Trio of North Face climbers presumed dead in avalanche at Canada's Banff park

Ryan W. Miller
American Jess Roskelley and Austrians David Lama and Hansjorg Auer were attempting to climb Howse Peak in Canada's Banff National Park, officials say.
In this March 13, 2003 file photo, Jess Roskelley, then 20, answers questions during a news conference in Seattle.

A trio of professional climbers missing at Banff National Park are presumed dead after an avalanche, Canadian park officials and The North Face say.

American Jess Roskelley and Austrians David Lama and Hansjörg Auer, all members of The North Face's Global Athlete Team, were reported overdue earlier this week as they were attempting to climb Howse Peak, the outdoor apparel company said.  

"They are missing, and local search and rescue has assumed the worst," the company said in a statement.

Roskelley, from Spokane, Washington, climbed Mount Everest in 2003 at age 20, becoming the youngest American to do so at the time.

Parks Canada said in a statement Thursday evening that search and recovery efforts were not currently possible "due to weather and dangerous avalanche conditions."

Eli Francovich, an outdoor reporter at the Spokesman Review, told Canada's CBC that Roskelley's father John, also a world-class climber, believed his son had died in the 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," Francovich told CBC.

"Based on the assessment of the scene, all three members of the party are presumed to be deceased," Parks Canada said.

Howse Peak, the mountain the team was attempting to climb, is an extremely challenging climb.

"Of all the people who mountain climb in the world, you’re talking about the top 1% to attempt a route of that nature," Barry Blanchard, associate director of Yamnuska Mountain Adventures in Alberta, told the Star Calgary

All three climbers were among the most elite in the world.

In addition to his Everest summit alongside his father, Roskelley also was the first to ascend many peaks in Alaska, according to Climbing magazine.

Lama, of Innsbruck, Austria, was a European champion in various climbing disciplines and had the first free ascent of the Compressor Route on Cerro Torre in Patagonia, the magazine reported.

Hansjörg Auer, from Ötztal, Austria, was the first to climb The Fish route on Italy's Marmolada in the Dolomites without a rope or any protections, according to Climbing.

"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," the company said in its statement.

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This article originally appeared on USA TODAY: Trio of North Face climbers presumed dead in avalanche at Canada's Banff park