World’s classroom inspires renowned
climber Jeff Lowe
Who: Jeff Lowe shares lessons he’s
learned in the climbing world’s classrooms.
What: Presentation is based on a
book Lowe is writing called "Many Climbs, Many Lessons."
When: 7:30 p.m Wednesday, Feb. 4,
at the nexStage Theatre in Ketchum.
"If you want to talk about big lessons,
one is that life is short. If you have things you want to do, you better do it
now, because tomorrow will come sooner than you think."
— JEFF LOWE, Climber
By GREG STAHL
Express Staff Writer
Renowned climber Jeff Lowe has been going
to school in the world’s classroom for nearly five decades.
His accomplishments in the mountains are
numerous and varied, and, with hundreds of first ascents to his name, he is
considered one of the Earth’s best big-mountain climbers.
Jeff Lowe places a protection on
Neurosurgeon, a 5.12a crack above Buttonrock Reservoir near Lyons, Colo.
"The planet seems to be really well
designed as a classroom for humans," the 53-year-old Utah native said. "Everest
is just about the right height to really test humans to get to the top without
oxygen. The roughest rivers are tough to descend. Crossing the poles is right at
the limit of human capacity.
"It’s one big classroom, and it’s really
fun. All the laws that govern it—gravity, aerodynamics and even more subtle
laws—are well designed to teach us about ourselves."
Lowe will share the lessons he’s learned
in the world’s classrooms at a slide presentation Wednesday, Feb. 4, at the
nexStage Theatre in Ketchum. The presentation, which is based on a book he is
writing called "Many Climbs, Many Lessons," kicks off at 7:30 p.m.
The book, which Lowe is still writing,
will chronicle about 100 of his favorite first ascents. It is to be the first of
three books the climber plans on writing about his life in the mountains. The
second, "Fantastic Partners," will feature the people Lowe has shared the
mountains with. The third, "Fool on the Hill," will be an introspective
autobiography featuring Lowe’s solo climbs.
Lowe, one of three climbing brothers, has
been flirting with rock monoliths and towering mountains since he was 6 years
old. At the age of 7, he climbed the Grand Teton in Wyoming. On the paths he has
since traveled, he’s learned a litany of lessons about life, about the mountains
and about himself.
"The biggest lesson, which I’m sort of
relating to now—a lot of them sound cliché or trite, but if you want to talk
about big lessons, one is that life is short," Lowe said. "If you have things
you want to do, you better do it now, because tomorrow will come sooner than you
Lowe said his climbing has been curtailed
in recent years because his body is not working like it used to. But throughout
his industrious career, he has been at the top of the game in traditional big
wall climbing, alpine-style climbing and, to a lesser extent, sport climbing.
"I like it all, but if I had one favorite
type of climbing, I’d say it’s alpine-style climbing in the Himalayas. It
demands so much from you, but the rewards are so much more complete. Down to
your bones, you’re rewarded for the efforts you put into those alpine-style
"They’re much more of a commitment, and
you get an increase in rewards."
Despite his preference for big, cold,
technical mountains, Lowe said his book will feature first ascents from
climbing’s various disciplines. He said he will include several climbs from City
of Rocks in Southern Idaho, where he and his brothers, Greg and Mike, frequently
climbed as young men. Some will be featured because of the adventure they
spurred, rather than the quality of the climbing.
"I want people of all different climbing
abilities, styles and tastes to get something out of this," he said. "I want
routes in there they can sample for themselves. From every aspect of climbing I
want to have some routes, but all of my biggest and best Himalayan routes will
be in there."
Also, in an attempt to distinguish the
process of climbing from summit aspirations, Lowe said he will highlight several
routes he attempted but never finished.
Since the 1950s, climbing has shaped
nearly every aspect of Lowe’s life. Without it, he said he doesn’t know who he
"I sure wouldn’t change the climbing that
I’ve had," he said. "It was something that just suited me so well that I felt
truly I was born to climb."
Now, with new physical hurdles in the
trail to more climbing, Lowe said it is difficult to redefine himself.
"I can’t redefine myself as a nonclimber,"
he said. "Even if I’m not climbing, I am, at heart, a climber."
Lowe’s brothers, Greg and Mike, are also
well-known names in the climbing world. Greg started Lowe Alpine and was
assisted by Mike and, to a lesser extent, Jeff. George Lowe, another renowned
climber, is a cousin. George’s brother, Dave, was a former climbing ranger in
Wyoming’s Teton Mountains.
Alex Lowe, who died while climbing in the
Himalayas in 1999, was not related to the Utah Lowes.
Jeff Lowe said his father, Ralph Lowe, an
Ogden, Utah-based attorney, taught him and his brothers to climb.
"I’ve been climbing so long I’ve forgotten
what it was like not to climb," Lowe said.