Not even the deepest losses keep Lowell Skoog from his sanctuary in the Cascades.
LOWELL SKOOG WAS painting the house, as his wife had asked him to do, when they arrived to tell him she had died.
“Lowell, I think you should come down from that ladder,” neighbor Mike Gluck remembers saying before breaking the news.
Lowell’s wife, Stephanie Subak, had been trekking in the High Sierra near Bishop, Calif., with three girlfriends, including Gluck’s wife, Martha.
The women used a satellite-connected device to send emergency messages that were routed to first responders and relayed among anxious husbands at home in Seattle.
The first messages said there’d been an accident and asked for helicopter rescue. Hours later, another communication notified of a fatality. It didn’t immediately say which woman had died.
For nearly two hours, the husbands had been calling and searching for Lowell, playing the probabilities in their minds that it was their wives who had died.
Now, as night fell, they gathered in Lowell’s Maple Leaf home as he grappled with another message — that Steph, the woman who broke him out of his shell, became his partner and ordered his life, was gone.
HIS WIFE’S DEATH in 2015 was not tragedy’s first strike at Lowell Skoog.
“It’s been, unfortunately, a defining part of his life — death in the mountains,” says Tom Skoog, Lowell’s son. “Literally, I am named after … a family friend who died in the mountains.”
For more than four decades, Lowell has been a pioneer of Northwest mountains. The 61-year-old retired software engineer has climbed hundred of peaks in the Cascades and skied off the summits of many.
When your social circle is a crowd of boundary-pushing outdoor lovers, tragedy tends to come with the terrain.
In Lowell’s computer, there’s a macabre list named fallenfriends.txt. There are 32 names on that list. It includes Mark Bebie, Tom Wiesmann, Doug Walker. Carl….