In our department of pioneer alpinists the presence of Jeff Lowe is always strong. Known for things such as Latok 1978 (possibly one of the strongest achievements in modern alpinism), Lowe was also a Colorado ski alpinist and is still, though now wheelchair bound with a degenerative disease, a booster of all things alpinistic.
Lowe is working on a biopic film they’re calling “Metanoia,” (meaning change within oneself). While the famous alpinist was conceiving his movie project in 2009, climbers serendipitously discovered the backpack he abandoned in 1991 during his ascent of a new route on the famed Eiger north face. The pack was found buried in ice near the top of the mountain. The contents were on display at the OR show in the Liberty Mountain booth, and form an amusing but at the same time sobering look at where alpinism was just twenty years ago in terms of gear. More, you get to thinking about Jeff up there by himself, facing an uncertain outcome, but also facing a lot of person demons at the same time.
Jeff’s project sounds like it has huge potential to be a moving piece that explores the philosophical and spiritual dimensions of alpinism. The trailer only hints at such, and writing a script to those ends is difficult. So we’ll see how it turns out. Meanwhile, Jeff and the producers are attempting to sell film sponsorships of various sorts, we wish them well with that. More at JeffLoweMovie.com.
Speaking of biopic, I remember well a day of ski alpinism with Jeff. In spring of 1987, Jeff and I, along with Colorado alpinist and photographer Glen Randall, headed up to 14er Mount Sneffels to do the Snake Couloir. Jeff’s career as a climber overshadowed his ski aspirations, but he was actually a good skier who’d been on sticks since an early age. From the start, as we scrambled up Sneffels, Jeff’s familiarity with alpine movement shined forth. To make the climb more direct we wandered out on some steeper 3rd to 4th class terrain that Jeff made look like a hiking trail, even though we were climbing with big packs and A-framed planks. We rappelled the standard rocky drop into the couloir, which was still shaded, icy and scary.
The nieve softened a bit as we chipped out a get-ready shelf with our ice axes, so we donned skis and headed down. Dropping carefully to the famed dogleg turn in the couloir, we discovered a gigantic rockslide had taken out the lower portion of skiable snow. Not to worry; perched there in the middle of a 50 degree slope Jeff quickly removed his skis and clipped into crampons like he was born there. I distinctly remember that as Glen and I pounded in our axes for self belay, Jeff was standing there without even balancing on his axe, a bemused look on his face, looking like he was waiting for a cup of coffee at a Chamonix cafe.
We proceeded to climb out of the Snake and switched over to the western branch of Sneffels north face gully system (I call that the Sandy Couloir). We had a terrific descent after that, with Glenn shooting photos while Jeff and I whipped out our little Euro jump turns on a few thousand feet of classic 45 degree couloir corn snow. It was a great day, three alpine boys playing in their element like kids in a sandbox. The striped lycra tights were classic even then!