Wednesday, May 4, 2005

A heightened life

Master climber presents his secrets at the nexStage


By
A heightened life

Jeff Lowe climbs the Bear Tooth in Alaska's McKinley Range. Photo by Michael Kennedy

If clinging to a sheer rock face with your bare hands and little else fascinates (or terrifies) you, you are sure to be interested in the words of "the father of mixed rock and ice climbing," Jeff Lowe.

This Saturday at the nexStage Theatre in Ketchum, the Environmental Resource Center hosts a film and slide show presentation of Lowe's three decades of climbing and filmmaking. Lowe will introduce each short segment in person, putting them in the context of the times and of his own career.

"I will be showing film clips from movies made of the first ascent of Bridalveil Falls in Colorado in 1974, 'Cloudwalker'—a BBC profile of Mark Wilford, 'The Prayer Book'—a movie made in 1979 of Jim Collins and I ascending a difficult free climb in Colorado, and of myself climbing in Alaska and Colorado in 1984," said Lowe.

"I will introduce these and other film clips, trying to illustrate the art of ascent as it has evolved over the last several decades, through my personal experience."

Lowe will also be signing copies of his latest instructional DVD, "Clean Walls, Sustainable Big Wall Climbing Techniques," which will be available for sale at the presentation.

Lowe began climbing when his father led him to the peak of the Grand Teton in 1956—he was 7. Since then he has amassed more than 500 first ascents, including the north face of Peak 19 in Tajikistan, 1974; the first solo ascent of the south face of Ama Dablam in Nepal, 1979; the first solo and first winter ascent of the French Pillar on Pumori in Nepal, 1983; the first ascent of the northeast ridge of Kangtega in Nepal, 1986; and the first winter ascent of the east face of Tawoche in Nepal, 1989.

Lowe is also known for first ascents of other notable alpine routes, such as the north face of Mount Temple, in 1970, and the Ramp Route and Grand Central Couloir on Mount Kitchener in the Canadian Rockies, also in the '70s, and the first winter ascent of the west face of the Grand Teton in 1972.

Another claim to fame is a nearly completed attempt of the still-unclimbed North Ridge of Latok I in Pakistan in 1978. A four-man team, including Lowe's brother George, spent 26 days on the mountain and came within 300 feet of the summit before being forced to descend due to illness and lack of provisions.

Lowe will also be able to regale Idahoans with tales of their local mountains. "In the '60s and '70s I climbed a lot in the City of Rocks, making probably 100 or more first ascents that were never recorded," Lowe claimed.

"In the early '70s, I also made the first ascents of a couple of routes on the Elephant's Perch in the Sawtooths, and a decade later did a good new route on the north face of Warbonnet Peak, also in the Sawtooths. I also did some good climbs back then with Rob Kiesel, longtime Ketchum resident."

Lowe is a climbing purist. Believing in fast and light climbs, he eschews large expeditions, the use of bottled oxygen and fixed ropes, and the support of high-altitude porters.

Sadly, however, ill health has ended his climbing career, the physical part at least. "I'm no longer climbing," he explained from his home in Ogden, Utah. "About five years ago I started developing symptoms of multiple sclerosis. I climbed as well as I could for a few years after that, but the MS is too severe now to allow for safe climbing."

Although the activity itself is beyond him, he still considers himself a climber and devotes time to writing and educating about the sport. Lowe has written numerous magazine articles and is the author of three books: "The Ice Experience," "Climbing" (written in conjunction with Ron Fawcett, Paul Nunn and Alan Rouse), and "Ice World."

Through his company, Adaptable Man Productions, Lowe produces instructional and historical climbing videos and books. Visit him at http://jefflowe.info.

Jeff Lowe

Lowe's presentation begins at 7 p.m. Saturday, May 7, at the nexStage Theatre, Ketchum. Admission is $10. This event is part of the ERC Armchair Adventure Series. For more information contact the ERC at 726-4333.




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