As I pondered how I wanted to close out this series of the Dickens Challenge (the final event that will help determine who wins the trip to Jordan), I couldn’t help but think of all the possible directions this post could take. At first I wanted to make a giant video montage of everything else I haven’t yet shown. Then I considered doing multiple posts per day on singular facets of everything we experienced.
But neither of those things are really how I operate. Yes, I’ve put together a video or two for climbing, and sure, there have been occasions when I post multiple times per week. But by and large, I tend to do longer, written streams of consciousness and more spread out. I don’t write outlines and plan posts. I don’t take multiple days to think them over. I wait for inspiration, lay my fingers on my keyboard, and let the words pour over my screen. I feel like if I were to pump out too much content, forcefully, all real meaning and emotion would get lost in the chaos and lack of inspiration. I didn’t want that. I wanted to be genuine, to bring you all with me, to feel the experience as I felt it. And I can only do that if I stay true to my “craft”.
And yet, I was still somewhat stressing out over how to wrap this all up. It wasn’t until Daniel innocently tweeted the following for it to really hit me:
— Daniel (@portlandaniel) January 15, 2014
And I coupled it with what he also said in an email:
Though, these stories you’re sharing aren’t just for us. They’re for your family, friends, fans, and future. Because when we all look back on this past week, we’ll have an amazing collection of stories from so many diverse perspectives, it’s like writing history from the present.
He was right. Yes, Columbia is judging us all on our storytelling abilities, but it’s not for them. Call me narcissistic if you want (I’ve been called much worse), but I enjoy reading my own writing, especially if it’s written while inspired. If I never get asked to join Columbia on another epic adventure such as this one, this post is for me. To relive the memories. To think of all the people, from different corners of North America, with exceptionally different backgrounds, that I bonded with solely through our love of the outdoors and desire to push ourselves to try things we’ve not done before.
I can think of no better way of sharing and concluding my adventure with Columbia and the #OmniTen families than through my keyboard and into your hearts and emotions. I hope you enjoy reading it as much as I know I will enjoy writing it…
Assumptions, Inaccuracies, and Envy
I have been following #OmniTen since members of the first season stepped foot onto Arizona’s dry, arid, desert land. At that point, I was just re-starting my outdoor life after a very long hiatus to focus on college, playing football, powerlifting, becoming a strength specialist, and attempting to start my own business. I didn’t really know who these people were, on social media or otherwise, so I didn’t really care about “them”. I was simply envious of the trip and envious of the gear.
I knew they were just a collection of individuals that [mostly] had never met in real life before. They went on a trip, and in only 3 or 4 days, they were already claiming to be family. I didn’t tell anyone, but that made me snidely chuckle inside. I have been on many teams in my life of athletics that spent years and years together, going through much more difficult times, and sharing vastly more, diverse ranges of emotions than these 10 people had in those four days, and still had not considered some of my teammates to be family. But these ten people claimed they were? It sounded like feel-good marketing to me, but I let them go with it. It wasn’t hurting me or anyone else, so who cares? Besides, I was still only envious of the gear.
Then something happened – I continued to follow these people and interact with them and started to learn more about them. They were still only profile pictures and text on a screen, but they became humans. Season after season, Columbia continued to pick genuine people to represent their brand and inspire others along the way. After each and every seasonal trip, the cohort claimed to be family. Was it more than kitschy shtick? Was there something going on that made these people feel this way? As an outsider, I had no idea. I was incredibly intrigued but still apprehensive to actually believe them.
All the while, I continued following everyone. Interacting with all of them. Telling them secrets and inner fears that I rarely tell “real life” friends and acquaintances. I was definitely not part of their family, but these people were already becoming very close to me. I could not wait for the day to finally meet them, even if I never had become #OmniTen. I still would have bonded with them but not like after this trip. I watched them interact with each other, perpetuate inside jokes. make fun of each other like only families can, and it finally became apparent….these people were family. I now cared less about the gear and more about being able to join their family.
An Outsider’s Observations
In Season 1, there were people that lived in cars, climbers, peak-baggers, backcountry skiers and snowboarders, ultra-runners, and big-time social media influencers. This was the inception of #OmniTen and Columbia’s first attempt at trying something new. Since it was new, they had no idea if this was a one-time thing or if it would continue into the future. They picked the best they could to represent their brand at the time, regardless of background. A very good strategy for not having a crystal ball.
