Frozen backpack

In a life and death decision, Jeff Lowe decided to ditch his pack. 20 years later, he gets it back

Ever wonder how long outdoor gear will last? If it was made by Vaude in 1990, it could last 20 years—in the right conditions.

In 1991, American climber Jeff Lowe's nine-day attempt on a new route on Switzerland's Eiger North Face ended in a panic. With no anchor to hold his gear and a storm on the way, Lowe ditched his pack and rushed for the summit. Shortly after a helicopter plucked him off the ridge just before the storm closed in.

Dumping gear on a mountain face went against Lowe's ethics, but it was a life-and-death decision, he says. On March 25, 2011, he was able to close the book on the episode when his pack was found and recovered, relatively intact. It took two hours to dig it out of the ice on the North Face.

The extrication was filmed as part of Metonia, a film Lowe is producing about the route he pioneered. The pack was delivered to Lowe at the base of the mountain. While the pack itself looks pretty beaten up, the gear inside-including an intact roll of toilet paper, nine stuff sacks, a Nalgene pee bottle and a Vaude sleeping bag-is still in good condition.

Rock and Ice Magazine's website reports the pack is a Vaude backpack. Though these packs are a little hard to find in Canada, all the Vaude packs I've used have been excellent quality.

Read more about the discovery and the contents of the pack

This is a film of the pack being dug out: