Austrian climbers David Lama and Hansjorg Auer and American Jess Roskelley were caught in an avalanche on April 16 on the northeast face of Howse Peak in the Canadian Rockies. Days after being presumed dead, their bodies were found and recovered by search and rescue workers.
After they were reported missing, park officials searched for them via air and “observed signs of multiple avalanches and debris containing climbing equipment,” Parks Canada said. The three were attempting to climb M16, a grave VI route that had only been climbed once, back in 1999 by Steve House, Barry Blanchard and Scott Backes.
Chelsey Dawes, a spokeswoman with Parks Canada, said it looked as though a size three avalanche had hit the climbers. “Parks Canada extends our sincere condolences to their families, friends and loved ones,” Parks Canada said. “We would also like to acknowledge the impact that this has had on the tight-knit, local and international climbing communities.”
We have learned that three members of our Global Athlete Team @davidlama_official, @jessroskelley and @hansjoergauer 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. David, Jess, and Hansjörg are valued and loved members of The North Face family and we are doing everything we can to support their families friends and community during this difficult time. We will continue to keep you updated and ask that you keep our athletes and their loved ones in your hearts and thoughts.
The three climbers were in Canada for the spring alpine climbing season, which has seen many of the world’s best climbers visit the Rockies this year. A few days before their deaths, they made a quick ascent of Andromeda Strain IV M5 on Mount Andromeda.
Considered by many to be three of the best alpinists in the world, there was an outpouring of memories and messages shared on social media. We’ve included only a few below. Our condolences to the family and friends of Auer, Lama and Roskelley.
“Mountains help me navigate what is most important to me. They balance the chaos that is regular life. Balance is what I strive to accomplish in climbing – a balance of life, love and mountains. Alpine climbing is a life-long commitment. I live and breathe it.” – Jess Roskelley • The response we’ve received from the climbing community and the myriad of family, friends, acquaintances and The North Face team has been unbelievable. Our deepest condolences go out to the families of David Lama and Hansjörg Auer. Jess looked up to the two of them and was so excited to climb with them. • “By endurance, we conquer.” • Love Alli, John, Joyce, Jordan and Dawn Roskelley
David lebte für die Berge und seine Leidenschaft für das Klettern und Bergsteigen hat uns als Familie geprägt und begleitet. Er folgte stets seinem Weg und lebte seinen Traum. Das nun Geschehene werden wir als Teil davon akzeptieren.⠀ ⠀ Wir bedanken uns für die zahlreichen positiven Worte und Gedanken von nah und fern, und bitten um Verständnis, dass es keine weitere Stellungnahme von uns geben wird. Vielmehr bitten wir David mit seiner Lebensfreude, seiner Tatkräftigkeit und mit Blick Richtung seiner geliebten Berge in Erinnerung zu behalten. ⠀ ⠀ Die Familien von Hansjörg und Jess schließen wir in unsere Gedanken ein⠀ ⠀ Claudia & Rinzi Lama⠀ ____________________________________⠀ ⠀ David dedicated his life to the mountains and his passion for climbing and alpinism shaped and accompanied our family. He always followed his own path and lived his dream. We will accept what now happened as a part of that.⠀ ⠀ We appreciate the numerous positive words and thoughts from near and far. Please understand that there will be no further comments from our side. We ask you to remember David for his zest for life, his enthusiasm and with a view towards his beloved mountains. ⠀ ⠀ Our thoughts are with Hansjörg’s and Jess‘ family⠀ ⠀ Claudia & Rinzi Lama
“Climbing and mountaineering on the borderline of possible is a game – a risky game… but one that I cannot live without. The game is simple, the rules always the same. The present moment counts for everything. I want to do things that push me. With all my heart or not at all. The more intense it is, the more enriching it is, and the stronger the feeling that I am heading in the right direction. I do however begin to ponder. Especially when I am injured or after a close call. I think about my friends. I think about what it would be like if one day I didn’t return, if I had to pay the price for the mountains. And yet I cannot resist to take on the challenge time after time. I will never stop searching because what I find fascinates me every time I head out.“ Thank you to all for your kind words. Our thoughts are with the families and friends of David and Jess. Family and Friends of Hansjörg. • “Klettern und Bergsteigen im Grenzbereich ist kein Spiel ohne Risiko – aber eines ohne das ich nicht leben kann. Das Spiel ist relativ einfach, die Regeln sind immer die gleichen. Das einzige was zählt ist der Moment. Ich will etwas tun, das mich fordert. Ganz oder gar nicht. Je intensiver, umso mehr bekomme ich retour und umso mehr spüre ich, dass ich auf dem richtigen Weg bin. Aber manchmal beginne ich dann doch nachzudenken. Besonders wenn ich verletzt bin oder wenn es wieder einmal knapp hergegangen ist. Ich denke an meine Freunde, Ich denke daran wie es wäre, wenn ich einmal nicht mehr zurück käme, wenn ich den Preis für die Berge bezahlen müsste. Und doch kann ich es dann nicht lassen, mich der Herausforderung das eine ums andere Mal zu stellen. Ich werde nie aufhören zu suchen, weil das was ich finde mich jedes Mal aufs Neue fasziniert.“ Vielen Dank für die vielen positiven Worte. Unsere Gedanken sind bei den Familien und Freunden von David und Jess. Familie und Freunde von Hansjörg. ▲ Thoughts by Hansjörg Auer – 2015 • Gedanken von Hansjörg Auer aus dem Jahr 2015
