This week, the Squaw Valley Institute in cooperation with Truckee Donner Land Trust and the Resort at Squaw Creek is hosting legendary alpinist Conrad Anker and award winning author and artist Jennifer Lowe-Anker, for a special presentation on the connection between individual spirit, family, philanthropy and adventure.
This husband and wife team has a long history in the international mountaineering community that is in many ways centered around the memory of the late, great Alex Lowe - a man who, at the time of his death, was undoubtedly America's premier mountaineer. Lowe was Jennifer Lowe-Anker's first husband and father of her three sons. He was also the best friend and climbing partner of Anker. During the mourning and recovery process following such a tramendous loss, Anker and Lowe-Anker grew close, eventually developing a romantic relationship.
Much of Lowe's memory is now publicly expressed in the Alex Lowe Charitable Foundation which established, and continues to run, the Khumbu Climbing Center (KCC) in Nepal. Anker acknowledges that as he has grown older, much of his insatiable energy for action in the outdoors has shifted from personal summit goals to giving back to the places and people that have given to him over the years. That sentiment is where Anker and Lowe-Anker gained the impetus for the KCC.
When Anker first visited the Himalaya an "old hand mentioned that it was the people not the mountains that would change my life. In my typical self-centered, 20 year-old view of the world, I doubted his sage observation. ... After the first expedition I realized how prescient my mentor was. It was the people. They changed my life. Realizing they brought so much into my life I knew that it was up to me to give back. Being merely a climber, it dawned on my wife Jenni and I that as climbers our best way to give back was with the skills that we knew best."
It has been nine years since the KCC started instructing Nepali climbers and high altitude workers in safe and responsible climbing practices. The goal being to create a sustainable, community based program that allows the local people to have control of their trade so that they live healthier, happier lives. As Anker puts it: "a happy climber is a safe climber."
Together, Lowe-Anker and Anker continue to work on the KCC project raising funds to build the KCC Community Building in Phortse, Nepal. "Construction has began and phase 1 is complete," says Lowe-Anker with pride. "But, we need to finish raising the $300,000 to finish... At that time we are going to hand over the building to the local Sherpa board of directors... That way it will be a sustainable project" that benefits the local community form within, opposed to having foreign direction.
The dedication to the natural environment and the communities that thrive around them is the focus of this husband and wife philanthropic team. "I hope that our work today will allow children a hundred years from now to be able to experience the same thing that we do in the outdoors: the sense of purpose, the clarity it brings, the happiness," says Anker.