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  “Alex Lowe Peak”: A Mountain Honoring a Mountaineer


Alex Lowe Peak, Photo by Terry Cunningham

The US Board on Geographic Names (BGN) has approved a proposal to bestow the name “Alex Lowe Peak” on a mountain in the Gallatin National Forest. The commemorative name honors the late mountaineer Alex Lowe of Bozeman, MT, who had a unique association with the mountain (Peak 10,031) which was previously known by its elevation.

 

Prior to his death in October, 1999, Alex Lowe was considered by many to be the world’s best climber (Outside magazine, March, 1999). Alex’s climbing resume includes many first ascents – such as Great Trango Tower in Pakistan and Rakekniven in Antarctica – as well as new routes in far-flung places such as Baffin Islands, Kyrgyzstan and Nepal. Lowe reached the summit of Mt. Everest twice: in 1990 and 1993. Closer to home, Alex enjoyed climbing in all seasons in the Tetons as well as scaling difficult ice features in the Hyalite Canyon of the Gallatin National Forest. According to Outside magazine (December, 1999), “No matter how jaw-dropping his routes, Lowe’s real genius grew out of the way he combined physical accomplishments with an indomitable spirit.”

 

“I am pleased and proud that this incredible honor has been given to Alex for his accomplishments as a mountaineer and for the positive, humble spirit that he shared with so many,” said Jennifer Lowe, the widow of the late climber and President of the Alex Lowe Charitable Foundation. “It is certainly nothing he would have dreamed of but it is wonderful for the people who keep Alex in their heart to know that amongst the millions of mountains on this earth, there is now one right here in the Gallatin National Forest that is named for a mountaineer from Montana. Terry Cunningham, who conceived of the idea and brought it to fruition, has my heartfelt thanks!”

 

Terry Cunningham of Bozeman, Montana, who submitted the application to the BGN said, “There are hundreds, if not thousands of un-named mountains, valleys and streams in Montana. The fact that there are still features available to be named for worthy individuals is a gift from previous generations of Montanans.” Cunningham also says, “The published criteria for applying a name to an unnamed feature are fairly straight-forward, and Alex Lowe is a textbook example of someone who fits such standards.”

 

The BGN will not consider a commemorative name unless the individual has been deceased for at least five years. Further, the person in question should ideally have a direct association with the feature being named in his/her honor. In the spring of 1997, Alex Lowe and Hans Saari climbed up a tremendous north-facing couloir on Peak 10,031: a seldom-visited mountain southwest of Mt. Blackmore in the Gallatin National Forest. Once atop the peak, they clicked into their ski bindings and attempted the first-ever ski-descent of the nearly vertical snow-filled gash which they nicknamed “Hellmouth Couloir.” The ski required them to rappel over a huge chockstone before successfully completing their descent. It is believed that this feat has never been repeated. “It is fitting,” says Cunningham, “that this beautiful peak would be named after a person who climbed up its slopes, skied down its most challenging feature and appreciated its silent majesty.”

 

The name-change application submitted by Cunningham also provided evidence of local support: a key requisite for approval by the BGN. The proposal to name Peak 10,031 “Alex Lowe Peak” was endorsed via letters of support from the Bozeman City Commission, the Gallatin County Commission, the Gallatin National Forest Supervisor, the Headwaters Chapter of the Sierra Club and the Alex Lowe Charitable Foundation. The proposal also garnered the editorial support from the Bozeman Daily Chronicle.

 

Alex Lowe’s parents, Jim and Dottie Lowe of Robinsville, NC, said “We believe that everyone who climbs this special mountain will feel Alex’s presence and exhilaration at being there. He was our beloved son, and it gives us tremendous pleasure to know there’s a peak with his name, one that he skied in his adventurous way, and we know he would feel honored and humbled by this recognition”

 

Alex’s love of wild places - and the native people who inhabit them – was the inspiration for the Alex Lowe Charitable Foundation  which provides direction and financial support to sustainable humanitarian programs in the remote regions of the world where Alex visited.

 

A formal public dedication of Alex Lowe Peak is in the planning stages.

 

Background Information

 

Alex Lowe:  Stuart Alexander Lowe was born December 24, 1958 in Frederick, MD. Died October 5, 1999 in an avalanche on the slopes of Shishapangma in Tibet.

 

Jennifer Lowe: Bozeman resident, acclaimed artist, mother of 3 children. President of Alex Lowe Charitable Foundation. Married to Conrad Anker.

 

Alex Lowe Peak: Located in Gallatin National Forest in southwest Montana. Elevation 10,031’. South/Southwest of Mt. Blackmore at the head of South Cottonwood Creek.

 

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