Three well-known mountain climbers are presumed dead after they were caught in an avalanche in Canada’s Rocky Mountains earlier this week.
Austrian climbers David Lama and Hansjorg Auer, and American climber Jess Roskelley, had set out to scale the 10,810ft Howse Peak at Banff National Park but never returned.
Search teams sent out to find the missing climbers on Wednesday found signs of “multiple avalanches”, along with “debris containing climbing equipment”.
In a statement, Parks Canada said: “Based on the assessment of the scene, all three members of the party are presumed to be deceased.”
Efforts to recover the climbers’ remains have so far been halted due to a heightened avalanche risk, with officials noting the “exceptionally difficult objective” of the peak.
The group were all members of a global athlete team with outdoor apparel company North Face, which said on Thursday that it was waiting to hear more information on its “valued and loved members”.
The company added: “We are doing everything we can to support their families, friends and community during this difficult time.”Jess Roskelley
Mr Roskelly, the son of a professional climber, became the youngest American to climb Mount Everest in 2003, when he was 20 years old. His record was later broken by 13-year-old Jordan Romero.
His father John told the Spokesman-Review on Thursday that the group had been attempting a route that had only been completed for the first time just two decades earlier.
He said: “It’s just one 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.”
The climber to first establish the route, Steve House, described leading “one of the hardest pitches of my life” during his ascent of the peak.
Mr Roskelley’s climbing partners on Howse Peak were just as experienced.
Mr Lama became the first person to scale the Lunag Ri mountain solo in Nepal in 2018, while Mr Auer is best known for his solo ascents, including a ropeless climb of a face on Marmolada mountain in Italy.
In a tweet on Friday morning, Austrian Chancellor Sebastian Kurz paid tribute to the two Austrian climbers.
They “have shaped the international climbing and alpine scene with a variety of successes in recent years,” he wrote.
Conrad Anker, a professional climber who was originally due to partner Mr Lama on the Lunag Ri ascent before suffering a heart attack, released a statement on his fellow sportsmen.
On Instagram, he wrote: “We choose to play by the rules of the mountains because they are our calling.
“The intensity of the high alpine, guarded by wind and snow and ruled by gravity, is where we find these moments that define us as people.”
“We accept the loss that strikes unaware in return for the bonds of friendship created by experiencing life in the majesty of nature”.
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