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with Stefan Nestler

Red carpet for Jeff Lowe

Thomas Huber at the ISPO

Thomas Huber at the ISPO

Thomas Huber radiates pure joie de vivre. “I’m doing well, more than in a long time,” says the 50-year-old German top climber, as we meet at the ISPO sporting goods trade fair in Munich. On 30 December, the older of the two Huber brothers had provided another highlight of his career: Along with the Swiss climbers Stephan Siegrist and Roger Schaeli, Thomas succeeded the second ascent of the legendary route “Metanoia” in the centre of the Eiger North Face: “How can a year end better? I have just taken this flow with me,” enthuses Huber.

“Wow, it’s okay!”

Jeff Lowes legendary route "Metanoia"

Jeff Lowes legendary route “Metanoia”

2016 was an extreme year for him. First the 16-meter-fall from a rock face in the Berchtesgaden region in Bavaria, which he survived with incredible luck; then the almost miraculous turbo recovery from the scull fracture he had suffered; the journey to Pakistan to climb the North Face of the seven-thousander Latok I; the unsuccessful rescue action for the US climbers Kyle Dempster and Scott Adamson at the nearby Ogre II; then the veto of his companions against an attempt on Latok I. “These were all difficult moments, which I had to work up mentally,” Thomas admits. “I have accepted my fall, and that I had made a mistake there. I have also reflected that I simply need to be more conscious. Maybe I too – like Jeff Lowe – have become a new person through climbing Metanoia, because I can say now: Wow, it’s all right. I am strong. We had so much fun, although we were pretty close to the limit.”

Rare illness

For 25 years, the extreme route that Jeff Lowe had opened in winter 1991, climbing solo, without bolts, had been a too hard nut to crack for many climbers. The American had come to the Eiger North Face in a life crisis. “I’m not sure that he really wanted to return home,” says Roger Schaeli in the video on the second ascent.

Not for nothing, Lowe called his route “Metanoia”, which means “repentance”. Today, the climbing pioneer, who has made more than 1000 first ascents in his career, is sitting in a wheelchair. The 66-year-old suffers from a rare, still incurable illness, with similar symptoms like MS or ALS. Thomas Huber had visited Jeff Lowe before his expedition to Latok I. In 1978, Lowe had belonged to a rope team of four, who had climbed via the North Ridge of Latok I to a point not far below the 7,145-meter-high summit, when a storm had hit them back. 22 days after setting off, the quartet had returned to the base camp, completely exhausted, but safe.

Awe and gratitude

Huber, Schaeli and Siegrist (from l. to r.)

Huber, Schaeli and Siegrist (from l. to r.)

“I met Jeff and saw him confined to his wheelchair,” says Thomas. “I realized at once that I would like to repeat his route Metanoia. I wanted to roll out a red carpet to tell him: Hey, guy, what you did at that time was a doozie!” After the many failed attempts to repeat it, Lowe’s Route had become a “mystery”, says Thomas. “At some point everybody said: Metanoia, crazy, strange.” The American had spent nine days in the wall. In their second run, Huber, Siegrist and Schaeli needed two days to repeat the route. “We were three, Jeff was alone then. During every pitch, that I led, I tried to imagine how it was for him climbing alone. He must have been totally stressed. But he did it!” Thomas wonders. “I have left the route with a great deal of awe – and also gratitude: that I am still living.”


9. February 2017 | 16:59