Jeff Lowe’s Backpack On Display in the Museum
In 1991, near the top of the notorious Swiss peak The Eiger, legendary mountaineer Jeff Lowe was at the end of his rope, with nowhere to anchor, 50 feet from the summit ridge. There was a storm quickly approaching and 5,000 feet of vertical exposure below him. Lowe had been climbing alone for 9 days, and was in the final push to finish the first ascent of his new route, Metanoia which follows the center of the Eiger North Face. The quickly deteriorating conditions forced Lowe to untie from his rope, and leave his backpack in order to free solo to the ridge. A helicopter picked him up from the face, hours before a storm would engulf the North Face of the Eiger, where he had just been climbing. Lowe’s normal alpine ethic was to leave nothing behind, but on this day it was necessary for survival. He made plans to retrieve the pack the following season, but after a year without a chance to make it back, Lowe assumed that the sun had melted the ice screw holding the pack in place, allowing the pack to fall down the mountain.
Jeff Lowe’s pack remained frozen in ice and time just below the summit for 20 years. In 2009, two climbers came upon the backpack frozen solid into the ice, and used it as a welcome belay on their own alpine climb. Then in 2011, Josh Wharton carved the pack from the ice and returned it to Lowe on the deck of the Bellevue Hotel overlooking the great North Face. After days of letting the backpack thaw, Jeff Lowe began to pick out each of the contents, reliving his climb. The faded backpack held items such as a sleeping bag, goggles, a Therm-a-Rest, a Snickers bar, a compass, a headlamp, a Nalgene, a stove, and a bivy tent.
This pack, as well as other legendary mountaineering gear is on display in the American Mountaineering Museum. Visitors can jump over a crevasse, climb into a port-a-ledge, hear the sounds of Everest, and try on old mountaineering gear. The novice hiker can find inspiration for local adventures, and the seasoned alpinist can plan trips abroad.