Project Jukebox

Digital Branch of the University of Alaska Fairbanks Oral History Program
George Lowe

George Lowe was interviewed on May 31, 2000 by Dave Krupa at the bunkhouse of Talkeetna Air Taxi in Talkeetna, Alaska. In this interview, George describes how he became a climber, what drew him to Alaska, and what particular challenges he faced on the routes he pioneered in Alaska - some of the most demanding and audacious climbs anywhere in the world. George also weighs in on the critical issue of National Park Service management of climbing on Denali, as well as the benefits and drawbacks of search and rescue fallbacks for climbers.

Digital Asset Information

Archive #: Oral History 2000-17-08

Project: Denali Mountaineering
Date of Interview: May 31, 2000
Narrator(s): George Lowe
Interviewer(s): David Krupa
Location of Interview:
Funding Partners:
National Park Service
Alternate Transcripts
There is no alternate transcript for this interview.
Slideshow
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Sections

1) Personal background and his introduction to climbing

2) How he got to Alaska, and the Lowe family history

3) His first climb in Alaska on Mount Hunter

4) Continuation of Mount Hunter story

5) The descent of Mount Hunter and other climbs

6) Description of the Infinite Spur and the challenges present in that climb

7) The approach to the Infinite Spur climb

8) The first night on the Infinite Spur

9) The crux of the Infinite Spur

10) The ninety pitches where the Infinite Spur got its name

11) Breaking through a cornice and taking a fall on the Infinite Spur

12) Michael Kennedy jumping off the other side of the ridge to save him

13) Describing the descent from the Infinite Spur and comparing it to his previous climbs

14) Comparing the Infinite Spur to the Cassin Ridge

15) The importance of not giving up too easily

16) How to deal with fear

17) Continuation of discussion about how to deal with fear

18) Scary climbs and coming back to Alaska

19) What he looks for in climbing partners

20) The mental side of mountaineering

21) How family affects a climber's lifestyle

22) Attitude towards mountaineering today

23) His opinion about new National Park Service regulations at Denali

24) His opinion about rescuing mountaineers

25) His feelings about the cost of rescues

26) The growing issue of rescues

27) The use of helicopters for rescues, and why he does not guide

28) The impact of increased guiding activity

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After clicking play, click a section of the transcript to navigate the audio or video clip.

Transcript

Section 1: Ogden, UT\ skiing\ Lowe, Ralph -- uncle\ Lowe family\ father -- ski patrol\ climbing -- Tetons\ Grand Teton -- age records\ bouldering -- quartzite\ California -- southern\ college\ rock climbing|

Section 2: Alaska -- climbing\ Devil's Thumb -- southeast\ Alaska Range\ Jones, Chris\ Flores, Ledo?\ weather -- poor\ Alaska -- introduction\ Teton Mountains -- winter mountaineering\ South America\ Andes\ Peru\ routes -- new\ Lowe, Jeff\ Mt. Foraker -- South Face\ Mt. Hunter -- Kennedy, Michael\ Lowe family\ Lowe, Mike\ Lowe, Greg\ Anchorage\ Lowe, Dave\ British Petroleum\ Tetons -- ranger\ Lowe, Alex |

Section 3: Lowe, Jeff\ Mt. Hunter -- North Face\ ankle -- broken\ basecamp -- Kahiltna\ Kennedy, Michael\ West Ridge\ glaciers\ ice ridge\ cornice\ ice triangle\ protection -- deadman\ rappelling\ crampons\ gear -- recovery|

Section 4: equipment -- recovery\ ice triangle\ bivouac\ cornice ridge\ graduate school\ tools -- quality\ ice climbing\ summit\ West Ridge -- descent\ crevasse -- fall\ high camp|

Section 5: Mount Hunter -- North Face\ descent -- dangers\ traverse\ cornices\ avalanche -- risk\ ice triangle\ rappelling\ weather -- good\ Lowe, Jeff\ base camp\ Kahiltna International\ basecamp\ moonflower\ Himalayas\ Alaska -- preparation\ Mount Foraker -- South Face\ Kennedy, Michael\ Lowe, Jeff\ Donini, Jim\ West Ridge\ Infinite Spur\ Cassin Ridge\ adventure -- limits|

Section 6: Mt. Hunter\ weather -- conditions\ Lowe, Jeff\ Mt. Foraker\ Infinite Spur\ ice -- cliffs\ glaciers -- ice falls\ face -- steep\ risks -- base\ photos -- aerial\ wall -- 9,000 ft.\ Alaska Range\ elements -- exposed\ ice -- types\ water ice -- hard\ wall -- exposure\ ledges -- chopping|

