Austria fears for three top climbers missing in Banff National Park

BERLIN — Austrian Chancellor Sebastian Kurz said Friday his thoughts are with the friends and families of two of the country’s best-known climbers missing and feared dead in Canada along with an American alpinist following an avalanche.

David Lama and Hansjorg Auer have been missing in Alberta’s Banff National Park since Wednesday together with American climber Jess Roskelley. Their sponsor, outdoor apparel company The North Face, said the three members of its Global Athlete Team are presumed dead.

Kurz said Lama and Auer had “shaped the international climbing and alpinist scene in recent years with many achievements.”

Lama, 28, was feted for achieving the first free ascent in 2012 of the Compressor Route of the Cerro Torre, one of the most striking peaks in the Andes. The feat was captured in the 2013 documentary “Cerro Torre – A Snowball’s Chance in Hell.”

The son of a Nepalese mountain guide and an Austrian woman, Lama had also won numerous climbing competitions in his younger years before devoting himself full-time to mountaineering in 2011.

Auer, 35, became the first person to free solo climb Italy’s Marmolada peak via the south face in 2007.

Parks Canada said the three men were attempting to climb the east face of Howse Peak on the Icefields Parkway on Wednesday.

Officials said safety specialists immediately responded by air and observed signs of multiple avalanches and debris containing climbing equipment.

Roskelley climbed Mount Everest in 2003 at age 20. At the time he was the youngest American to climb the world’s highest peak.

His father, John Roskelley, told The Spokesman-Review, that the route his son and the other climbers were attempting was first done in 2000.

In the 2013 documentary, Lama addressed the constant peril extreme climbers are exposed to, insisting that the risks were carefully calculated — more like a game of poker than Russian roulette.

“I think it’s important to be aware of the risks, but in the end there will always be things that are out of our hands,” he said.

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