How to capture the experience of a lifetime in a single 20 second exposure photograph

There was no shortage of documentation during my trip to the Havasu Falls area with Columbia Sportswear and the OmniTen team. We shot heaps of footage with our GoPros, tweeted any time we had cell service, blogged during any downtime, and took thousands of photos with our respective cameras.

But nothing compares to this:

Photo by: Will Rochfort
http://WMRjr.com

I get goosebumps just looking at this beautiful snapshot – it perfectly captures the essence of our trip, the teamwork employed during our collective adventure, the eager spirit I encountered in every single person I traveled through Arizona with, and the beautiful family that is the OmniTen crew.

This photo was captured by the wonderful Will Rochfort during a late evening hike down to Havasu Falls from our campsite. It took us eight takes to get the shot just right, and the light sources were all headlamps – which felt appropriate, if you ask me. We got a little wet and dirty in the process, but that seems to have been the theme of our Havasu adventure.

We began the journey to Arizona with Columbia Sportswear as a group of total strangers. I only knew my nine OmniTen counterparts by the faces I had inspected on their various social media profiles. We had exchanged plentiful tweets, and a Facebook page was created to foster interactivity – but I didn’t know these people. It was mildly terrifying to board the airplane heading towards the Phoenix airport, knowing that I wouldn’t be greeted by a single familiar face.

And yet, now I can’t imagine my life without these people. We are a funky bunch – a vegan triathlete from Ohio, a handsome face who loves showtunes, a peak-bagging wonder from San Jose, a climbing couple with an unassuming charm; we’re weird. I would have never grouped us together, and yet, we were somehow bound through our OmniTen connection – and it worked.

By the end of our trip, we all shed tears at the thought of departing from each other’s company. There are some bonds so unique that one simply can’t bear the thought of letting them go. How many people do you hike 10 miles out of the Grand Canyon with, urging each other onward, and sharing a hidden nook for potty purposes? I don’t know about you, but taking a poop in the middle of the desert in front of someone you’ve only known for five days seems like a pretty big sign of true friendship. (You know who you are, and I’d gladly pop a squat with you any time!)

To my OmniTen friends, you light up my life. Thank you for the most humbling, inspiring, uplifting, and downright HOT adventure. We will meet again, and now we’ve got a challenge to make the next adventure even more memorable than the first. I love you all.

I’m back from the OmniTen trip to Arizona with Columbia Sportswear (reluctantly)

Holy mother of Arizona adventure. Here I am, in humid Florida, still reeling from the epic trip that I’m still not sure really happened. I’m sitting here with heaps of GoPro footage, thousands of photos, and a slightly torn wristband that served as my permit for camping near the Havasupai village deep in the Grand Canyon. Did that whole trip really just happen?

Words can’t even begin to describe what I experienced while out traversing canyons, waterfalls, streams, and travertine tunnels with the OmniTen crew and Columbia Sportswear team. Our time together began with a week of industry events revolving around the release of Columbia’s newest innovation, OmniFreeze Zero. We were wined and dined all day and night long at the Hilton and around Sedona as the company worked to woo editors, gear buffs, journalists, and industry professionals. Don’t worry, there will be an entire post dedicated to all the phenomenal meals I gorged myself on during the gear previews. Elk kabobs and cactus margaritas, anyone?

The highlight of the trip was hands-down the three days we spent around Havasu Falls. We began with an early morning hike into the canyon, a hot and heavy 10-mile excursion that left me with blisters in places I didn’t even know my feet could sprout them. We passed through the Havasupai Village, set up camp, and enjoyed our first evening together as a close knit group. The second day was spent jumping off waterfalls, climbing through travertine tunnels, wading through waist-deep streams while carrying our packs over our heads, and cooling off in the unbelievably blue water. The final day saw a 10-mile hike back out to the rim of the canyon, which was brutal. I wouldn’t have survived the final mile, which involves a 2000 foot elevation gain up switchbacks frequented by mule trains, without the cooling glory of my OmniFreeze Zero neck gaiter. Seriously, when they start making those available to the public, get one. 

My grand adventure would have been nothing without the amazing people who made it a truly unforgettable journey. The OmniTen crew started out as complete strangers (aside from creeping on eachother’s social media profiles), but we left Arizona teary-eyed over the prospect of losing eachother’s company. These people are now lifelong friends.

It’s going to take me a few days to process everything that I experienced, put it all down in words, and edit all of the amazing photos I snapped during the trip. Stay tuned for a huge installment of posts chronicling my adventure.

It’s going to be good.