Born in 1960 to a U.S. marine and his beautiful wife, Jon was drawn to adventure from the start. As a young boy growing up on military bases, he hunted horny toads, got lost in sandstorms and started a brush fire with his brother that required numerous fire trucks at the scene. With the passing of years, Jon settled for quieter versions of glory – he cut/faceted one of the world’s 10 largest gemstones, he was San Diego County CIF player of the year in high school water polo and he went on to graduate from Stanford University with a BS and MS in Industrial Engineering.
Jon’s first job was with Hewlett Packard in San Diego and in 1989, he began a new adventure on an international scale. Jon and his wife, Susan, moved to Melbourne where he continued working for HP and Susan chased after their three Aussie boys – Nicholas, Noah, and Nathaniel. Jon started his own IT networking and integration company, Centari Systems, while still making time to coach basketball, play laser-strike and hold hands with his wife at the movies. After 11 successful years of business, with offices in all Australian capital cities, Jon was able to retire, leaving him much more time for his new hobbies – mountaineering, playing gridiron football and building The HP Computer Museum (www.hpmuseum.net).
Jon successfully summited Elbrus (2010); Aconcagua, Island Peak and Lobuche East (2013); and was on Everest in both 2014 and 2015, hoping for a shot at the top. After those seasons ended tragically by avalanche and earthquake, and his own close call in the Khumbu Ice Fall, Jon was ready for a less risky change of scenery and joined Kobler & Partner’s expedition to Shishapangma and Cho Oyu in April 2016, with plans to try Everest again, from the north side, in 2017.
As Jenni Lowe-Anker said to Susan not long ago, here’s to the wild places and the wild souls.
The Johnston family is honored to support the KCC in Jon’s memory and they will be forever grateful to Jenni for her kindness, her boundless compassion and her willingness to open her huge and generous heart to Susan and the boys.
To donate to the Alex Lowe Charitable Foundation in memory of Jon please use the button below.
no occurrence is sole and solitary, but is merely a repetition of a thing which has happened before and perhaps often.
This past November, I received a message from Susan Johnston in Australia. She told me of her late husband, Jon who had died on the 8000 meter Tibetan mountain, Shishapangma in April. Jon was roped to two partners while ascending the glacier en route to camp one when the party fell 33 m into a large crevasse. Jon and Patrick Mattioli, died in the fall and their bodies remain there. Susan became a widow with three sons, Noah, Nicholas, and Nathaniel.I responded to Susan with compassion and empathy and we have built a strong friendship, though we have yet to meet.Seventeen years before in October of 1999, my own husband Alex Lowe died on Shishapangma, swept away by a massive avalanche and buried along with David Bridges. I was widowed with three young sons and Alex’s body was never found. Until April when he melted from the glacier, discovered by other mountaineers just three days after Jon Johnston’s death.
Weeks later, we recovered and cremated Alex and David at the remote Tibetan base camp. My husband of fifteen years, Conrad Anker led a team to recover the bodies from the glacier. Conrad who had been Alex’s closest friend and climbing partner, survived that avalanche long ago. We married and he adopted our sons, Max, Sam and Isaac.
In the aftermath of the tragedy in 1999, I founded the ALCF and we launched the Khumbu Climbing Center in 2002. Now in its fifteenth year, KCC has trained over a thousand Sherpa and indigenous Nepali whose lives and livelihoods are intertwined with their mountain environment. Providing vital technical skills, the KCC has grown and thrived through time and tragedy in Nepal.
The Everest avalanche of 2014, the worst season in Mountaineering history took the lives of 18 Nepali climbers. One year later, the earthquake of 2015 exacted more lives and a terrible toll on Nepal.
Susan Johnston and I have joined hearts in our efforts to sustain the Khumbu Climbing Center. Please honor Jon Johnston, Alex Lowe and all those lost in the mountains. Join us to help build a safer future and create a safe haven for a mountain culture at risk.
– Jenni Lowe