WASHINGTON, D.C. – For nearly 20 years, Bob Lowry has climbed mountains. Not just ordinary mountains. He has conquered 15 of the biggest mountains in the world, on all the continents, in his spare time. His most recent climb in 2015 was Denali (formerly known as Mount McKinley) in Alaska.
“I love where it is,” said Lowry about the sport of mountaineering. “I love the feeling and the people that you meet.” That includes one particular woman he met on Mount Everest in Nepal who later became his wife.
Lowry, market director for PNC’s institutional asset management division in the Greater Washington area, says he has been to numerous remote places on his mountaineering expeditions and that many of them have been dangerous.
He has climbed significant mountains in Africa, South America, North America and Russia and was as far south as Antarctica, where he climbed Mount Vinson. “Antarctica is a beautiful place,” he said.
Somehow, something comes out of you, this strength, this desire, this power – and it’s because of what’s around you. Imagine these big mountains that have defined what the earth looks like. You draw the energy from them.
For Lowry, each climb requires more than strength. It takes courage and teamwork. “The mountain teaches you who you are. It either weeds you out or makes you strive harder,” he said.
Imagine the climbing team, lashed together by a rope, standing on the side of a crevasse, a deep foreboding gash in the ice that could swallow a person whole with one misstep.
“You’re standing at the edge of it and there’s a bunch of people tied to a rope behind you. If you don’t go, no one’s going,” Lowry said. “No matter how scared you are, you have to break through that barrier.”
He added: “And then it’s amazing the feeling you get once you step across that and you know you made it. It’s a feeling of euphoria. You just feel… ahhh... 'I’ve done it. I’ve achieved something big.’ And then you keep going and you root on the person behind you.”
Lowry has applied his “rope team” philosophy to his day job. During a group meeting, he brought in one of his climbing ropes and had everyone on his team grab on.
What everyone realized was that just because someone’s not speaking doesn’t mean they don’t need help. And that’s the team dynamic. If someone at work says ‘I’m stuck,’ I’m immediately on the phone or one of my colleagues is on the phone saying, ‘How can I get you unstuck?’ At the end of the day we all have to help each other.
Lowry’s love of mountaineering has enabled him to help others who want to learn about the sport. Recently he helped a PNC colleague, Greg Simmons in Orlando, successfully climb Mount Kilimanjaro, the highest point in Africa.
Lowry believes education is the most important aspect of mountaineering, along with hands-on training. His continuing education has included understanding terrain, reading snow patterns, deciphering mountain weather, performing mountaineering first-aid and developing advanced climbing skills.
When asked about how much gear he has to carry, he said, “If I don’t touch something every day, then I don’t need it.”
Lowry does not have a bucket list of mountains, per se. He just goes to places that he is interested in climbing. There’s one place left, however, that he has yet to touch – Carstensz Pyramid in Indonesia, part of the Asia Pacific. Lowry says he will get there eventually.
He and his wife Nicky also plan to spend two months together climbing Mount Everest in March 2016. It is a return trip for both of them. They were separately traversing Mount Everest in 2008 and met on the mountain.
“She was climbing. She summited. I had to turn back one camp short,” he said. “But, we’re going back as a married couple.”
You’ve got to first break through the fence of fear to play on the court of courage.
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