After the success of Season 1, it seems like they knew they were onto something good. In Season 2 (fall/winter), they picked mostly big time, hot shot skiers and snowboarders. People that could rip the slopes and shred the gnar. Several of these people lived in the same city or had already met due to their shared passion of skiing. Just the antics they portrayed on social media was enough to convince me the people of Season 2 were my people: goofy, dedicated, hilarious, driven, and passionate.
Season 3 once again saw people more apt to summer activities. There were a lot of hikers, trail runners, photographers (not that that’s specific to summer), and people that enjoyed warmer weather in general. By this time, I “knew” all of them. We had been socializing for years. And they had also been following the Omni-Adventures the entire time. I was very happy for all of them that they were chosen.
View from the Inside
And then came Season 4. “My” season.
Seth, Andy, and Wendy seemingly devote the vast majority of their time to skiing. Or at least if they could control the seasons of the year, they’d always choose “ski season”. Seth and Wendy alpine ski while Cobra Commander (Andy) teli’s like a boss.
Heidi is primarily a trail runner and inexplicably getting into ultras. She continues training throughout the winter, but always finds time for riding. She even bought a split board this season so is obviously a more than capable boarder. When her cats allow.
Derek has a love of wine and hiking and has been skiing (ice) for years. He’s hiked countless, countless miles and peaks. More than I could ever imagine hitting in my lifetime. When I see pictures, or read stories, about him sharing those experiences with his daughter, I somewhat question the direction of my life.
What can I say about Beth? She lives her life on the road with her husband, “F”, and dog, Sprocket. They both have a love of off-roading, hiking, and anything else they can get their hands on. Thankfully for her, she grew up skiing on the lovely slopes of Washington’s White Pass, Crystal Mountain, and somewhat less lovely Snoqualmie Pass. Then she went to college out east and maybe gave their notorious ice slopes a try or two.
Then there’s Patrick, Josh, and I. We’re climbers primarily that just so happen to all snowboard too. Patrick and I love long, “easy” summer alpine climbing. We can climb 10’s and 11’s at the crag, but if we had a choice, we’d love to find an amazing 14-pitch, 5.6 alpine route. Josh, on the other hand, crushes boulders. He sport climbs too, but he professed his affinity for bouldering a lot more. Bouldering is my least favorite type of climbing, but I can appreciate anyone that does it with passion. I’ll run out some 5.9 trad and risk blowing a piece, but if you put me on a V0 boulder 10 feet off the ground I freak the f*ck out.
Lastly, there’s Michelle, our one and only full-time Canadian member of the entire #OmniTen group. I honestly don’t know what she doesn’t do. This summer she plans to climb across the U.S. with her soon-to-be-husband for their honeymoon. She shoots archery, she ice climbs, she skis AND snowboards, she mountain bikes, she hikes, she backpacks, she does it all. And she does it all fearlessly. I think all of us dabble in all of these activities, but it seems like Michelle and Mike are constantly on the go, constantly doing something different, and not really favoring one activity or another. I want to be like her when I grow up.
Because this was “our season”, Columbia allowed us to show up two-and-a-half days before the other seasons. This allowed us to learn about each other and bond together like the previous groups before they showed up for the #OmniGames. We spent our days running laps on groomers, taking turns spraying each other with snow as we waited for our turn to be interviewed, and generally having an amazing time. There was never any downtime or awkward silences. The only time things got awkward was when Twister was taken out of the box. There were moments of uneasiness and “HEY, WATCH IT!!”, but to me, that was the moment we became family.
Over the next day, the others started showing up, but no matter how many splinter groups were formed, or how many people passed between them, it seemed like Season 4 was always together. Whether it was at 7:30am for breakfast, 9:00am for first chair, out on the mountain, or the nights that turned into mornings, we were together.
It’s now Wednesday evening, and all of the #OmniFamilies are finally meeting for the first time. It was a crazy, bizarre feeling to be meeting people for the very first time, yet also feeling like a family reunion. We all knew each other so well, and there was always something to talk about. I met so many famous people, I could hardly believe I was apart of it. And when I say “famous”, I mean everybody. They were all famous to me because they came before me, and I had been following them for so long.
This was probably my favorite night of the entire trip. There was so much energy. So much stoke. So many stories. New friends. Old friends. Plaid. Lots of plaid. And party. More than a few of us got caught up in the moment, but I doubt there are very many regrets for that. The next morning might have been a little rough, but those were memories that will last a lifetime. Thank goodness there were no lack of pictures; I’m just sad it would be improbable to post all of the pictures that everyone took here.
