Wednesday, February 2, 2011



"In Carl Jung's psychology, metanoia indicates a spontaneous attempt of the psyche to heal itself of unbearable conflict by melting down and then being reborn in a more adaptive form. Jung believed that psychotic episodes in particular could be understood as existential crises that were sometimes attempts at self-reparation.

—From Wikipedia

Metanoia refers to a radical and difficult change in and healing of the conflicts of heart and mind.

In every field of human endeavor there are always those few whose accomplishments, skill, vision and audacity set them apart and change the very field of their efforts. They are the geniuses. And among that select minority are sometimes a rare few whose integrity, character or spirit shines even brighter than their deeds, even among the elite. These are the true stars of humanity.

And they are always as humanly flawed as everyone else, which is one of the reasons they are so wonderful, inspiring and worth knowing and knowing about.

In the esoteric world of mountain climbing stars, none are more highly regarded as a climber, inspiration, visionary and human being than Jeff Lowe of Ogden, Utah. Jeff is now 60 and is well known and has many friends in the Wood River Valley. To non-climbers, a climbing résumé seems as arcane as, say, the mechanics of a linear accelerator, but it is sufficient to mention that after climbing Wyoming's Grand Teton at the age of 7 with his father, Jeff climbed the hardest routes in North and South America, Asia and Europe, and is credited with more than 1,000 first ascents. He once estimated that the number of nights he has spent bivouacked on the sides of cliffs during climbs amounted to "several years." In the late 1960s and '70s, he radically expanded the limits of the possible in ice climbing by pushing the technical standards of waterfall ice. In 1974, he and Mike Weiss climbed 400-foot Bridalveil Falls in Colorado, and a few years later Jeff soloed it, both ascents being far ahead of their time. In 1982, he and famed climber/filmmaker David Breashears climbed a 5,000-foot, 80-degree waterfall ice face on Nepal's Kwangde, considered by some to be the most difficult climb done to that date.

However, as all too many adventurers and others who follow their passions have discovered, more often than not the hard way, there is always a price. The website for Jeff's forthcoming film expresses it this way: "Society isn't set up in ways that automatically reward the alpine vagabond, no matter his or her brilliance. Nor are traditional relationships with family, friends, marriage partners and children easy to balance when the siren call of the heights is ever-present in the ear and separations of weeks and months are common."

By the early 1990s, Jeff's personal life was a mess. According to the website: "Jeff's life had become complicated and stressful almost beyond his ability to cope. He was dealing with one climbing business that had failed, another that was demanding more and more resources to stay afloat, a 2-year old daughter that he was churning inside [about] for neglecting, and an affair with a famous French woman climber that had precipitated divorce proceedings. At the very height of this emotional cyclone, Jeff decides to take a break, and try to do a new route, alone in winter, right up the middle of the most notorious mountain face in the Alps, the 6,000-foot-high North Face of the Eiger in Switzerland."

There are not many people who would (and fewer who could) solo a new route up the north face of the Eiger as a means of coping with stress. In this case it worked. After nine winter days alone on the face, he had a spontaneous experience that changed his life and person and allowed him to return to himself. He named the route, which has never been repeated and which is certainly among the most technically demanding and committing climbs ever done, after that experience. The route is called Metanoia.

A few years after his Eiger epic, Jeff began exhibiting the first signs of the debilitating disease MS. He could no longer climb and soon was walking with the use of canes and now is confined to a wheelchair, but he continues to enjoy life, contribute to the world and to inspire and inform. As mentioned, Jeff is one of the true stars of humanity, which has long used stars for navigation and staying on course.

And now a group of friends and admirers is making a film about Jeff's life as the fourth of eight children in an Ogden family whose motto was "Have fun, work hard and get smart," with the emphasis in that order. It chronicles his metamorphoses from becoming a world-class (and traveling) climber like no other to a man whose personal/business life was "an emotional cyclone" to a man who could tell Jung a thing or two about metanoia, to one of Ogden's and the climbing world's best-loved citizens. The film will be narrated by author Jon Krakauer, whose books include "Into Thin Air," "Into the Wild" and "Where Men Win Glory." It will be photographed by Jeff's brother, Greg Lowe, a climbing legend in his own right who has won an Emmy and been nominated for an Academy Award for his filming.

Maybe, just maybe, Ueli Steck, who holds the speed records for the three great north faces of Europe—the Eiger, the Matterhorn and the Grandes Jorasses—will make the second ascent of Metanoia for "Metanoia." It should be a great film about a great human being, and the making of the film could be the best story of all.

Check it out at

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