In the spirit of Valentine’s Day (yo, it’s this Thursday, FYI), this week’s list is of awesome stories of marriage proposals in the outdoors. And by “outdoors,” we don’t mean “not indoors” — we mean awesome places. Like Denali. Or the Monkey Face tower at Smith Rock. And a few others.
I proposed to Agnes on the summit of Denali on a perfect bluebird day in the company of a half dozen friends. Then we promptly got pinned down at high camp for three days in a very fierce storm — 100 mph winds at -40 F and lot of snow.
On the second day tentbound and freezing our asses off, we decided to get married in Hawaii.
— Matt Hage
Lake District, England
A friend of mine named Rin had been dating his girlfriend, Abby, for almost 10 years and always said they would never get married. They met in the outdoors whilst taking part in the famous Three Peaks Challenge, summiting the three tallest peaks in Scotland, England, and Wales in under 24 hours.
Abby was always pretty upset about it the fact they’d never be married, but loved him all the same and stuck by her man. One day, Rin had an epiphany and decided he had to marry Abby. He spent months preparing the perfect marriage proposal, all the while maintaining they weren’t getting married.
On a clear night, with a full moon lighting the way, he took her for a walk in the local mountains in the English Lake District. They walked uphill for a little while, with Abby clueless as to where they were going or why. As they reached a crest on the hillside, a view opened out down into the valley below and onto one of the many expanses of water.
In this particular lake is a small island and from high above on the hillside, it appeared that island was twinkling with diamonds. In reality, Rin (who at the time worked for Petzl) had been to the island earlier that day and fixed lots Petzl Ultras to the island, set to flash mode.
They raced down the hillside, Abby eager to work out what the hell was going on, and found a kayak at the waters edge. Rin and Abby got in and paddled over to the island where a pre-prepared meal was waiting for them, planted by Rin earlier that day.
Whilst tucking into the beautiful food and champagne, Rin popped the question. They’ve been married for three years now.
— Liam Lonsdale
Silver Falls State Park, Oregon
Our first Thanksgiving together after we started dating, Chris invited me out to Oregon to spend it with his family. If you’ve been to Oregon in November, then you know it rains. And rains. And then rains again.
He had scouted out a hike for us up at Silver Falls State Park, and being somewhat acclimated to adventure, I agreed. After a few soggy, cold, misty miles, we finally came to a huge thundering waterfall. The trail disappeared into the mist and honestly I was sort of glad to see a little sign announcing that the trail was closed. I was soaking wet and wishing for shell pants and a better jacket.
Chris, however, took one look at the “trail closed” sign and said, “Like hell!” Grabbing my hand he towed me around the barricade and back into the thundering tunnel between raging water and polished rock.
He pulled out a velvet pouch, a little titanium ring, and a lot of beautiful words. I don’t remember an ounce of what he said (to his dismay because he spent so much time rehearsing it). The inevitable excitement of the moment plus the raging water made my listening skills disappear. But I will never forget the moment I said “yes.”
We go back and visit the park every time we are in Oregon.
— Alyssa Erickson
Cascade Canyon, Grand Teton National Park, Wyoming
We hiked up to a campsite high in Cascade Canyon near the lake there and Lindsey took a nap. I went to “check out the lake,” intent on finding the ultimate proposal location. I spotted the ideal place: a recently melted out rocky outcropping that faced the magical north face of the Grand. When I got back to the tent, I knew I had to act with some haste as to not miss great evening light. Lindsey was groggily getting up and we exchanged small talk.
I had spoken to Lindsey’s parents in advance and they had suggested I propose with her grandmother’s ring, a family heirloom. We made our way to the outcropping with a minor bit of postholing. I positioned myself to be behind Lindsey and spotted her up the broken, uppermost section of the outcropping. I hustled behind her, sure to be kneeling when she turned around. As soon as she did, her jaw dropped at the view of the north face of the Grand, not noticing me on one knee at first.
I recited a short poem and then proposed to her. By the time I popped the question, she was crying and couldn’t answer me at first. She recovered, said a proud YES and we tucked in to watch the sunset.
— Ben Kunz
Cedar Park Slab, Big Thompson Canyon, Colorado
Cyndy and I met in a climbing gym, started ice climbing and then dating after I was feeling better about asking my best partner out. We dated through two big walls (Spaceshot and an attempt on Moonlight Buttress, which we’ve never finished).
