A year ago Thursday, Jess Roskelley alongside two other world-class climbers, headed into the predawn darkness of the Canadian Rockies.
Over the course of the next seven or so hours, the trio ascended a difficult and dangerous new route up Howse Peak. As the three descended from their successful summit, a slab of ice and snow collapsed, ripping them from the wall and to their deaths.
Thursday, at 5 p.m., family and friends around the world will gather virtually to remember Roskelley.
“I want people to be thinking about him this month and I hope he’s thought about this month forever,” said Allison Roskelley, his widow.
Initially, the family had planned to go to Canada to mark the year anniversary of Roskelley’s death, said Jordan Roskelley, his sister. They were also planning a remembrance party in Spokane, but the coronavirus pandemic ended those plans. Instead, the family – like so many others – will move its celebration online.
“We will get to see people we otherwise wouldn’t be able to see,” said Joyce Roskelley, Jess’ mother. “I think it’s really joyful. I’m not feeling sad about it.”
It’s been a tough year for the family, with each month bringing a new first without, for instance, a birthday or holiday.
“There are new milestones. Every month there is one,” Jordan said. “It’s your first without that person. And that sucks. But I think there is a lot of things that hurt. But there are a lot of good things as well.”
One of those good things is the Jess Roskelley Foundation. The nonprofit formed by the family hopes to promote public outdoor projects in Spokane and the region.
“He loved Spokane. He never wanted to live anywhere else,” Joyce Roskelley said. “How can we do something in his memory that will be helpful to the community?”
The nonprofit has helped raise money for a trailhead remodel at Riverside State Park’s Deep Creek climbing area, although it is not the primary organization working on that project.
The first major project, the family hopes, will be to install large artificial boulders in some of Spokane’s parks, particularly in lower-income areas. Modeled after existing boulders in Bozeman and elsewhere, these boulders are good for kids or adults to safely scramble.
That project is still in its infancy with the foundation and the city just starting to talk, John Roskelley, Jess’ father, said.
“The Spokane community was very important to him,” Alison Roskelley said. “He was always giving back in different ways. He had people’s back. And so, I just think we have a responsibility to have his back and to continue that.”
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