Three world-renowned climbers are missing and presumed to have died in an avalanche in in Alberta’s famous Banff National Park in Canada.
Outdoor apparel company The North Face has confirmed the three members of its Global Athlete Team — American alpinist Jess Roskelley and Austrian climbers David Lama, 28, and Hansjörg Auer, 35, are missing.
The trio were attempting a route that has only been climbed once, Canada’s CBC reports.
Mr Roskelley climbed Mount Everest in 2003 at age 20. At the time he was the youngest person 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 on Wednesday.
The three climbers were attempting to scale the east side of the Peak, which Parks Canada described as a “remote and an exceptionally difficult objective, with mixed rock and ice routes requiring advanced alpine mountaineering skills”.
Howse Peak has a 3,295 metre (10,800 foot) elevation.
According to CBC, they were going up a route on the mountain known as M16.
Eli Francovich, an outdoors reporter with the Spokesman Review newspaper in Spokane told CBC: “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,” Francovich said.
“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.”
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.
“Based on the assessment of the scene, all three members of the party are presumed to be deceased,” Parks Canada’s statement said.
“The three men, one American and two Europeans, are professional mountain athletes and highly experienced. Parks Canada extends its sincerest condolences to the families, friends and loved ones of the mountaineers.”
“Further investigation is underway but recovery efforts are not currently possible due to additional avalanches and dangerous conditions at the scene,” the statement also said.
“The east face of Howse Peak is remote and an exceptionally difficult objective, with mixed rock and ice routes requiring advanced alpine mountaineering skills.”
Mr Lama and Mr Auer’s final Instagram posts show the conditions they were in up in the Canadian Rockies, before they got to Howse Peak.
Like Mr Roskelley, Mr Lama is from a climbing family, and his father was a mountain guide from Nepal.
He won numerous climbing competitions as a teenager.
Mr Auer grew up on a family farm in Austria near the Dolomite mountain range.
He has previously climbed the southwest-face ascent of Pakistan’s Kunyang Chhish East in the Karakorum Mountains and the first ascent of the south face on Nilgiri South in Nepal.
Mr Roskelley’s last post on Instagram shows a cliff face where he was four days ago at Canmore in Alberta.
His 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 Roskelly 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.”