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While on a filming trip to Switzerland for Jeff Lowe's Metanoia, a special event occurred that will be included in the film.

  • Mar 25, 2011
  • by admin
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In 1991, after 9 harrowing days on the North Face of the Eiger, Jeff Lowe abandoned his backpack when he couldn't find any anchors at the end of his rope. He was topping out on his new route, Metanoia, that went straight up the center of the Eiger Nordwand.

Jeff untied and left the rope and his pack behind, as he climbed unroped the last 50 feet to the summit ridge. There he clipped into a long cable dangling from a helicopter, scarcely an hour before a big storm would engulf the great North Face.

As Jeff was swept away from the summit, dangling at the end of the cable, he looked back at the face and his backpack. In his mind's eye he could see the next summer's sun melting out the ice screws that held the pack in place. Inevitably the screw would pull free and the pack would pull free and begin the long descent, crashing against the rock face, breaking apart along the way, littering the lower ramparts of the North Face. Jeff wanted to return and get his pack before that happened. Life took it's twists and turns and a full year went by and he had not made it back to the Eiger. At that point he assumed the pack had already fallen and it was too late.

In 2009, climbers Robert Jasper and Roger Schäli found themselves in the exact spot that Jeff Lowe had been 18 years before. They were making the world's first free ascent of the Eiger's Japanese Diretissima ("most direct route"), which convenes with Lowe's 1991 Metanoia route on Switzerland's North Face of the Eiger, near the summit. As Jasper writes and Schali would later report back to Jeff: "After several alpine pitches and terrible traverses we finally reach the summit Icefield. Here the discovery: an old backpack, frozen solid into the ice... a very welcome belay as we only took two ice- screws with us. In all probability the sack was left behind by Jeff Lowe".

When Jeff heard about the discovery, he was already making plans for returning to Switzerland as part of a film that was being born around the dining table of Lowe's Ogden, Utah home. He hoped that they would be able to retrieve the pack during the process of filming for Jeff Lowe's Metanoia.

On March 25, 2011, Josh Wharton spent over 2 hours chopping Jeff's backpack out of the ice and snow, high up on the North Face of the Eiger. Getting the frozen pack onto the helicopter was quite precarious for everyone involved. Lowe was anxious to see the condition of the pack after 20 years on the mountain. Josh delivered the frozen, weather worn Vaude backpack to Jeff on the deck of the Bellevue Hotel at Kleine Scheidegg. The pack was frozen solid and hit the deck with a loud thud. Lowe felt a weight lift from his shoulders as the pack finally lay at his feet. Chris Alstrin filmed both the excavation and the delivery.

Jeff was relieved to have this bit of unfinished business taken care of after all these years. Leaving the pack was contrary to Jeff's Alpine Style aesthetic, of doing more with less and leaving nothing behind. Circumstances forced his hand on that winter day in 1991 and leaving it all behind had been necessary for his own survival.

Josh also delivered a Jumar and Gibbs Ascender that he cut away with the rope that was attached to the ice screw along with the pack.

It took 8 days for the backpack to thaw enough to be opened.

  • April 12, 2011
  • by admin
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On Saturday, April 2, 2011, Jeff opened the backpack and withdrew the contents one by one, along with a gritty sand like material…, which turned out to be oxidized aluminum.

For Lowe it was like being reunited with an old friend, his only climbing partner on what turned out to be the most transformative climb of his alpine career.

Swiss Television filmed the event. The contents were laid out to dry. The Vau De sleeping bag was still a frozen mass of material when Jeff pulled it from the pack. It remained mostly frozen after 3 more days in the bathtub of the Chalet. With time running out and the trip home imminent, the Vau De sleeping bag was placed inside the chalet's sauna at 144 degrees.

After 10 hours of periodically moving the bag, opening the zipper and repositioning it, there was still a frozen ball of ice in the center of the bag. The sleeping bag was packed in that condition, and flown home. When it was unpacked in Ogden, Utah, 2 days later, it was finally thawed completely, but still wet where the ball of ice had been.

  • 1 white Scott motorized goggles (a fan for defogging)
  • 1 Thermarest stuff sack
  • 6 Mazda AA alkaline batteries
  • 1 Vau De prototype jacket designed by Jeff Lowe
  • 1 Pair of wool socks
  • 1 carabiner
  • 1 small black stuff sack
  • 1 pair glove liners
  • 1 pair very thin/light glove liners
  • 1 medium blue stuff sack
  • 1 lithium battery dated 1/91
  • 1 Black Diamond Red Lithium Battery Headlamp
  • 1 Medium sized food bag (pretty trashed, but one Mars Bar and one snickers bar remained intact, along with some bits of cheese, an unidentifiable food bar and some hard candies)
  • 1 small black stove bag
  • 1 large pink stuff sack for pots
  • 1 hanging stove made by Jeff Lowe
  • 2 nested pots, oxidized through on one side
  • 1 potholder
  • 1 small purple plastic cup
  • 1 Ziploc bag
  • 1 fuel canister
  • 1 16 oz. white plastic Nalgene pee bottle
  • 1 small zip lock with small roll of TP intact
  • 1 small zip lock with small roll of TP intact
  • 1 compass
  • 1 silver insulated water bottle bag
  • 1 large purple stuff sack
  • 1 medium blue stuff sack
  • 1 pink and beige zippered side pocket
  • 1 small pouch with repair kit and Chouinard sewing kit
  • 1 small clear plastic box with assorted safety pins (10+)
  • 1 small tube sun cream
  • 1 small film canister with a tissue and 3 pills - disintegrating
  • 1 glasses case with signature Jeff Lowe glasses, large, thick lenses with a Croakies attached to them
  • 1 small magnifier
  • 1 small can of vitamin C tabs
  • 1 inhaler
  • 1 2" roll of medical tape
  • 1 extra ice pick (unattached)
  • 1 hammerhead (unattached)
  • 1 shovel head
  • 1 green HelSport one man bivy tent with poles
  • 1 black Vau De compression stuff sack
  • 1 pink and purple Vau De sleeping bag (still frozen)
  • 1 blue ensolite pad, cut short
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