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Unfavourable weather hampers recovery effort in Banff National Park for elite climbers
Parks Canada officials say the aerial search effort for the bodies of three missing climbers in Banff National Park has been delayed as significant snowfall poses too much of a risk for a helicopter.
Environment Canada issued a snowfall warning for sections of the park near the Banff townsite, Lake Louise and the Icefields Parkway Thursday evening as approximately 10 centimetres of snow was expected to fall. The warning ended late Friday afternoon.
Three experienced climbers were scaling the daunting Howse Peak route along the Icefields Parkway on Wednesday afternoon when an avalanche occurred. The trio have been identified as 35-year-old Hansjörg Auer and 28-year-old David Lama, both of Austria, and 36-year-old Jess Roskelley of the United States . The three were members of The North Face’s Global Athlete Team.
According to Parks Canada, climbing equipment and evidence of slides were spotted during an initial aerial search of the area and the three climbers are presumed dead.
Only one group has completed this particular route of the Howse Peak climb and it came at a cost. Barry Blanchard, who resides in Canmore, and two of his friends navigated the route in 1999 but Blanchard broke his leg along the way and had to be flown out. Blanchard knows the Rosskelley family as Jess’ father John is a respected member of the climbing community.
“I had a conversation with his father,” said Blanchard. “It’s a heartbreaking tragedy and my heart goes out to that family and the other families involved.”
The mixed alpine route is rated at an expert level as the elite level climbers will encounter snow, ice and rock on their way to the top.
In an Instagram post, Lama’s parents asked that their son be remembered for his zest for life, enthusiasm, and willingness to follow his own path to live his dream, and that they accept what happened to him was part of his life pursuit.
Search and rescue crews are waiting for a break in the weather to resume their recovery mission.
With files from CTV's Brenna Rose