1999 Avalanche Disaster
In October of 1999, forty year old mountain climber Alex Lowe and twenty-nine year old expedition cameraman David Bridges died in a Himalayan avalanche. Along with fellow alpinist Conrad Anker, they set out that morning to analyze the south face of Shishapangma, a Tibetan peak. Six other expedition members, farther back from the three scouts in the lead, were spared the sudden, crashing torrent of ice and snow. Seriously wounded and partially buried, Conrad pulled himself out of the avalanche’s aftermath and participated in the desperate, but ultimately futile, two day search for Alex and David.
Back in Montana, Alex’s widow Jenni had only verbal reports, along with her own climber’s instinct and intuition, to confirm her husband’s mortality. No physical proof of a life ended. No lifeless body to authenticate the finality of death. No tangible validation of a life ended and grief begun.
Shock. Explaining to three young children, family, loved ones. Grief. Mourning. All without a body to say goodbye to. Etching, scraping, and climbing through grief and loss to survive. Adjusting to a family that was tragically minus one. Preserving a father’s love and legacy.
Jenni and her boys were later joined by new husband and stepfather Conrad Anker. Bound by the pain of Alex’s loss, they built a new family together over the months, years, and decade-plus that passed.
2016 Mournful Recovery
Sixteen years later, in April of 2016, came the chance for a final goodbye in the flesh, after Alex’s and David’s bodies were found on the mountain.
Bodies preserved, long after lives were lost to a frigid end. Lives claimed by the mountain, now brought to the surface by glacial melt. A potential grief ambush of torrential proportions revealed by the sun’s light. The emotional trauma of facing the proof of a life vanished, the irrefutable evidence of widowhood, and the harsh reality of all that was lost.
Ice melted. Grief revisited. Goodbyes offered. Mourning renewed. Time to review, admire, and remember both Alex’s and David’s lives. An opportunity to mentally journey back and reflect honor on husband, father, friend, and climber.
Widow to Widow
Dear Jenni Lowe-Anker,
May God give you His strength and comfort as you face this mountain. May the melting ice give way to precious memories, love remembered, and a husband honored. May your grief be less about ambush and more about resolution. I pray that this reviewal will refresh your family’s precious memories of Alex. May the light of God’s son bring peace and closure, rest and nostalgia, hope and renewal. I pray that your widow’s heart not be torn, but instead that your love for Alex will be celebrated and commemorated, even as you continue on with the love of the second half of your life.
Prayers for God’s blessings on you and your family.
Kristina Lunde, a fellow pilgrim on the journey through grief