Section 7: Southeast Ridge -- cache\ cache -- skis\ pass -- difficult\ rating\ rock -- quality\ climbers\ mountaineering -- committed\ gear -- hauling\ food -- carrying\ loads -- huge\ climb -- big wall\ glacier\ Kennedy, Michael\ base -- danger\ spur -- shelter\ climb -- 5.7\ climbing -- good\ sections -- mixed\ rock -- soft\ crampons\ ice axe|

Section 8: tent -- site\ platform\ Lowe Alpine -- tent\ tent -- weight\ campsite -- secure\ climb -- duration\ Alaska Range -- June\ Alpine Trail\ bivouac\ crux\ ice ledge\ ledges -- chopping\ cooking\ weather -- good\ section -- rock\ ice -- quality\ screws\ rope\ climbing\ protection -- placement\ slope -- ice\ fatigue|

Section 9: fatigue\ pitches -- crux\ pitches -- rating\ rock -- poor quality\ granite -- shattered\ climbing -- steep\ packs -- hauling\ platform\ mist\ exposure\ bivouac -- ledges\ face -- apex\ ridge -- immense\ weather -- cleared\ ridge -- traverse\ climbing -- easy\ Anchorage, AK|

Section 10: glacier -- hanging\ face -- upper\ pitches -- quantity\ climb -- duration\ name -- origin\ climbing -- serious\ ice -- types\ water ice\ bivouac\ glacier\ climb -- leading\ relationship -- good\ pitches -- ice\ pitons -- rock\ cave \ crevasse\ tent \ safety\ weather -- storm\ wind -- strong\ gear -- better\ ?, Carl\ ?, Barry\ spur\ crux\ tent -- buried\ shoveling|

Section 11: terrain -- fourth class\ snow -- hard\ jacket -- down\ cold\ weather -- storm\ day -- brilliant\ summit -- view\ weather -- fortunate\ climb -- straight forward\ Southeast Ridge -- cornice\ fall -- cornice\ ridge -- width\ walking -- simultaneous\ probe\ crevasse -- horizontal\ frequency -- resonant\ cornice -- broke\ Kennedy, Michael|

Section 12: self-arresting\ cornice -- mass\ glacier -- below\ rope -- tightened\ self-arrest -- uphill\ ice axe -- stuck\ crampons\ Kennedy, Michael\ injury -- nose\ rope -- loose\ ice hammer\ wall -- vertical\ dinner\ ridge\ weather -- storm|

Section 13: ice cliffs\ weather -- storm\ descent\ distance -- short\ Southeast Ridge\ ice cliff -- hazardous\ slope -- dirt\ limits -- pushing\ relief\ strengths\ judgement -- mistake\ cornices\ crevasses\ career -- climbing\ risk\ climb -- committed\ Alaska -- weather\ weather -- systems\ climbing -- technical\ distance -- vertical\ walking\ mountain -- upper\ Peru\ Huandoy -- North Face\ climbing -- serious\ Grand Teton\ winter -- conditions\ conditions -- severity\ Alaska -- summer\ altitude\ route -- length\ weather -- potential\ Denali|

Section 14: Denali\ Cassin Ridge\ Infinite Spur\ partner -- inexperienced\ strong\ competent\ pitch -- difficult\ glacier\ magnitude -- different\ route -- aesthetic\ climbing -- incredible\ climbing -- future\ alpinists -- best\ Infinite Spur -- route\ climbing -- hard\ climbing -- unexpected\ techniques -- coping\ children\ education -- importance\ family -- motto|

Section 15: work\ trying\ risk\ giving up\ mountains -- death\ frost bite\ route--completion\ fatigue\ rock climbing\ California\ rest\ hydration\ food\ situation -- prepared\ Cassin Ridge\ climbers -- Koreans\ calling -- help\ Alaska -- mountains\ risk --severe\ apprenticeship -- importance|

Section 16: limits -- stretched\ Mt. Foraker\ Canadian Rockies -- North Twin\ climb -- technical\ choice -- none\ gear -- insufficient\ pieces -- dropped\ weather -- storm\ conditions -- bad\ descent\ ascent\ route -- easier\ crux\ airplane\ flying -- options\ situation -- choice\ game -- mental\ fear -- management\ experience|

Section 17: climbing -- scared\ preparation\ flying\ jets\ Cessna 150\ mountains -- apprenticeship\ fear -- control\ situation -- understanding\ danger\ thought -- rational\ fear\ falling\ ledge\ ankle -- break\ focus -- critical\ safety|