One day, we did a bunch of one- and two-pitch sport and trad climbs at Combat Rock in Big Thompson Canyon, and then we drove up to the top of Cedar Park Slab to look at some mountain property that was for sale. I hid the $40 sterling silver ring in the car’s glove box and took a picture of it, writing “Marry Me” on the photo. I asked Cyndy to get something out of my glove box. She found it and asked, “I don’t think I was supposed to see this?” She thought I had messed up and forgotten it was in there — but then she said yes.
— Craig DeMartino
Monkey Face Tower, Smith Rock State Park, Oregon
My girlfriend and I were driving from our house in Portland to Smith Rock, and she started asking about a clinking sound from the cargo area of our truck. I immediately made up something up about moving something around and now the jack was hitting something metal. It was actually two bottles of Oregon sparkling wine — part of my grand plan for the weekend.
We camped on some BLM land near the park and woke up early the next morning to beautiful skies and no wind, perfect for going up the West Face Variation of the Monkey Face tower. We got to the parking lot, loaded up our packs (mine with a very small red box stuffed inside of a pair of socks along with all the usual climbing gear), filled our water and headed in. When we arrived at the base of the tower, the weather was still holding perfectly and there was not another soul on the face, quite rare for this spectacular route.
The first few pitches went great, fun climbing, no ropes stuck and a great partner. I led, carrying a small pack loaded with snacks, water, our hiking shoes, and one special pair of socks. A few times, Sheri reached for the pack to get some food, and I awkwardly grabbed it so I could be a gentleman and hand her her needed sustenance. We climbed the dreaded aid-ladder pitch, and the super fun and exposed fourth pitch to the top of the route, and waited out a few long minutes of eating, drinking water, and waiting for a crowd of stupid hikers waving at us to clear out.
I finally sucked it up, snuck my loaded socks out of the pack, walked over to Sheri said something goofy and awkward about how much I loved her and wanted to be with her the rest of my life, got on one knee and popped the question.
It took all of one second for the shock to wear off for Sheri to say yes. She grabbed me and hugged me and then we felt a few gusts of wind blow past us. In the euphoria, neither of us had noticed the building wind coming our way — until we dropped our double 60-meter rappel ropes, only to watch them blow completely horizontal.
This wouldn’t be that big of a deal on a lot of rappels; however, on this one, you need to stay close to the face in order to land of the small trail that leads you off to the base of the climb. Sheri stands at about 4’10″ and is 90-ish pounds, and would have been a small spinning kite if she attempted the rappel with the line untethered at the base. We would have to rappel the entire route itself, including the overhung last pitch leading out the Monkey’s “mouth” — which meant someone would have to downclimb it.
The next thing I knew, Sheri was feeding me out slack and I was looking down at my feet about 250 ft. above the deck as I was being knocked around by intense wind gusts. I climbed as quickly as possible into the mouth, secured myself and both ends of the rope into the anchor, and let Sheri know she could start her rappel. Luckily there were no problems pulling the rope or with Sheri’s rappel after I fixed the ropes. But I knew what was next and was not thrilled about it: rappelling the (again) overhanging aid ladder pitch to the Bohn Street ledge.
The wind was picking up, accelerating where we were because it was tunneling between the Monkey Face tower and the Smith Rock group. My next rappel would put me directly in the wind tunnel. All I was thinking was getting my future wife and myself back on firm horizontal ground.
As I lowered myself off the ledge and felt the next gust of wind hit me, I knew it was going to get interesting. About 50 feet down, I came out into the precipice and the strongest gust so far hit me. I began to spin and blew toward the Smith Rock Group. As I spun in midair, I just kept reminding myself that I’d be fine, to keep both hands on the brake and keep lowering. When the wind finally died down I found myself swinging back toward the ledge, slamming into it, holding onto the rock with my one free hand for dear life as the wind picked up again. I climbed back up pulling in slack and again secured myself and the ropes into the the anchor so my fiancee wouldn’t be blown into the void as well.
Once Sheri landed next to me, she informed me that she seriously needed to pee. Seriously. We looked up, and again there were hikers staring at us through binoculars. Luckily, they soon walked away and I belayed Sheri to a small patch of gravel a few feet away where she could relieve herself. Finally after this last small incident, with me laughing the entire time, we began our easy descent to terra firma. Once there, we hiked out, had our victory dinner at The Depot, and checked into our trashy hotel for the night with both of us grinning ear to ear. We made it out alive and relatively unscathed, and we were engaged. One of the best days of my life.
