In mountain towns, an early-autumn snowstorm is a nuisance and a lure. It runs some people out of the high country but draws others in. During the first week of October, 2017, a foot or more of snow fell in the peaks south of Bozeman, Montana. Before dawn on the fifth, a group set off from a parking lot in Hyalite Canyon, a popular outdoor playground, just outside town. The man at the head of the group was spooked by the new snow. To minimize exposure to avalanches, he made sure that everyone ascended with caution, keeping to the ridgelines and bare patches, away from the loaded gullies. This was Conrad Anker, the famous American alpinist. It is often said that there are old climbers and there are bold climbers, but there are no old bold climbers. So far, Anker, at fifty-four, was an exception.
2020欧洲杯最新战况There was nothing intrepid, really, about this particular outing. It was basically a hike up a minor mountain formerly known as Peak 10031 (for its unremarkable altitude of 10,031 feet), which had been rechristened in 2005 in honor of the late climber and Bozeman idol Alex Lowe. The group was headed to Alex Lowe Peak to spread Alex Lowe’s ashes. Anker recognized that it would be cosmically stupid to kick off an avalanche on the way.
2020欧洲杯最新战况Lowe died in 1999, at the age of forty, during an ascent of Shishapangma, in the Himalayas. At the time, he was considered by many to be the world’s preëminent alpinist, and, even in a pursuit where untimely death is almost routine, his came as a shock. He was game for anything yet prudent, in his way—more dervish than daredevil. Still, snow is water, and it aims downhill. On Shishapangma, a massive avalanche entombed two climbers, Lowe and the cameraman David Bridges, under tons of frozen debris. A third, Anker, who’d fled in another direction, got flattened and engulfed by the blast, but after the air cleared he found himself stumbling through an altered landscape, alive and alone.
Lowe’s wife, Jennifer, back in Bozeman, got the call from base camp twelve hours later. Through the static of the satellite connection, Anker confirmed that her husband was gone. She’d had premonitions and dreams about this trip and—uncharacteristically, because she’d been a climber, too, and a supporter of her husband’s exploits—had begged Lowe not to go. But he’d felt obliged, both to his climbing partners and to the North Face and NBC Sports, which were underwriting the expedition. “It’s my job,” he’d told her. “It’s a work trip.” She and Lowe had three sons, aged ten, seven, and three.
Lowe’s peers had admired him not only for his exploits on rock and ice but for his attentiveness as a husband and father, though it says something about the mountaineer mind-set that a man who spent several months of the year away from home was considered a dutiful dad. “We were all in awe of him because he was able to climb and be a father,” Anker told me. Anker and Lowe were best friends, kindred spirits, and regular partners. Anker took it on himself to look after Jenni and the boys, spending more and more time in Bozeman with them, doing what he could to help them muddle through, and also to find a purpose for himself—a reason to live. Less than two years after Alex’s death, Anker and Jenni were married. Anker adopted the boys, and Lowe-Anker, as Jenni now called herself, had another world-class climber for a mate, with all the glory, anxiety, and exasperation that entails.
In 2016, while in Nepal, Anker got one of those calls where, as he puts it, you know what the news will be before you even put the phone to your ear. It was from his friend and colleague David Göttler, who was climbing on Shishapangma. He’d come across some old North Face gear, and after some digging had uncovered what appeared to be the bodies of David Bridges and Alex Lowe. Their corpses had melted out of the glacier sooner than anyone had expected—climate change. A couple of months later, Anker, Lowe-Anker, and the three boys travelled to the Himalayas to recover the bodies.
2020欧洲杯最新战况For the boys, the trip was proof that their father was indeed dead, that there was no chance of a miraculous return, something that Max, the eldest, had fantasized about as a child. Anker, for his part, had had a recurring dream in which Lowe showed up to reclaim his brood. “It was all super heavy-duty for me,” Anker told me. “Here’s his wedding band, here’s his camera, here’s my water bottle in his daypack.” Lowe was found on his back, arms crossed over his chest. “He had his hand with his wedding ring curled against his heart,” Lowe-Anker said. It was hard work to dig out the bodies, wrap them up, and haul them down to base camp, including a rappel off a cliff. They’d lugged in a cord of wood and some accelerant. There is no real template for an encounter, in the high alpine, with the frozen corpses of a father, husband, and friend. “We looked at them for a day,” Anker said. “And then we wrapped them and cremated them.”
These were the ashes that the family brought up to Alex Lowe Peak, a year later. At the top, they scattered the remains and said their farewells—closure, of a kind, eighteen years to the day after Lowe disappeared under the snow. It was dark when they got back to the car.
Earlier that week, Anker had run into a young climber named Hayden Kennedy at a Bozeman climbing gym. Kennedy, twenty-seven, had a few years earlier won a Piolet d’Or, the yearly mountaineering awards, for a first ascent of the south face of an infamous tower in Pakistan known as the Ogre. Kennedy, from Colorado, and his girlfriend, Inge Perkins, from Bozeman, had recently moved in together in an apartment in town. Since graduating from high school, Kennedy had lived out of his van, as he built his climbing résumé; Perkins, twenty-three and a strong skier and climber, too, was a senior at Montana State University, majoring in math. Anker lived down the street from the Perkins family and had helped introduce Inge to climbing. He had climbed decades ago with Kennedy’s father, Michael, an accomplished mountaineer, and had known Hayden since he was a boy.
Two days after the ceremony on Alex Lowe Peak, Kennedy and Perkins, while ascending Imp Peak, a remote backcountry-skiing spot in a range southwest of Hyalite Canyon, were caught in an avalanche. That early-season snow. Kennedy, partly buried, dug himself out, but there was no sign of Perkins. He searched the debris field for hours, probing and digging, although he must have known that a buried victim almost never survives for longer than twenty minutes. Eventually, he gave up, skied out, and drove back to Bozeman. One can only guess at the panic, anguish, and self-recrimination that coursed through him in the hours that followed—he called no one. In the apartment that night, he wrote a fifteen-page letter and then took a fatal dose of painkillers and alcohol.