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The Indelible Imprint of Grief

In April 2019, three of the world’s leading alpinists—David Lama, Hansjörg Auer, and Jess Roskelley—perished in an avalanche on Howse Peak in the Canadian Rockies. The loss was sudden, shocking, and swift. If the mountains could so capriciously claim the lives of such talented and veteran climbers, they could do so to any of us. It’s a truth that’s long been embedded in the sport, especially the discipline of cutting-edge alpinism.

But what happens to family and loved ones amidst and in the wake of such profound tragedy? How do you process the terrible news in the moment, and then, somehow, get on with the business of living? Given how frequently tragedy happens in our sport, these have always been and will remain important questions.

In episode 27 of her For the Love of Climbing podcast, “Splash in the Pan,” Kathy Karlo talks to Jordan Roskelley, Jess Roskelley’s younger sister, about the heartbreaking loss of her older brother: how she processed the crushing news in the moment, how she came together with her parents—one of them the pioneering alpinist John Roskelley—and how they have honored Jess’s memory with a charitable foundation that helps create and promote public open space in the Pacific Northwest. It’s a great listen—a heavy topic, yes, but one that, sadly, will touch the lives of most or all of us climbers at one point or another.