The bodies of three professional mountain climbers, including one American, were found following an avalanche in Canada’s Banff National Park.
Austrian climbers David Lama and Hansjörg Auer — as well as American mountaineer Jess Roskelley — were attempting to climb the east face of Howse Peak in Alberta, Canada, when the avalanche occurred, according to CNN. All three men were part of a North Face group called the Global Athlete Team.
When the climbers were reported missing, Canadian park officials started searching for them by air, observing signs of avalanches with “debris containing climbing equipment,” per Parks Canada officials. Even under ideal conditions, their trek was always considered to be a difficult climb, with “mixed rock and ice routes requiring advanced alpine mountaineering skills.”
But Chelsey Dawes, a spokeswoman with Parks Canada, explains that while the men were climbing, a size three avalanche hit — making it nearly impossible to continue.
“Parks Canada extends our sincere condolences to their families, friends and loved ones. We would also like to acknowledge the impact that this has had on the tight-knit, local and international climbing communities.”
The Nelson Star says that a size three avalanche has enough power to bury a car, or even destroy a small building.
Austrian Chancellor Sebastian Kurz commended Lama and Auer, saying that they had “shaped the international climbing and alpinist scene in recent years with many achievements.”
David Lama, 28 — whose father was a Nepalese mountain guide, and his mother an Austrian nurse — achieved the first free ascent of the Compressor Route of the Cerro Torre in 2012, a challenging peak in the Andes. His achievement was featured in the documentary Cerro Torre — A Snowball’s Chance in Hell.
Hansjörg Auer, 35, is noted as the first person to free solo climb Italy’s Marmolada peak via the south face. He achieved this feat in 2007, at the age of 23. Jess Roskelley climbed Mount Everest in 2003, at age 20, and was then the youngest American to climb the world’s highest peak.
CBC is reporting that the three men were attempting to climb via a particular route, one known as M16, which has only been attempted once before.
Eli Francovich — an outdoors reporter with The Spokesman-Review in Spokane, Washington — says he spoke to the climber’s father, John Roskelley, who confirmed that his son was missing and presumed dead on April 22.
“I talked to John Roskelley, Jess’s father, this morning, and he confirmed that Jess was missing, and he thinks he’s dead in an avalanche. Jess was going to check in Tuesday and didn’t, and John called Parks Canada. They sent out a helicopter. They saw an avalanche debris field and one partially buried body.”
The area around Banff is under a “spring avalanche forecast,” according to Avalanche Canada.