Jess Roskelley on top of The Citadel (8,520 ft), April 2016, during the first ascent of Westman's World (VI M7 AI4X A3 70°). © Ben Erdmann
Jess Roskelley is an American alpinist who is well-known for his Alaskan new routes, characterised by their difficult mixed terrain and commitment. Born in July 1982 and raised in Spokane, Washington, mountains are part of Jess' DNA.
He grew up in an outdoor sports family and spent his youth hiking, backpacking, climbing and mountain biking throughout the Pacific north-west. His father, John, has an impressive mountaineering record, with several Himalayan first ascents in the 70’s and 80’s to his name.
Jess recalls: “My dad used to put me on his back and we would mountain bike through the Tetons, the Selkirks, and other ranges looking for moose, elk and antelope. He took me on many climbs as well and, as I grew older, I knew then that mountain climbing was in my blood.”
Jess was a three-sport varsity athlete throughout high school, competing in wrestling, cross-country and track. Sports that developed endurance, strength and determination. He also raced mountain bikes and snowboarded during the winter months.
Jess Roskelley, Tokkum Pole (WI 5+), Marble Canyon, Canada. © Ben Herndon
Passing the Rainier Mountain Guides exam at age 18, Jess began guiding clients on Mt. Rainier thereafter. During his breaks from multiple ascents of Washington's highest peak, he would find more challenging alpine climbs throughout the Cascades, developing a passion for more extreme mixed ice and rock routes. "Extreme alpine climbing challenges me mentally and physically. There are very few activities where rigorous training and past experience are essential to making immediate and critical life and death decisions,” says Roskelley
In March 2003, Jess and his father, travelled to Mount Everest as members of the 'Generations on Everest' expedition. On May 21st, the pair reached the summit of Mt. Everest via the North Col/North Ridge Tibet route. At the time, 20 years old Jess, became the youngest American to stand on top of the world's highest mountain. He's gone on to climb peaks and routes throughout the world, focusing on unclimbed lines and other extreme alpine routes in the Alaskan Kichatna Mountains, the Canadian Rockies and Patagonia. “I can do the high altitude game, but nothing excites me more than the prospect of a new steep mixed alpine route,” says Roskelley.
Such notable ascents include:
- The first ascent of the 3,700-foot Hypa Zypa Couloir (VI 5.10R A3 AI5+ M6+, 3,700') on the east face of The Citadel (8,520') in Alaska's Kichatna Range. Climbed with Ben Erdmann and Kristoffer Szilas of Denmark in April 2013 over 70-hours camp to camp, the route follows a striking line just left of Supa Dupa Couloir (VI ED4 3,700') - a 2003 route (Piolet d'Or by nominee) Mike 'Twid' Turner, Stu McAleese and Olly Sanders.
- On a trip in April 2014 to the unfrequented Trident Glacier region in Alaska's Kichatna Spires, Jess and Ben Erdmann, came away with two new routes. First up was a 1,500-foot mixed line, The SnickleFritz (5.9 A2 M5 80°), on the southeast side of the ridge in-between the middle and north forks of the Trident Glacier. On the north-east face of Augustin (8,514') they then added the "classic and enjoyable" Erdmann-Roskelley NE Face (IV M3 70°, 4,000') - likely to have been the second ascent of this mountain.
- Teaming up with fellow American alpinist, John Frieh, in May 2014, the pair established a difficult new mixed line on the West Witches Tit. No Rest For the Wicked, (WI6 M7 A0, 1,500') was climbed in a 36-hour single push and probably the fifth overall ascent of the peak, on the Stikine Ice Cap in south-east Alaska. The hardest pitch for Roskelley was a 15-inch offwidth with bulging alpine ice in the back of it. Describing it for Alpinist, Jess wrote: "...the only thing that really held me into the crack was puffing my chest out with a deep breath. The top of the offwidth ended at the bottom of a long overhang that was one of the hardest things I have ever climbed in the mountains."
- In April 2016, Erdmann and Roskelley, returned to The Citadel, but this time to climb a new line from the other side of the mountain on the west face, joining Hypa Zypa 300 feet below the summit. Westman's World (VI M7 AI4X A3 70°) was named in honour of their "dear friend, mentor and Captain, Mark Westman, who holds a legendary presence in Alaskan climbing history".
You can follow Jess's adventures and those of his very cute British Bulldog, called 'Mugs Stump', on Instagram
Jess Roskelley on the first ascent of Westman's World (VI M7 AI4X A3 70°) on The Citadel (8,520 ft), Kichatna Spires, Alaska. © Ben Erdmann