Paloma & Patrick
Paloma and I are both from Massachusetts, but it took a pandemic to dislodge each of us from our respective cities: hers, Boston, mine, Worcester. We met while climbing in the White Mountains of New Hampshire on July 25, 2020—a fatalistic chance encounter. Early memories include Paloma’s pleasant smile, and the notion that I was, quite possibly, being hypnotized by way of her beautiful hazel eyes.
That day was to be my windfall.
At the time, I was on the precipice of moving westward in pursuit of a new life, leaving behind a career, and selling my home in the city. I bought an 8-foot by 10-foot oversized teardrop trailer and decked it out with solar power, trading my Acura for a Tacoma with which to pull it. Little did I know, traveling in this way would be our forte, as Paloma and I had spent just enough time together before my exodus to fall in love. She’d permanently transitioned to a remote work situation during the pandemic and was recently lease-free. So, we made a list of all the places we wanted to see, packed up our lives, and hit the road together.
Our grand adventure started September 28 of that same year. Gas was cheap. We got to know one another with an intimacy that only life on the road can provide—the dramatic highs and lows, the steep, but logical, learning curves, nobody to answer to and nowhere to be, just miles ticking away, trading stuffy cities for wide open spaces.
Together, we’ve summitted 14,000-foot Rocky Mountain peaks solely for the view. We’ve witnessed Sonoran sunsets fill the horizon. We’ve kept each other warm during cold alpine nights spent in a shivering embrace, with an unknowable number of stars speckling the Wyoming sky overhead.
So naturally, I proposed in January of 2022 on top of the Rose Tower in Red Rock Canyon National Conservation Area in Nevada. We set out to climb the 600 feet as a team; Paloma had no idea of my ulterior motive. That day, bad weather moved in and unseasonably cold temps descended upon us. I insisted Paloma take my jacket, ever grateful that I opted to stash my mother’s engagement ring in the zipped pocket of my chalk bag, instead.
Nevertheless, we summitted with style, and in the driving wind, I got down on one knee to present Paloma with my mother’s ring, telling her, through tears, all the things I love about her.
We really wanted to marry somewhere special, and neither of us were interested in pomp and circumstance. We debated the many options and kept circling back to Grand Teton National Park, which happens to be one of our favorite places. We settled on plans for a unique elopement with minimal fanfare and a ceremony upon the summit of Mount Moran. After rigorous planning and a lot of luck, our sunny, windless day finally arrived. We exchanged vows atop a beautiful fin of grossly exposed granite, a place most climbers call “The Diving Board.”
Unfortunately, but rather conveniently, our guest list had been significantly curtailed by the pandemic, and so fiscally, eloping atop Mount Moran made sense, requiring just a pair of capable witnesses and someone to do the marrying.
For this responsibility, I reached out to my friend and climbing partner on the East Coast, Michael, the same dependable friend who’d fatefully introduced me to my soon-to-be wife. He eagerly accepted, enrolling in an online ministerial school so that he could marry us legally. Available and able witnesses turned out to be two of our closest friends—a pair both kind and bold enough to fly to Jackson during a pandemic for the sole objective of summiting a major mountain without having had much experience.
The ceremony itself barely lasted thirty minutes. Still, logistical planning required a weeklong itinerary during what is statistically considered to be the best weather window in the Tetons: mid-August. We needed three consecutive days of fair weather in which to cross the lake, summit the mountain, get married, and then descend safely. It would require a pair of canoes, a merciless hike, and approximately 2,000 vertical feet of technical climbing and scrambling.
The wedding day itself is a bit of a blur. After a 4 a.m. wake-up, our party of five stepped off from CMC High Camp the morning of August 16, armed with headlamps, ropes, and positive attitudes. Abundant concern for safety made for a slow, but fun, day, and a beautiful weather window afforded all parties the opportunity to stand proudly and successfully atop the mountain summit by 1 p.m., swapping climbing shoes and athletic attire for formalwear and boutonnieres.
Officially, we were married by 1:30 p.m., as confirmed by the time-stamped digital recording captured on my Sony RX100. An exhaustive descent back down to CMC’s High Camp would take us another 12 hours (which is a whole other story for a different publication).
Unlike most traditional weddings, our guests were required to bring most of their own gear, including food and water. Expenses for our day in the mountains cost little more than some technical know-how, a pair of ropes, the required backcountry permit (shoutout to all the hard-working rangers at the Jenny Lake Visitor Center!), and the pair of rental canoes necessary for the endeavor across Jackson Lake—far and away our biggest wedding expense.
Out of consideration for absentee family and friends, we hired Jackson local Elise Sterck a Pinedale native, close friend, and prodigious photographer, to take photos. We conducted our wedding shoot after the fact on the summit of Teewinot Mountain, not The Diving Board of Mount Moran. This decision was made out of a concern for safety, and the time-consuming responsibilities of having to pose for professional photos and get everyone down from our climb before daylight waned.
So, we hiked Teewinot one beautiful September afternoon, formalwear carefully folded inside our 35-liter packs. It took a paltry seven-hour window to get up and down the mountain safely, and did not require technical gear, affording us the opportunity to maximize that golden hour of sunlight, complete with a sunset.
Choose Experience Over Stuff
Aim for a celebration that inspires and stirs the soul. Weigh the experience you seek against your shared values; the key to success lies in striking balance between compromise and flexibility. Our wedding proves, even in Jackson, you don’t have to spend a fortune to have your dream ceremony.
Wedding Date: August 16, 2022
Ceremony Location: Mt. Moran, Grand Teton National Park Reception Location: CMC North Camp, Grand Teton National Park Officiant: Michael Hobart Photographer: Elise Sterck Hair and Makeup: Taylor Lobe Florist: Local mountain flora; wildflowers Musician & DJ: Spotify shuffle and Bose Soundlink Caterer: Thai Me Up (RIP!) Transportation Service: Adventure Sports, Moose, WY (canoe rentals) Other Specialty Vendors: Teton Mountaineering and Anvil Hotel