Section 18: climb -- free solo\ route -- crack\ safety\ routes - rated\ limits\ mind -- control\ fear\ rope -- backup\ climbing -- friends\ Alaska -- Denali\ Cassin Ridge\ routes -- new\ South Face\ rock -- good\ ice\ mixed\ West Buttress\ 17 Camp\ Cassin -- isolated\ crowds|

Section 19: alchemy -- importance\ trust -- importance\ partnership -- critical\ skill\ Hankey, Rich\ strength\ skills -- comparable\ team -- balanced\ fun\ intense\ focus -- achieve\ friends -- lifetime\ Cassin Ridge\ Mt. Everest -- East Face\ group -- incredible|

Section 20: reflection -- motivation\ mountains -- enjoyment\ challenge -- physical\ challenge -- mental\ work\ puzzle -- solving\ control -- mental\ life -- daily\ mountaineering\ graduate school\ development -- personal\ focus -- solutions\ work\ problems\ food\ partnership\ gear\ problem solving\ work -- systems engineer|

Section 21: home -- relationships\ absences -- long\ Alaska Range - proximity\ Himalayas\ mountains -- accessible\ mountains -- beautiful\ cost\ travel -- lengthy\ bureaucracies -- foreign\ Alaska\ areas -- unique\ access -- easy\ rock\ ice\ mountains -- high\ routes -- long\ feature -- individual\ mountains -- Asia\ Pakistan\ Ladok\ Infinite Spur\ climbing -- technical\ great ranges\ time -- limited\ soul -- restless\ weather -- bad\ Patagonia -- waiting\ India\ Pakistan\ cultural -- exchange\ bureaucracy|

Section 22: National Park Service\ task -- management\ area -- popular\ popularity -- international routes -- elegant\ route -- serious\ decisions\ dependency\ crowds -- dangerous\ dependency -- disasters\ self-reliance\ fee \ education -- critical\ numbers -- increase\ human waste -- removal\ routes -- remote\ Mother Nature\ litter\ restrictions|

Section 23: National Park Service -- education\ environment -- preservation\ Denali\ guide -- qualified\ Cassin Ridge\ South Face\ waiting period\ restrictions -- reasons\ climbers -- number\ access -- equal\ service -- guided\ climbers -- private\ American Alpine Club -- Board of Directors\ climbers -- freedom\ preservation\ West Buttress\ environment -- mountain\ resource -- damage\ classes\ fairness\ fees -- climbers\ fishers\ pollution\ hunters\ taxes -- federal|

Section 24: National Park Service -- programs\ Denali National Park -- environment\ preservation\ buildings -- employees\ empire\ access\ Ruth Gorge\ rock climbing\ National Park Service -- lecture\ Denali\ education\ mountain -- serious\ rescues\ radios\ limits -- pushed|

Section 25: National Park Service\ insurance -- rescue\ rescue -- charges\ rescues -- discourage\ decisions -- bad\ pulmonary edema\ taxpayer\ route -- regular\ serac -- break\ avalanche\ mountaineering -- hazards\ Cassin Ridge\ climbers -- Koreans\ Cassin Ridge\ behavior -- irresponsible\ discouragement\ hunters\ backpackers\ fisherman\ climbers -- singled out\ rescues -- cost\ rescues -- mountain\ searches -- cost\ data -- scientific\ opinions\ statistics|

Section 26: cell phones -- presence\ ankle -- twisted\ struggle\ Rescue Rangers -- patrol\ balance -- difficult\ death\ decisions\ liability -- suit\ liability -- moral\ decisions\ environment -- self reliance\ Mt. Hunter -- rescue\ ankle -- broken\ risk -- reduction\ pulmonary edema\ National Park Service|

Section 27: Teton Mountains\ Alaska\ helicopters -- rescues\ West Buttress -- wilderness\ Kahiltna International -- open\ Denali -- time\ climb -- difficult\ rescuers -- risk\ winching\ victim\ risk -- decrease\ Cassin\ altitude -- high\ National Park Service\ climbing -- personal\ guiding\ fun\ time -- limited\ mountains\ teaching -- children\ guide -- patience\ finances\ fortunate\ clients|

Section 28: guiding -- increased\ Mt. Everest\ advertising\ publicity\ Krakauer, Jon\ Denali\ Seven Summits\ people -- aware\ environment -- use\ resources\ preservation\ blessing -- mixed\ National Park Service\ abuse\ guides\ mountains\ climbing -- goals\ heart attack\ climb -- 5.9\ ?, Fred\ Shockley?\ Weisner\ endurance\ family -- importance\ kids -- focus\ soccer -- coach\ mountains -- risks\ parent -- worry\ unknown -- exploration\ limits -- pushing\ learning\ Talkeetna, AK -- bunkhouse|