This mountain, Howse Peak is among the most powerful mountains I’ve ever known. She changed many lives this week; in tragic ways. I lost three friends, three brothers. That is the least of it, I’m sure. I knew all three, but I knew @hansjoergauer best of all. He was a both a friend and a God to me. The greatest confusion for me personally in this moment is the role of the route M16. A route I climbed over five days, now so vividly remembered, over 20 years ago. That climb took myself and Scott Backes and Barry Blanchard to the limits of skill, power, judgement, and yes—luck. It challenged our very life-force and we nearly lost. I climbed one of the most difficult and dangerous pitches of my life. Barry was very nearly killed by collapsing snow. Scott held us together as a team far more powerful than it’s parts, then, and forever after. And now that power we knew, has killed. I wish I had words to help the mournful understand who this mountain is. What climbing Howse Peak’s precipitous East Face means. It is simply this: The truest testing place of the most powerful men on their very best days. An arena for those rare and mighty, honed, long-practiced men that are challenged by nothing less than to be locked in struggle to the death with one of the mightiest powers on earth. These men were warriors, Knights, dragon killers seeking fleeting, hot-forged perfection through the dangerous path of alpinism, the creative physical expression of power over the most high, inhospitable, inhuman terrain on earth. To be honest I’m a little afraid to put this out there like that now, in 2019. Seems somewhat out of step with where we are as a society. But damn it, it’s the truth. These were great men. The true 01%. This is something each of them proved with actions over and over again. These men were immeasurable. They were not men, but Gods living among us. And now they’re back with their God. And we are less. Our loss immeasurable. It is with the deepest respect and the biggest ❤️ and wet streams of tears that I, that we, begin to adjust to life among mere mortals, a poorer life, and we begin to say goodbye.
The north and east faces of Howse Peak as seen from the road. M16 climbs the thin ice veins just left of center and finishes up the gully in the middle that leads to the summit. This is an old photo but rarely does this peak look this good as far as ice conditions are concerned. Being an elite alpinist is a high stakes game, and I’m deeply saddened to hear of that three of the most accomplished alpine climbers perished here a few days ago attempting this one. In my humble opinion, mixed alpine climbing in the Canadian Rockies is particularly dangerous, and difficult due to generally bad rock and an often variable snowpack, but especially in Springtime when the overhead hazards are the biggest. I feel the Rockies require more patience, and more respect, than other ranges, at least any of the ones I’ve personally visited. I’ve said this a lot now, mostly just to close friends. Having climbed a lot in this area for 20 years now, including right up the middle of Howse via a mixed NE buttress / upper M16 combo, this news just hits really close to home. I never met any of these guys, but their list of accomplishments speak for themselves. Deepest condolences to the family and friends of Jess, David, and Hansjorg.
It hurts to feel the crushing magnitude of losing people you not only really care about, but also that are such iconic figureheads of our community. My heart breaks and I am praying for the direct family members and loved ones involved. Jess was one of the most driven, positive, humble, goofy, and kind friends. He accomplished daunting mountains with a smile and inspiring ability to encourage you to see no limits, too. Despite the magnitude of his accomplishments, he wasn’t “above” anyone. He was a genuine, radical guy and husband to an equally inspiring, kickass woman, @alliroskelley David Lama- who in our direct community doesn’t have a story…? Soft spoken, genuine BADASS. Footsy (@magmidt 😭) It’s been some time since the three of us hung out together but I will never forget how you have always been the number one climber I have looked up to’s career…the childhood prodigy turned all-rounded mountain climbing technician. He was the guy that could probably come back from a long expedition and still fire 5.14’s like he never left the gym. Hansjorg; an Austrian legend, I didn’t know you as personally so well but man, your accomplishments were so damn legendary. It’s so hard for me to wrap my mind around this except for the fact that the mountains are at once beautiful and merciless. These guys knew what they were doing in the mountains. They were straight legends. That’s what is terrifying to me. It doesn’t matter who you are or what your resume is: extremely unlucky circumstances can still happen. 💔.
