By Patrick Gensel
The year was 1991 and climber Jeff Lowe was looking for a way to escape the complications of his life. A painful divorce stemming from a romance with a french climber he met had dissolved his life into chaos. Jeff was looking for something that would challenge him, body and mind. Something that required his absolute focus and mental clarity. He found just that on the north face of Switzerland’s infamous Eiger: Metanoia.
The word metanoia is defined as a transformative change of heart; a fundamental change of thinking. During the climb, Jeff was forced into a small cave by an intense storm. For much of the time he spent in the cave he heard what he described as a haunting song. With no explanation of the source Jeff drifted into a slumber. He woke the next morning feeling a sense of change. Jeff had experienced his own Metanoia.
Jeff’s goal was to find a route as challenging as the routes climbed by the pioneering climbers. To honor the memory of those pioneers, who who climbed with much less sophisticated gear, Jeff chose to climb in the winter and eschew the use of bolts.
His initial attempt of Metanoia lasted two days before damage to the pick on his ice tool forced him to retreat for repairs. Later, while high on the route Jeff found himself in a situation that he described as “unique”. Shortly after passing a bulge in the face, one of Jeff’s ice tools lost its grip on the ice, flinging his body away from the mountain. Facing the vastness surrounding him, he felt his other tool beginning to give. Jeff looked down at the bulge that he had previously passed and knew that if he fell, the consequences would be dire. Presented with no other choice he chose to leap away from the ice and rock. Missing the the bulge, Jeff was caught by his rope and narrowly averted disaster. Jeff climbed on, eventually spending a total of nine days on the route.
A Different Kind Of First Ascent
in 2000, while running, Jeff found himself on the ground for no apparent reason. Later, when it happened again, he went to see a doctor. After this incident Jeff continued to climb, but slowly his ability to do so faded.
Several years and multiple diagnoses including Multiple Sclerosis and OPCA later, doctors are still unsure of what is affecting Jeff is, only that it is a previously unknown neuro-degenerative process.
While Jeff may be confined to a wheelchair, he is still highly active in the outdoors. Years of climbing has taught Jeff to live life in the moment, because after all that is how climbing is experienced best. He contributes to the SuperTopo climbing community and loves to spend time with climbers, climbing vicariously through their endeavors.
Sharing The Dream
Started nearly twenty years after climbing the Eiger, Jeff Lowe’s Metanoia will be directed by Greg Lowe and narrated by renowned author Jon Krakauer. Krakauer, who was covering the orignal ascent for Men’s Journal, couldn’t have been better suited to help tell the story of Jeff’s life.
Metanoia, the pinnacle of Jeff’s climbing career, serves as the hub around which the film revolves. It becomes a lens through which the audience uses to catch a glimpse of Lowe’s life. From his early days of climbing in the Wasatch range of Utah to the introduction of big wall climbing in Zion, it seems there is no shortage of climbing goodness with this one.
The team behind this film hope to recreate many scenes from the 1991 ascent including Jeff’s fall high up on the route. It will feature climber Josh Wharton as Jeff’s stand in. In the fall of 2011 they head back to Switzerland with Chris Alstrin of Alstrin films and an as yet unnamed climber to shoot location footage on the Eiger and have hopes for a successful second ascent of Metanoia.
The film is no small undertaking. From raising funds, to getting to Switzerland, the challenges are daunting. The Metanoia team hopes to have this film ready for next years Sundance Film Festival, and the Vancouver International Film Festival shortly thereafter. They also plan a rigorous promotional tour before distributing the film on DVD and digital download.
Whether for love of the outdoors and the big mountains, triumphant stories, or both. Lowe and his crew hope to capture the hearts and imaginations of all who experience this film. Though it may be a little ways off before we get a taste of all that Metanoia is, be sure to keep this one in your sights.
Help Make this Project A Reality!
Jeff Lowe’s Metanoia has a project on Kickstarter and they are trying to raise the funds needed to get a crew back to Switzerland this winter to shoot some vital scenes for this film. Show your support for this great project by making a donation. Of course you won’t walk away empty handed. head on over to kickstarter to make a donation and check out the great swag they are giving to donors.
Jeff Lowe’s Metanoia Kickstarter Project
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