On April 21st the bodies of Jess Roskelley, 36, David Lama, 28, and Hansjörg Auer, 35, were recovered from an avalanche field on Howse Peak in the Canadian Rockies.
Jess was a member of DMM's Climbing Team, often attending clinics and climbing festivals for us in the USA, generously sharing his enthusiasm for adventure and climbing. Team manager, Ben Bransby, got to know Jess through working alongside him at events such as Red Rock Rendezvous and 24 Hours of Horseshoe Hell. Below, Ben shares his recollections of Jess from those times:
"I first met Jess in Alabama where I was attending Horseshoe Hell for DMM and Jess was along as a sponsored athlete. I arrived jet-lagged, tired and struggling to cope with the humidity and was slightly dreading meeting the hardcore alpine climber who might be expecting VIP treatment. Jess arrived into the airport terminal with trucker cap, tattoos, and a certain swagger but with a grin from ear to ear which hinted at the easy-going joker beneath."
"We spent a week together that first trip, assembling the stand, camping in the wood, manning the stand, climbing in the 24hr marathon event (sneaking off for burgers and milkshakes in town at one point) and partying afterward. We came from different sides of the climbing game – him more at home amongst the snow and high mountains - but Jess chatted about folk we knew in common and those we didn’t with great enthusiasm and passion. Our climbing overlapped the most in Patagonia and Jess insisted on repeatedly telling people how hardcore I was. I’m not sure if this was entirely due to his own humility or more because he enjoyed watching me squirm. He was instantly hatching plans for trips, to combine his skills on ice and snow with some hard rock."
"He had a real passion for climbing, especially in more remote places, as well as the history of the sport but he was in no way single-minded. We both had dogs and we'd spend hours sharing pictures of his English Bulldog and my fluffy ones. He had an almost child-like curiosity about the medieval history of the UK, asking me how close I lived to a castle, if I had ever been inside one and about kings, queens and knights. I felt slightly guilty for knowing significantly less than him..."
"Jess spent a lot of time talking about his family and plans for the future. He still lived close to his parents and sister and was obviously close to them but mostly he would talk about his wife Allison. He could hardly believe his good fortune that he was with someone so smart, funny and beautiful."
Our thoughts are with the families and friends of Jess Roskelley, David Lama and Hansjörg Auer at this sad time. A huge loss for the climbing community of three immensely talented and inspiring individuals.
The Spokesman-Review takes a look back at Jess’s life with comment from his family: Depths of despair: Climbing family loses son to greatest fear
You can find a tribute page to the three climbers on the North Face website.
The last word is best left to Jess.
“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