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Jeff Lowe’s Metanoia

Lowe at the base of Metanoia. In the early 90’s Lowe’s life had become an emotional storm. He sought refuge on the infamous Nordwand, alone, in the winter of 1991. In nine days of climbing he battled monstrous weather, took a near-fatal fall and triumphed over his emotional demons while establishing the new route, Metanoia. [Photo] Jon Krakauer

In 1974 Jeff Lowe made the first ascent of Colorado’s Bridalveil Falls, a climb that set the standard for steep ice at the time. In 1979 he made the first solo ascent of a major new route in the Himalaya, the South Face of Ama Dablam. He still holds the highpoint on the unclimbed North Ridge of Latok I from his 1978 attempt with George Lowe, Michael Kennedy and Jim Donini. In a 40+ year career, Lowe’s credited with over 1000 first ascents. He contributed to the development of the modern ice screw and cam, invented the grading system used worldwide for ice and mixed climbs and authored multiple books and videos on climbing technique. Lowe also brought the first Sport Climbing Championships to America, and opened the ice park in Ouray, Colorado.

But like many world-class athletes, his success came at a cost. In the early 1990’s Lowe struggled through a divorce, a failed business and deep remorse for neglecting his two-year-old daughter. Needing an escape from this emotional crisis, he made a solo pilgrimage to the Eiger’s Nordwand. When one of the world’s greatest climbers makes a solo winter attempt on the most legendary north face in the world, an extraordinary story is inevitable.

After nine days on the wall he completed Metanoia (a Greek word meaning a fundamental change of thinking; a transitive change of heart), without the help of partners, fixed ropes or bolts. Though Metanoia was groundbreaking in style and commitment, it was more than just a climb; for an emotionally besieged man, it was a path to enlightenment.

Trapped a thousand feet below the summit, riding out a storm in a “little limestone grotto,” Lowe transcended the challenges that brought him to the wall. His world-view changed, and he chose a path of calm acceptance. Most of all, he realized the kind of father he needed to be.

Metanoia, north face of the Eiger, Switzerland. Ueli Steck hopes to make the first repeat. A film, Jeff Lowe’s Metanoi, will juxtapose Steck’s cutting edge attempt with the details of Lowe’s life. The movie comes out fall 2011. [Photo] Jon Krakauer

The route has been attempted since, but never repeated. Nineteen years later Ueli Steck will try Metanoia. A film by Adaptable Man LLC, entitled Jeff Lowe’s Metanoia, “will weave Ueli’s cutting edge attempt into the fabric of Jeff’s life tapestry.” The struggles of this iconic climber, husband, father and entrepreneur are explored in the film. The story goes full circle- taking the audience from Lowe’s boyhood in Utah’s Wasatch Range through his epiphany on the Eiger and back to the Wasatch, where a changed, and now disabled Lowe, brings a new approach to familiar terrain. The film is written and produced by Lowe, with narration by Jon Krakauer. Jeff Lowe’s Metanoia comes out fall of 2011. The project seeks funding through the website until March 3rd. To make a contribution, or to learn more about the project click here