In 1991, after 9 harrowing days on the North Face of the Eiger, Jeff Lowe abandoned his backpack when he couldn't find any anchors at the end of his rope. He was topping out on his new route, Metanoia, that went straight up the center of the Eiger Nordwand.
Jeff untied and left the rope and his pack behind, as he climbed unroped the last 50 feet to the summit ridge. There he clipped into a long cable dangling from a helicopter, scarcely an hour before a big storm would engulf the great North Face.
As Jeff was swept away from the summit, dangling at the end of the cable, he looked back at the face and his backpack. In his mind's eye he could see the next summer's sun melting out the ice screws that held the pack in place. Inevitably the screw would pull free and the pack would pull free and begin the long descent, crashing against the rock face, breaking apart along the way, littering the lower ramparts of the North Face. Jeff wanted to return and get his pack before that happened. Life took it's twists and turns and a full year went by and he had not made it back to the Eiger. At that point he assumed the pack had already fallen and it was too late.
In 2009, climbers Robert Jasper and Roger Schäli found themselves in the exact spot that Jeff Lowe had been 18 years before. They were making the world's first free ascent of the Eiger's Japanese Diretissima ("most direct route"), which convenes with Lowe's 1991 Metanoia route on Switzerland's North Face of the Eiger, near the summit. As Jasper writes and Schali would later report back to Jeff: "After several alpine pitches and terrible traverses we finally reach the summit Icefield. Here the discovery: an old backpack, frozen solid into the ice... a very welcome belay as we only took two ice- screws with us. In all probability the sack was left behind by Jeff Lowe".
When Jeff heard about the discovery, he was already making plans for returning to Switzerland as part of a film that was being born around the dining table of Lowe's Ogden, Utah home. He hoped that they would be able to retrieve the pack during the process of filming for Jeff Lowe's Metanoia.
On March 25, 2011, Josh Wharton spent over 2 hours chopping Jeff's backpack out of the ice and snow, high up on the North Face of the Eiger. Getting the frozen pack onto the helicopter was quite precarious for everyone involved. Lowe was anxious to see the condition of the pack after 20 years on the mountain. Josh delivered the frozen, weather worn Vaude backpack to Jeff on the deck of the Bellevue Hotel at Kleine Scheidegg. The pack was frozen solid and hit the deck with a loud thud. Lowe felt a weight lift from his shoulders as the pack finally lay at his feet. Chris Alstrin filmed both the excavation and the delivery.
Jeff was relieved to have this bit of unfinished business taken care of after all these years. Leaving the pack was contrary to Jeff's Alpine Style aesthetic, of doing more with less and leaving nothing behind. Circumstances forced his hand on that winter day in 1991 and leaving it all behind had been necessary for his own survival.
Josh also delivered a Jumar and Gibbs Ascender that he cut away with the rope that was attached to the ice screw along with the pack.
It took 8 days for the backpack to thaw enough to be opened.