Today is a sad sad day, beyond words. My heart breaks for the families of our friends @jessroskelley @hansjoergauer and @davidlama_official . We have lost some of the greatest, most genuine, kind hearted souls in this small alpine climbing community. Heavy air rests over the Canadian Rockies. Photo two is of Jess on the lower Weeping Wall last year, when he and his partner came upon Marc and I having an epic. We later met up for a drink, shared stores and laughed about our flounderings. He was one of the first and most qualified people to contact me last year during the rescue efforts when Marc went missing. I am terribly, terribly sorry for his wife Allison and his family. The final photo was taken just last week when David, Haunsjoerg and Jess came to my presentation. So humble and so kind, their smiles have left a deep mark on me. Again, thoughts and love go forward to their families.
I heard about David Lama as a climbing prodigy before we even met on the first competition in Italy when I was 7 years old and he was 10. He would grow into a teenager who would show up on the World cups for the first time that year and ended up winning most of them that season. With a style that was hard to believe – with a total ease, elegance and kind of ingnoring that those routes were actually hard. Quickly he lost interest in competitions and turned his attention where his heart really desired to be – the mountains. He quickly turned into one of the best alpinist with feats like first free ascent of Compressor route on Cerro Torre. David was a true character, always trying to go his own way. Something that needs a lot courage and passion – none of it he was lacking of. So sad to hear about his tragical loss together with Hansjorg Auer and Jess Rosskelley. Mountains are amazing playground that makes us feel free. Just don’t forget they can be merciless. Be safe.
Super bummed to hear about to loss of @davidlama_official, @hansjoergauer, and @jessroskelley. There’s really no other way to put it. Three of the best alpinists in the world lost in one unfortunate accident. Condolences to the families and the whole community of climbers who’ve tied in with each of them.
RIP @davidlama_official , @hansjoergauer and @jessroskelley What a shock for our whole community losing three amazing athletes in one single day 😢 When I started climbing Fuzzy (David) was already the star on our team, the most talented climber I have ever seen and someone I learned so much from growing up, training and competing together. Even though our paths parted when he started to focus on Alpinism we still followed each others careers and I had huge respect for his expeditions. Häns (Hansjörg) was never on our team but a big part of our climbing community nevertheless. We climbed a lot together in Ötztal and I got to know him as one of the friendliest and most fun guys. Häns was so chill, always great to have around and extremely humble, sometimes I‘d even forget that he is one of the craziest badasses out there soloing the Fisch (!!) and doing tough expeditions around the world. . I will never forget all the amazing moments I had with you guys, I miss you. RIP 🙏
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, Alison 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.
We are deeply saddened by the loss of our athletes, Jess Roskelley, David Lama, and Hansjörg Auer. To say @davidlama_official represented just the dynamic nature of climbing would be an understatement as his name was synonymous with the progression of the sport. At a young age he took his skills as a sport climber to the top level, winning competitions from 2004 to 2008. But even with this competition success, David was at home climbing and skiing taller peaks. In 2012 his free ascent of the Compressor Route on Cerro Torre was considered a landmark ascent of alpine climbing. In 2018 he realized his dream of first ascending Lunag Ri in the home country of his father, Nepal, a climb that will be forever remembered as his. David had the mind of an engineer and the heart of a humanitarian and will be remembered by us as the most passionate climber we’ve ever encountered. Our team, the climbing community, and the sport will miss him dearly.
We are deeply saddened by the loss of our athletes, Jess Roskelley, David Lama, and Hansjörg Auer. @hansjoergauer had a one of a kind relationship with the mountains and wanted to experience them in every way he could. The mountains of Austria were truly his blank canvas, and whether it was free climbing, paragliding, skiing, or ice climbing he could add his unique signature to them in a multitude of ways. He excelled at everything he did and from an early age was driven to improve his ability across all disciplines. In 2007, he free soloed the Marmolada in the Dolomites and recently combined a link of solo ascents with a paraglider descents. His ascents in the Himalaya centered on the hidden peaks in the 7000m range – most recently a solo ascent of Lupghar Sar West. Hansjörg was the soul of climbing and had such an honest approach to life. We’ll miss Hansjörg’s lanky stride and his very simple way of making the hardest routes his own. We’ll miss his excitement for the next adventure, and will honor him by embodying this into everything we do.