— Charlie Dorst
Shadow Lake, Sierra Nevada, Ansel Adams Wilderness, California
I was working as a wilderness/experiential education instructor at a place called Summit Adventure, on the west side of the Sierra on the border of Yosemite. After four summers working alongside a woman named Jackie Brown, we had become close friends. The beginning of summer number five, everything changed and we were both in love with each other. A month later, she was headed off on a 21-day course with a food re-supply scheduled for day 10 on the eastern side of the Sierras.
I got myself on the re-supply crew to walk in the food from Agnew Meadows into Shadow Lake. We showed up, and she was thrilled. We had about an hour together, so we walked up Shadow Creek, sat on a fallen log with our bare feet in the water chatting about her first 10 days and our newfound love for each other.
We had been ‘dating’ for about four weeks and one of those was while she was on this trip. I felt like the situation was perfect, and I knew that I wanted to be with her the rest of my life. So, in an act that was not pre-meditated, I told her we should get married. She of course said yes. We freaked out a bit and then went back to the group and parted ways.
It still stands as the easiest decision I’ve ever made. When you know, you know.
— Christian Rawles
Anniversary Glacier, Coast Range, British Columbia
Jen and I had been together about eight years at the time and marriage was starting to feel like a bit of a formality. Plus neither of us are super-romantic types. Nonetheless, I tried to class it up a bit. We met skiing, and skiing and snow are kind of our thing, so I planned a big mountain excursion for winter solstice. Seattle got a foot-plus of snow, the mountains got little, so it didn’t make sense to leave. Instead, we ski toured around the city. I had the ring on a beacon and was going to make her do a beacon practice in a park. But low blood sugar and cold weather prompted a quick return to the house. Fail.
Plan B was another ski tour. Jen’s a doctor and was on call, and she got called in about 500 feet from the summit. Bail and fail.
Plan C I don’t remember, but I know there were lots of fails.
Plan D: On our dating anniversary, I met her after work on my bike, and we biked to dinner, then home through this slightly adventurous route I had thought up. Right before we got to where I thought would be a good spot, Jen crashed on said adventurous route. We got home, healed wounds, and I decided to present the ring with post-dinner chocolate on the couch. She freaked out, A, because we were broke, and B, because I asked on the couch. But I guess she said yes.
Plan E. After a week or two of freaking out about couch proposal, we were driving to a hut trip north of whistler and hashed out in the car and why she emotionally wasn’t ready to get married, or didn’t think she was. From the hut, we toured up Anniversary Glacier under perfect weather and snow and I asked her again there, and she said yes.
— Shane Robinson
Ouachita River, Arkansas
Throughout our 3½ years dating, we shared a lot of adventures together: mountain biking, backpacking, wild hot springs, hiking peaks, climbing, river trips, and so on. This made for large iPhoto library of our favorite stories shared together through those years, and printing a photo-album-timeline of our courtship had crossed my mind. I’d start at the beginning, the first photo of us together, and we’d sit down together somewhere and go through the pages, relieving the adventure that had evolved into our lives. When we got to the end of the album, I’d get down on that knee and ask her to make me the happiest man in the world.
Once I had the ring, I was ready, and we had planned a Memorial Day weekend trip on the Ouachita River. The turnaround time for the photo-album-timeline project was out of the question, so I took the thumb drive of selected pics to Walmart. With the ring in my pocket, Zabrina in the truck, and the flat-bottom boat with the 9.9hp Mercury in tow, I ran into the one-hour photo lab and told Zabrina I’d be right back. She didn’t need to come in, I just had to grab “one last thing I forgot earlier” (story of my life, so nothing suspicious there). A hundred or more 4×6′s were waiting for me, except that they were not in anything near proper order. I made quick work of sorting them chronologically right there on the photo lab countertop, and then ran back out to the truck. My dial was somewhere near maximum enthusiasm at this point.
We launched the boat on the lazy Ouachita River and made off downstream for an afternoon of river cruising, sunning and swimming, and hopefully getting engaged. Although it was Memorial Day, we had the river to ourselves.
Not even an hour into the trip, my dial was way past 11. I was doing flips off the boat into the water and the river was still pretty chilly that time of year. Zabrina was just hanging out on the boat. I reached into my bag and pulled out a towel and the small Pelican box full of pictures, and asked her if she wanted to look through something with me. She smiled and asked, “Well, what do you have over there?” and scooted over next to me. We started going through the stack of memories… us, our dogs, friends, family, all playing outside.
