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Copyright © 2003 Express Publishing Inc.
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Friday — January 30, 2004

Weekend Living

World’s classroom inspires renowned climber Jeff Lowe

Slide presentation

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

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. Courtesy photos

"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 think."

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 routes.

"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 would be.

"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.



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