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Mountaineering & Expeditions

Lowe Alpine Celebrates Its 50th Anniversary With New Pack Range

The longstanding Lowe Alpine brand has been producing quality packs for half a century now and it's still going strong with an innovative new range for 2017.

This year marks the 50th anniversary of the very first Lowe Alpine sack in 1967, when brothers Jeff and Greg Lowe developed the clean-lined Expedition Pack, a technical rucksack aimed squarely at climbers and mountaineers.

And 50 years later the brand is still going strong in the pack market with a whole new range of Ascent climbing sacks set to be launched this spring. Of course all outdoor brands like to lay claim to a rich outdoors heritage, but with Lowe Alpine it’s the real thing.

Start Them Young…

The Lowe brothers – Mike, Greg and Jeff – started their mountaineering careers early, each being taken up the Exum Ridge of Grand Teton by their father Ralph at the age of 10, 9 and 7 years respectively. With seven-year-old Jeff being the youngest climber ever to tackle the route at the time.

Ralph Lowe with Mike, Greg, Jeff – Ogden Utah, USA 1957 from The Jeff Lowe Collection.

From that start, the Lowe brothers quickly developed into talented climbers and, as teenagers, rapidly outstripped their father’s abilities, though building on the foundations he gave them.

‘The skills and judgement learned in those early years became the basis for our pursuit of recreation, work and lifestyle’ – Mike Lowe

The brothers were distinctly different though. Greg was a talented climber in his own right, but also an inventor with a flair for developing ingenious hardware solutions – as a child he managed to convert a cap-firing toy pistol into a real weapon using his own home-brewed gun powder.

Jeff, meanwhile, was fascinated with the challenges of climbing alpine style in the Himalayas, fascinated by the idea of taking on 8,000m peaks by routes that had to both offer technical difficulty and, in his words ‘most importantly, take an elegant line’.

Notably he made the first ascent, solo, of the south face of Ama Dablam and almost succeeded on the the north ridge of Latok. He also, in 1990, went on to free climb the Trango Tower in Pakistan with Catherine Destivelle.

That Was Then…

The fledgling Lowe Alpine kit was produced in the basement of the Lowe family home in Ogden, Utah. In particular, the first Expedition Pack – did what it says on the can – pioneered load carrying technology that made it stand out from anything else around.

‘It was the way they carried that made all the difference,’ recalls Jeff Lowe of the first testing sessions hauling huge loads into the Wind Rivers in 1969. ‘Our aspirations were to create the most functional, highest quality gear systems for the climbs of our dreams’.

Scroll down for what’s coming next

Greg Lowe was drawn to the Himalayan scene, in this case Ama Dablam - Lowe Collection
Jeff and Greg Lowe climbing together - Lowe Collection
Jeff Lowe carries a big bird and Lowe Alpine Expedition Pack on Mt Blanc du Tacul in 1986: image - Marc Twight
These are 1982 era Lowe Alpine rucksacks photographed by Jeff Lowe himself and advanced for the time - Jeff Lowe

The New Ascent Packs – Spring 2017

We’ve already told you about the new Ascent Superlite pack due out this spring and aimed at minimalist alpinist and rock climbers. Its a pared-down design that weighs in at just 540g when stripped down.

There’s no structured back system, just a removable, doubled-over bivi sit-mat, the fabric is super tough but light and uses TriShield Superlight fabric coating reinforcement. And then there’s the trademark HeadLocker ice axe attachment system for ease of use.

It’s due in the shops in March 2017 with a price-tag of £100. The Ascent Light is a 30L hauler, but other packs in the range use the same principles of streamlined, but tough materials and constructions, but in different capacities and with different end uses in mind.

The new Ascent Superlight is due out in March 2017 and is a minimalist technical pack with a removable bivi seat pad and a zip-open top.

Unashamedly Retro

Also due out in March is a rather cool Teton range which deliberately harks back to those first Lowe-family climbs on the Grand Teton. The packs, including the 30-litre Klettersack aimed squarely at walkers, have a distinctly traditional look and feel.

They use a top-loading design with drawstring, big buckles, tough canvas fabric and leather trim detail.Inside is an internal valuables pocket and a basic laptop/ hydration sleeve in case you suddenly remember it’s the 21st Century after all.

The Klettersack 30 – see the pics below – will be available exclusively from Cotswold Outdoor come March as well as direct from Lowe Alpine’s website – and will retail for £80. You too can be be Clint Eastwood in the Eiger Sanction…

Lowe Alpine's new Klettersack 30 available from March either via Cotswold Outdoor or direct from Lowe Alpine.
Simple back-system and classic lines recall old-time Lowe Alpine packs. Fabric is canvas.
Leather trimmings hark back to a bygone era - presumably you'll be able to add accessory side straps and maybe even pockets.
Chunky, trad-styled buckles are right in keeping with the canvas fabric and leather trim. There's an ice-axe loop too, no Head-Locker here, just a webbing loop

And A Peek At Winter 2017

Looking even further ahead, Lowe Alpine has two new developments due out this autumn: a tough, affordable, mid-priced backpacking range and a family of Descent packs aimed squarely at skiers and snow-boarders.

The backpacking sacs are called Kulu and, says Lowe, ‘are for anyone setting out on an adventure in need of a robust and comfortable companion’. They’re sort of mid-sized with capacities between 50L and 65L and include all mod cons.

There’s a new Travel FlipBelt, which allows for easy stowage of the hip-belt for travelling and storage. Adjustable back systems including a women’s specific range. Large zippered front panels for easy access to the main body. Stow-away rain covers and lots more.

In nutshell, pretty much everything you’d except from a Lowe Alpine big pack with price for the 55/65L version to be a reasonable £140.

New for winter 2017 are the new Kulu backpacking sacks (left) and the snowsports Descent range aimed at powder hounds everywhere.

Also new for winter is the Descent range of snowsports packs aimed at boarders and skiers. They have rear pack entire, snow-shedding back system and are designed for stability in use. Features include a removable insulated hydration-system tube to stop your fluids freezing, a multi-function ski/board carrying system and goggle pocket and helmet holders.

The pack is strategically reinforced with Trishield Dura fabric in critical areas, so you can crash and burn to your heart’s content. The range includes 25L, 35L and women’s specific ND23 packs. Price for the Descent 35 will be £120.

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