In August, 2003, I was in a gear shop trying on boots for an upcoming Mt Rainier climb. The young man helping me was remarkably kind, patient, respectful and friendly. Hearing my Australian accent, he shared that his girlfriend was studying in Brisbane and that he was keen to go visit her, but, having just returned from Nepal, too broke to do so. I asked if he had been trekking in Nepal, which elicited hoots of good-natured laughter from his colleagues. Shyly, he revealed that he had recently become the youngest person to summit Everest.
The young shop assistant was Jess Roskelley, who summited Everest in May 21, 2003 with his father, John. John had been on previous expeditions, but it wasn't until he took his 20 year old son along, that he was successful. Jess became the youngest person to summit Everest.
Almost 15,000' lower than Everest, a Mt. Rainier climb paled by comparison, but Jess was as encouraging and enthusiastic as if I were heading off to the Himalaya. Over the next few days as I trudged upward, I drew strength from Jess's amazing feat and wished I could help him.
Fortunately, I worked at a travel company specializing in trips to Australia and the big-hearted owner agreed that Jess deserved an assist. In return for delivering an inspirational speech at a local school, Jess received a round trip ticket to Brisbane. Jess signed posters of himself on the top of Everest with the words "I'd rather be in Australia!" His gratitude was effusive and sincere, he wrote us thank you notes when he returned.
Over the years, I followed Jess's blazingly successful career as an elite mountaineer and intrepid traveler, and was not surprised at his many accomplishments. By all reports, he remained a good guy.
This morning I read that Jess is missing, feared dead in the back country of Banff, Canada. Avalanche.
Like many others around the world, I am hoping for an Easter miracle.