Pranks, Dancing, and Weird Things (with Beards)
Speaking for myself, I will only be as big of a goofball as the people around me. Until I’m comfortable around them. It seems as though no one else had that issue, or it was just that we all got used to each other so fast that it was completely a non-issue. It started with Brett trying to tackle me in the snow. Little did he know of my cat-like reflexes and extensive Junior High wrestling experience. I ended up with the upperhand, but I felt I needed to repay him. I turned on my GoPro and snuck up behind him, but as soon as we both hit the ground, the camera ended up turning off. I did see some other cameras around though so some documentation of this might surface at some point. Fingers crossed!
Later that night, unfortunately for Brett (again), Wes came up to me and asked, “when Brett’s giving his interview, will you push him over if I get down behind him?” I hesitated for one micro-instant and came back with a resounding, “yes!” We pulled in Gina to capture it for us. She was taking still photos so you can see Wes perfectly, but I’m just a blur that shows up in the middle for one picture as I go running by.
That same night, a spontaneous dance party broke out. Once again, Gina captured the start of it in a gif. Later, it would grow to be huge with the entire crew joining in. Bystanders were incredibly confused.
There was no lack of Shotskis either.
Which perhaps led to the following pictures, the next four taken by the fabulous Anne Carney.
Then I saw Seth do this…
Miley Cyrus was played…
And Beth and I stole Anne’s phone to do a little photoshoot. We tried to upload them to all her social media accounts before she noticed, but we got busted.
Ladies and Gentlemen, Steve Weiss!
Heather and Katie, always keepin’ it classy
Beard envy at its finest.
As you can see, there were some fairly “intimate” moments captured during this trip. Intimate moments and moments that take so much comfort in trusting and knowing the people around you, that they would not be possible if we really were just a bunch of random individuals without a central core of beliefs that brought us all together. That is a very special thing.
Come as #OmniTen, Leave as #OmniFamily
I feel as though if I were to ever venture into any one of these amazing people’s lives again, I’d have no problems asking for a small patch on their floor to sleep. And I can’t do that to just anyone that I’ve only spent two-and-a-half days with. It takes me a looong time to feel that connection with regular people. But with #OmniTen? That connection is instant. It’s electric. It’s real. I can’t wait for Patrick to tell me he’s coming to Colorado so that he, Justin, and I can go climbing. I can’t wait for any of the rippers from Season 2 or Gina or Steve to tell me to meet them at Berthoud pass to hit some backcountry turns. I can’t wait for Josh to setup a mountain bike ride in Moab and have Beth and F join us. One of these days, Heather and Heidi might convince me to hike a 14’er with them. The next time I’m in Florida for work, I’ll ask Julie if she’s around to hit a workout in the park. I’ve never been to Cali…Cali…Cali, but I’m guessing Derek and Casey wouldn’t have issues showing me around SoCal. And you better believe if I ever make it down to Arizona, I’ll be contacting #OmniTeam9 partner Heidi; the man responsible for making so many of us look good in all our posts, Dave Creech; and “Mr. I Hike Everywhere”, Adam Nutting.
I now understand what everyone from seasons past meant when they said they are now part of a family. It’s an honest statement. There is a gravity of calling someone family, one that I don’t take lightly. Because there is nothing more important to me than family. And I am proud to now be a member of this one.
This family isn’t limited to just #OmniTen. It’s also extended to the leader of this gigantic event, Mr. Daniel Green. I cannot fathom the amount of time, effort, and energy it took to pull this off, regardless of event planning contractors. I know we shared some drinks together on the trip, but my liver is still healthy, and there’s always room for more. Thank you for everything you did and making this run as smoothly as humanly possible.
And there’s Tori. I lump Tori in with #OmniTen because Tori IS #OmniTen. Season 3 to be exact. But she now also works with Daniel at Columbia Corporate on the social media team. She also had a huge part in the success of this event, making sure everyone had what they needed and teaching everyone how to take a proper GoPro selfie. Invaluable information for people like us. Thank you, Tori.
To everyone I didn’t mention, I am truly sorry. You’ve all left a lasting impression on me, and I enjoyed every second I spent with each and every one of you. As I said in the beginning, if I’m never lucky enough to join Columbia and the rest of you on another trip like this again, I will look back at this post and remember all the memories, all the relationships that were built these short days, and the exuberance we all felt being surrounded by such astonishing people from all different walks of life, coming together because of our love of the outdoors.
Until we meet again. #OmniTen