelley, David Lama, and Hansjörg Auer—have reportedly perished in the Canadian Rockies.

Updated 4/22/19 with a statement from Parks Canada and a photo from Jess Roskelley’s recovered phone.

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Mt. Howse, seen from Chephren Lake Trail in Banff National Park, where the three alpinists were caught in an avalanche.潘世博/Flickr; CC BY-SA 2.0

Three of today’s strongest young alpinists are believed to have perished on Howse Peak in Alberta, Canada. American climber Jess Roskelley, 36, and Austrian climbers David Lama, 28, and Hansjörg Auer, 35, were attempting the M16 route on the tallest peak in the Waputik range, when an avalanche on Tuesday, April 16 evidently engulfed the trio.

According to spokesman.com, Roskelley had told his father, John Roskelley, that he would call to check in Tuesday evening. Roskelley never called, and the following morning his father alerted the Parks Service, which launched a helicopter search mission. 

In a statement regarding the incident, Parks Canada reported:

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John (left) and Jess Roskelley in Denver, Colorado, in 2017. Cameron Burns

On April 21, Parks Canada provided the following update:

A photo from Roskelley’s  recovered phone suggests that the climbers summited the peak before the accident.

https://www.instagram.com/p/Bwi0thBDEKu/

John Roskelley, father of Jess and one of the most accomplished mountaineers of his generation, commented on FaceBook:

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Jess Roskelley on the summit of Idiot Peak, looking back at the ride below during the first ascent of the Mount Huntington South Ridge Traverse.Clint Helander

Jess Roskelley, native to Spokane, Washington, began mountain guiding as a teenager in the Pacific Northwest, having summited Mount Rainier as a guide 35 times by the time he was 20. Roskelley rose to mountaineering fame in 2003 when, at age 20, he became the youngest person to summit Mount Everest. Later in his career, Roskelley put up serious first ascents in Alaska, like the massive Mount Huntington South Ridge Traverse, and repeat ascents in Patagonia. Read a statement from the Roskelley family here.

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David Lama during his expedition to the South East ridge of Annapurna III in Nepal, April 2016.Menk Rufibach / Red Bull Content Pool

David Lama, from Innsbruck, Austria, is one of the world’s strongest climbers across every discipline. In 2006 he won the European championship for lead climbing, in 2007 the championship for bouldering, then went on to summit some of the most difficult alpine peaks in the world. In 2012, Lama famously completed the first free ascent of the Compressor Route on Cerro Torre. More recently, in 2018, Lama summited the tallest unclimbed peak in the Himalaya, Lunag Ri, solo, after two prior failed attempts with Conrad Anker, including one where Anker suffered a heart attack.

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Hansjörg Auer during the attempt of the South East Ridge of Annapurna III in Nepal, April 2016.Alexander Blümel / Red Bull Content Pool

Hansjörg Auer was born in Ötztal, Austria, and began climbing as a teenager in the Dolomites. Perhaps Auer’s most notable achievement is his free solo of The Fish in 2007, a 37-pitch slab route graded 5.12c on the south face of the Marmolada in the Italian Dolomites. Auer was also recently the first to solo Lupghar Sar West in the Karakoram range in Pakistan.

The trio had been in the Canadian Rockies together for nearly two weeks, having already summited Mount Andromeda via Andromeda Strain before attempting M16. The three young climbers were at the cutting edge of alpinism.