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Body of renowned climber recovered from avalanche field on forbidding Canadian mountain

By Monica Bielanko, AccuWeather senior producer
April 23, 2019, 1:56:36 PM EDT

The bodies of Jess Roskelley, 36, along with two Austrian climbers were recovered Sunday from an avalanche field in Alberta's Banff National Park.

Roskelley, of Spokane, Washington, along with David Lama, 28, and Hansjörg Auer, 35, was attempting to climb a route on the harrowing Howse Peak that hasn't been climbed in decades. When Roskelley failed to call his family last Tuesday, his father, John Roskelley, called the park. Parks Canada searchers in a helicopter reported seeing signs that the three were swept off Howse Peak by an avalanche. Continued avalanche risk and bad weather kept crews from recovering the bodies.

The elder Roskelley, one of the greatest climbers of his generation, traveled from Spokane to Alberta with Jess's mother, sister and wife to meet with search teams and wait for word on Jess's fate. As the family's hometown newspaper, The Spokesman-Review, reports, the trio stayed in the Airbnb that The North Face, Jess's sponsor, rented for his climb. It was a difficult few days for the family and close friends, who shared pizza and wine and told stories about Jess. A very stoic John Roskelley talked to reporters about how his son knew the risks and he died doing what he loved. But there were moments, as The Spokesman-Review notes, when it all became too much.

Jess Roskelley summit photo

A last image recovered from Jess Roskelley's phone which was found among climbing debris in the avalanche that killed the 3 climbers, shows the men had reached the summit of dangerous Howse Peak. (Instagram/JessRosskelley)

By Friday evening, the reality of the grim fate his son had suffered began to set in. He'd been reading media reports on his son, taking time to reach out and correct mistakes in some stories, all while responding to emails from concerned friends and loved ones. Eventually, he became overwhelmed by it all, The Spokesman-Review reports, and he broke down.

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“I can’t take it,” he reportedly said as he left the room where family members had gathered.

Jess's sister, Jordan Roskelley, said her brother died doing what he lived for.

"He would always say, 'If something happens, you have to take care of Mom and Dad, and take care of Allison','' Jordan Roskelley told NBC, referring to the climber's 32-year-old wife. "I’m doing the best I can to do that for him."

The climbers' bodies were recovered Sunday along with their gear and Jess's phone. Among the last photos taken by Jess, the family discovered an image of the three climbers smiling from what is believed to be the Howse Peak summit on Tuesday, just before their deaths. The trio had reached the peak.

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