“Zabrina, my life has been a non-stop adventure since we first met. I can’t imagine a day without you, and I look forward to what this life has in store for us. You are my best friend. Will you marry me?”
I pulled out the ring and Zabrina immediately hugged me. And somehow, amongst all the excitement and hugging and tears she snatched the ring right out of the little box without me noticing. We stopped hugging and I went to put the ring on her finger and…I thought it had fallen into the river. My heart stopped. I was on the verge of panic when she giggled in between tears and then laughed, “Oops. Sorry. I was too excited.” She handed the ring back to me and I slid it on her finger. We wed on the banks of the same river almost a year later.
— Sean Ruggles
Machu Picchu, Peru
We’d been at Machu Picchu since before dawn and had decided to climb the 1,600-foot trail to the mountain peak that shares the ruins’ name. With a memory card full of Andean dawn, I made a lame excuse to drop back from my girlfriend and our small group and fish the engagement ring out of my Camelbak, setting my camera on an ancient wall while I dug in my pack. After securely zipping the ring I’d been carrying around rural Peru for two weeks into my pocket for easy retrieval, I shouldered my bag and hurried to catch the group.
A mile and 1,000 vertical feet later, I reached down to snap a photo of the trail and realized the five-pound DSLR that had been hanging around my neck for the past four days wasn’t there. Terror set in. I turned around and ran back down the steep trail to the wall where I’d left it. Of course it was gone, but 100 yards before the entrance gate, I saw a pair of docents, one with my Nikon slung over his shoulder. I thumbed through the images until I found a selfie. Convinced that the smiling gringo on the screen was the same as the panting guy in front of them, they handed it over so I could redline back up the trail.
We got to the top in time to have our new-found friends snap a few pictures, including my girlfriend mock-throwing me off the cliff — one frame before I dropped to one knee and popped the question.
— Alex Strickland
Comanche Wilderness, Colorado
David: The Boulder Mountain Bike Alliance has hosted singles rides for a couple of years, off and on. We met before the ride and started talking. When the ride leader finally got the show on the road, Rebecca took off and led the way, so I followed. We left the pack and stopped a couple of times to regroup at intersections. Ever since, we’ve gone back and ridden with the singles ride to kinda be the poster children and show anybody there who is scared or frustrated that there is hope. This year, we’re going to take it over and lead it ourselves.
She asked for my number after the ride and within minutes she sent me a text asking if I wanted to ride again the next day. I was on my way to the runner/mountain bike/road bike bar group that followed up all the singles rides but Rebecca had somewhere else to be (i.e., didn’t wanna do the bar thing).
We booked a weeklong, earn your turns, backcountry trip only a couple months after we’d first met.
Rebecca: We did a week-long backcountry ski trip together in February, only seven months after we’d met. The snow and the skiing was perfect, every day was better than the one before. One day halfway through the trip, we went back out for a couple of laps on our own, before dinner. The sun was setting, highlighting our powder-8s. It would have been the perfect setting for a proposal. And I fully expected one! But David made me wait another six months.
During a backpacking trip in the Comanche Wilderness, in a field of wildflowers, he finally proposed. I was so surprised, not expecting it at all. And it was just as perfect and sweet as it would have been in the winter, and all the more special because we now had shared and enjoyed all seasons together in the mountains, and on foot, skis and bikes.
The wedding weekend was perfect and included a celebration mountain bike ride with friends. David wore a tuxedo tee and I put a veil on my helmet. Everyone we passed along the way gave us high-fives and cheers.
— David Holshouser and Rebecca Shannon
Sand Point, Lake Ozette, Olympic National Park, Washington
One of the deciding dates for my wife (then girlfriend) and I was to go on a camping trip — we had to make sure that our outdoors styles worked well together. On that trip we we hiked around Lake Ozette and then spent our last night at Sand Point. While we were at Sand Point we stood up on a rocky outcropping and watched the sun set. That was the first time we said “I love you” to each other.
I made it a point to get back there to propose, but the problem is it takes four hours to get there from where we live. It was the last weekend with some decent sun (it is Washington State) and I tried to play it nonchalant and get us back there so I could propose to her as the sun was setting on the Pacific Ocean — the ring is my grandmother’s, and my grandfather proposed to my grandmother on the Atlantic. We made it literally just in the nick of time as the sun was going down, and I asked her to marry me.
We were going to stay out there that night, but we were both so excited we hiked all the way back out and drove all the way back to Seattle. We literally caught the last ferry as it was crossing back.
— Chuck Johnston