More than a year after his death, climber Jess Roskelley's family is channeling their grief into something positive

More than a year after his death, climber Jess Roskelley's family is channeling their grief into something positive
Jon Jonckers photo
Jess Roskelley died in an avalanche in 2019.

There's no right or wrong way to grieve for the loss of a loved one. For some, the grieving never ends. It only changes its shape.

A little more than year after the death of famed alpine climber and lifelong Spokanite Jess Roskelley, the Roskelley family is trying to channel their grief into something positive. Something constructive. Something that Jess would be encouraged to be a part of.

Early in 2020, the Roskelley family started the Jess Roskelley Foundation, a local nonprofit that would help to seek resources for public projects and outdoor recreation in the region that Jess loved and called home.

"It was a really powerful thing for the Roskelley family to do. To put our heads together while we're grieving toward a positive direction," says Jess's widow, Allison Roskelley, secretary of the foundation.

"He had a really outstanding legacy as a climber, and I think it's important to use that for the public good," says his father, John Roskelley, a famous climber himself and president of the foundation.

Earlier this year, the foundation committed $48,000 to help fund the installation of the "Jess Roskelley Boulder," a climbing boulder for children to play on that will be located in the Great Floods playground in Riverfront Park in Spokane.

"We did a quick fundraiser and it worked out really well. We're looking at that being installed in October," John Roskelley says (noting that the installation is pending any setbacks from the COVID-19 pandemic).

The playground is scheduled to open in the spring of 2021.

The foundation is also looking at contributing funds to the Deep Creek Canyon area — where the Bower Climbing Coalition installed a new vault toilet — in Riverside State Park, which was an area that Jess frequently visited, the family says. That project will include an outdoors kiosk explaining the geographical formation of the area as well as some info about Jess, his father says.

The family says additional projects are on the horizon, though nothing has been solidified with the foundation, which also includes Jess's sister Jordan Roskelley, mother Joyce Roskelley and family friends Tim Sanford and Mike Maurer.

Jess Roskelley had recently earned a sponsorship with the North Face and was at the top of his game in April 2019 when he went on a trip to Howse Peak with Austrian climbers David Lama and Hansjörg Auer. The three would not return from their trip. Roskelley was just 36.

The response was swift. The donations started coming in immediately, Allison Roskelley says, not just from Jess's sponsor and the climbing community, but from regular people.

"It was very evident through his life and passing how much of an influence he was, not just in the climbing world but in Spokane as well," she says. "We wanted to make sure that legacy and impact didn't die with his passing."

John Roskelley, 71, says he wants to see the foundation to carry on well into the future.

"I see Jess in photographs every day and it triggers memories of him," his father says. "I remember him as a good soul, and he would be, I think, encouraged and proud to be part of a foundation that is giving back to what he got out of being here in Spokane." ♦

Updates on the Jess Roskelley Foundation are available on their Instagram page (@jessroskelleyfoundation) where a link to donations can be found. Interested parties can donate to the foundation by visiting

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