When it comes to planning a wedding, most couples incorporate personal touches and elements that have special meaning to both of them. According to photographer Jessica Christie, Christen and Nick’s day definitely fit the bill in this regard. "They had a ceremony prior to their climb with friends and family because their community is so very important, and they wanted them to be a part of their day," she explains. "They then had some good friends and the groom’s parents along to help belay us during the climb. During the ceremony itself, they performed a knot tying with their mothers where together, they tied two ropes with a fisherman’s knot. A fisherman’s knot is very unique as its one of the strongest, and under weight and pressure actually becomes stronger and tighter—a symbol of maintaining that connection and strength in marriage no matter what life throws."
Adds Christie: "The climbing location (called the Front Porch in the Narrows in Redstone, CO) is only a half-mile up the road from where the couple lives in a treehouse-esque home overlooking the Rockies. This made it even more special as they were able to climb in a spot that holds so many memories and overlook the valley where they met, the mountains where they’ve explored and adventured, and the home where they have built their relationship. Christen and Nick’s relationship and individual lives have been full of adventure, and they truly embody the outdoor spirit in everything they do. Through their climb, like most adventures they take, they were able to reflect on the commitment they made with each other, work together during the climb and really embrace what supporting one another in a marriage means."
To capture the bride and groom on ropes climbing up the side of a mountain, Christie had to be right besides them. "I was on ropes as well and actually climbed with my gear (so I had to keep it light)," she says. "I am not an avid climber like Christen and Nick. It’s a hobby I picked up in 2015 and am not super great at it. However, I am always looking for ways to push myself outside of my comfort zone because I feel that this is when I am the most inspired and create better and stronger work. When Christen and Nick approached me with this idea, I had to say yes! Combine that challenge with the outdoors and adventure, and it’s a win-win for my soul and photography."
According to the photographer, Nick set two top rope routes for Christen and her to climb. "My route was actually a 5.11b," she explains, "which is the hardest route I’ve ever climbed. I had initially planned to just try and jug myself up the rope since the route was a little outside of my experience, but it wasn’t working very well and both Christen and Nick encouraged me to try and climb it. I remember hearing Christen’s words of support, and it really comforted me to push harder to get further on the route. I managed to make it all the way up, 70 feet above the ground. We were out there for about three hours. I climbed up first so I could photograph Christen and Nick climbing and encouraging one another. I was anchored into the climbing wall with my harness for about two hours. From time to time, I would have my belayer lower me for a different angle or climb back up higher. At other times, I would have the couple do that as well, just to have some varying perspectives."
Prior to this climb, Christie accompanied the couple to Redstone and spent the weekend at their favorite climbing areas to scope out which wall she felt would photograph the best. "This particular spot is about a 15-minute steep hike from the road, which the bride gladly did in her dress and hiking boots! I also hit the climbing gym about two to three times a week myself to get even more comfortable. Climbing outdoors is really a whole different feel than the gym, but I wanted to be comfortable on the ropes and above the ground before having to carry my camera. I suggest using some sort of clip to clip the camera to your body while climbing so it doesn’t swing. As far as other preparation goes, we just had to plan the time of day for proper lighting, who would be there belaying us, which routes would serve as the best angles, and who would be climbing in what order. Nick also purchased some Black Diamond climbing pants that matched his dressier pants so he had more free range of motion since he did most of the heavy lifting to set the routes."
"Even as accomplished climbers, this was a new challenge for them—climbing in wedding attire, taking photos together while roped in—but I could tell they were no strangers to not only taking on challenges together, but conquering them through their teamwork and support," says Christie. "I was in awe and will never forget the ideals it showed me of a solid, working relationship. In this moment, I think we all knew that there was no better way to reflect upon and honor the life they were starting together. After the climb, we popped some Champagne for a little more celebration."
GEAR OF THE DAY
Camera: Canon 5D Mark II
Lens: Canon 24-70mm 2.8 ("I chose a zoom lens as opposed to my typical prime so I had more range of motion. When you’re on a rock wall, you don’t have as much room to move around.")
Miscellaneous: Oboz hiking shoes, climbing ropes, Mammut harness, La Sportiva climbing shoes, REI backpack to bring gear up mountain. "We also needed all our carabiners and anchors to lock into the routes, rappel, climb etc. And chalk and tape to protect our hands and grip the hand holds."
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