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Three Climbers Presumed Dead in Banff Avalanche


FILE - A mountain range inside Banff national Park is seen in the early morning in Lake Louise, Alberta, Dec. 2, 2010. The national park, Canada's oldest, is in the Rocky Mountains. Howse Peak is about 55 kilometers northwest of Lake Louise.

Three renowned mountain climbers are presumed dead after an avalanche in Alberta’s Banff National Park, Canadian officials said Thursday.

Outdoor apparel company The North Face said that American Jess Roskelley and Austrians David Lama and Hansjorg Auer disappeared while attempting to climb the east face of Howse Peak on the Icefields Parkway. They were reported overdue Wednesday.

“They are missing, and local search and rescue has assumed the worst,” North Face said in a statement.

FILE - Jess Roskelley, then 20, answers questions during a news conference in Seattle, March 13, 2003.
FILE - Jess Roskelley, then 20, answers questions during a news conference in Seattle, March 13, 2003.

Roskelley climbed Mount Everest in 2003 at age 20. At the time he was the youngest American to climb the world’s highest peak.

The North Face says it is doing what it can to support the climbers’ families and friends.

Parks Canada said the three men were attempting to climb the east face of Howse Peak on the Icefields Parkway Wednesday.

Officials say recovery efforts are on hold because of a continued risk of avalanches.

Parks Canada says safety specialists immediately responded by air and observed signs of multiple avalanches and debris containing climbing equipment.

“Parks Canada extends its sincerest condolences to the families, friends and loved ones of the mountaineers,” Parks Canada said in a statement.

Roskelley’s father, John Roskelley, was himself a world-renowned climber who had many notable ascents in Nepal and Pakistan, mostly in the 1970s. John Roskelley joined his son on the successful Everest expedition in 2003.

Jess Roskelley grew up in Spokane, Washington, where his father was a county commissioner. John Roskelley told The Spokesman-Review the route his son and the other climbers were attempting was first done in 2000.

“It’s just one of those routes where you have to have the right conditions or it turns into a nightmare. This is one of those trips where it turned into a nightmare,” John Roskelley said.

John Roskelley had climbed the 10,810-foot Howse Peak, via a different route, in the 1970s and knows the area well. On Thursday he was preparing to go to Canada to gather Jess Roskelley’s belongings and see if he could get into the area.

“It’s in an area above a basin,” he said. “There must have been a lot of snow that came down and got them off the face.”

The elder Roskelley said: “When you’re climbing mountains, danger is not too far away. ... It’s terrible for my wife and I. But it’s even worse for his wife.”

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