Alex Lowe’s and David Bridges’ Remains Found on Shishapangma

The bodies of Alex Lowe and David Bridges were found April 27 on Shishapangma, in Tibet. Ueli Steck and David Goettler discovered them while acclimatizing for an ascent of Shishapangma’s South Face.

By Rock and Ice | April 29th, 2016

The remains of Alex Lowe and David Bridges were found April 27 on Shishapangma, in Tibet. Ueli Steck and David Goettler discovered them while acclimatizing for an ascent of Shishapangma’s South Face.

Jennifer Lowe-Anker, widow of Alex Lowe, said in a statement released by the Alex Lowe Charitable Foundation: “Alex and David vanished, were captured and frozen in time. Sixteen years of life has been lived and now they are found. We are thankful.”

The statement read that Steck and Goettler, European alpinists, “had come across the remains of two climbers still encased in blue ice but beginning to emerge from the glacier. Goettler described the clothing and packs of the climbers to Conrad [Anker,] who concluded that the two were undoubtedly David Bridges and Alex Lowe.”

Alex Lowe, 40, and David Bridges, 29, were killed by an avalanche on Shishapangma in 1999. Bridges and Lowe were part of the nine-member American Shishapangma Ski Expedition, which also included Conrad Anker.  The expedition hoped to achieve the first American ski descent off the summit of an 8,000-meter peak.

Above the clouds in the Himalaya, Shishapangma is at left. Photo: Swinelin / Wikimedia Commons.
Above the clouds in the Himalaya, Shishapangma is at left. Photo: Swinelin / Wikimedia Commons.

On October 5, Lowe, Bridges and Anker were crossing a glacier at 19,000 feet when a serac broke off 6,000 feet above them, loosing an avalanche. Bridge and Lowe were buried. Anker was thrown by the windblast but survived with injuries. Despite a 20-hour search, Lowe and Bridges were never found.

Lowe was considered among the finest all-around alpinists in the world. Bridges was an accomplished high-altitude climber, cinematographer and two-time US national paragliding champion.

Alex Lowe’s physical gifts and versatility earned him the nickname the Mutant, while in South America he was called the Lung With Legs after a speed ascent of Aconcagua. Lowe, a native of Montana, first proved himself in Yosemite and over the years on-sighted up to 5.12d and posted astounding routes, including the most difficult mixed and ice climbs in America. He achieved the first solo ascent of Grand Teton’s North Face in winter, the first ascent of the Northwest Face of Trango Tower, a solo up the Matterhorn’s North Face, two Everest summits, and a rescue on Denali. Conrad Anker was often quoted as saying, “We’re all at this one level, and then there’s Alex.” Seven months before Lowe died, Outside magazine suggested him as the world’s greatest mountaineer.

David Bridges on the Rigid Designator (WI5) in Vail, Colorado. Photo: Dick Jackson
David Bridges on the Rigid Designator (WI5) in Vail, Colorado. Photo: Dick Jackson

David Bridges was an uncommonly strong high-altitude mountaineer. A California native, Bridges learned to climb among the twisted scrub of Joshua Tree and big walls of Yosemite. After summiting Denali at 19, he led an American expedition on K2 in the Karakoram and topped out Annapurna IV and Makalu in the Himalaya. As the cinematographer on the Shishapangma expedition, he hauled extra weight and hiked extra miles to film the expedition.

Tyler Stableford wrote in Outside magazine that Bridges “had the most hypoxic job on the mountain. He would start his day far behind the frontline team, taping Tibetan vistas, and then dash ahead to shoot the other climbers as they passed by. He was the only member of the elite crew capable of performing this task in the thin atmosphere of an 8,000-meter peak while keeping pace with Lowe and Conrad Anker.”

Dick Jackson wrote in the American Alpine Journal, “Without a doubt Dave Bridges was on his way to the top of the stack, the heir to the alpine throne of his 11 year senior, Alex … He was absolutely in his prime, an aerobic monster, mentally focused and passionately committed in all aspects of his life.”

In 2003, Jennifer Lowe-Anker and Conrad Anker, who had married, established the Khumbu Climbing Center in Phortse, Nepal. The center trains current and aspiring local guides in mountaineering safety practices.

Lowe and Anker, best friends and climbing partners. Photo: Chris Noble, courtesy of the Alex Lowe Charitable Foundation
Lowe and Anker, best friends and climbing partners. Photo: Chris Noble, courtesy of the Alex Lowe Charitable Foundation

Jennifer Lowe-Anker’s memoir, Forget Me Not, won a National Outdoor Book Award for Outdoor Literature in 2008.


 

A personal perspective on Alex Lowe (“Who is the Best Climber in the World?” with his answer) and his family can be found here. 

 An update on the Khumbu Climbing Center, started by Jennifer Lowe-Anker and Conrad Anker in memory of Alex Lowe, can be found here.

The Alex Lowe Charitable Foundation’s website can be viewed here.

 

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