michael rowley photography | seattle tacoma wedding + portrait photographer bio picture

you already know I'm a photographer.

what you may not know is when I'm not documenting weddings and couples I spend my time climbing the incredible mountains all over this beautiful earth. when I'm not climbing mountains I am usually running. and when I'm not running I'm usually stuffing my face with some scrumptious food.

drop me a line using the contact form and lets get together to talk details about your wedding day and maybe even grab a bite to eat.



it’s well after 1am as I sit down to write this post. I don’t know what I’m going to write but before I even start I just want to say how thankful I am to live the life I live. while I never take for granted any aspect of my life it needs to be said that nothing I have accomplished hasn’t been achieved equally from hard work and blessings. ‘blessings’ can come across quite trite. so I won’t go there. i just want to talk about work.

everyday of this dream I’m living has been about hard work. it’s a give and take. someday’s I can’t imagine working harder (in certain aspects of my life) while in other areas I find myself letting go. I want to reach the point where I’m always efficient. With my time, body, and resources. to achieve the goals I aspire to it’s not enough to work hard a few days a week, exercise almost daily, live in a frugal manner occasionally. yet that’s usually what happens.

occasionally I’ve had the impression that friends and acquaintances think I have my life all figure out, while they, perhaps, feel unsure how to live a well rounded life. well, I’m not sure if I have my life, or life, exactly figured out. but I do know what I want and I do know what is important in my life.

no regrets.

go big or go home.

if you’re not first, your last.

(just to clarify, you should always interpret the above phrases in a literal manner, never figurative).

what am I really getting at here? I don’t know. but you’re still reading. I’m leaving my office, weddings, computers, and my warm bed for 1 month. all so I can climb a mountain. friends and friends of friends constantly ask me, “how much training do you have to do to climb?” followed by, “oh I could never do that” and make comments similar to “man, I wish I could do something like that but I’m just too busy” or whatever it is that is holding them back from chasing their dream (keep in mind I am single and not fathering any children). of course we all have different ambitions, and not everyone should climb mountains. at some point I realized I had told myself those same excuses in the past. don’t have the time, money, etc. but I did have the time for friday night lights and money for this or that, things I didn’t necessarily need. when I made the decision to climb DENALI 12 moths ago I didn’t have all the money and gear stashed away. i hadn’t yet decided to turn down work and say no to brides for over a month, the beginning of wedding season. have I made some sacrifices along the way? absolutely. but when I look back I won’t regret any of it.

it’s all about priorities. at any given moment I’m doing exactly what I want to be doing. it doesn’t matter if it’s a 15 hour day at my computer, cleaning the bathroom, or watching tv. so I try and make sure it’s exactly how I want to be spending my time. if you have a goal make it a priority. I made this trip a priority and it’s happening. I leave in less than 24 hours. if you want something in life, chase it. if you’re not happy with your current circumstances, do whatever it takes to change them. and if you’re comfortable, it’s time to change as well.

aside from my rambling, here’s a little bit of what it took during the last 12 months to make this trip happen:

— over 350 miles of running streets, stairs, trails, and mountains (with and without packs)

— 4 months of weight training

— trial winter expeditions

— endless trips to REI, Outdoor Research, and Feathered Friends

— more than 12 potential climbing partners before we formed a team of 3 – Michael, Shantanu, and José (from WA, OR, and Ecuador respectively)

— over 250 emails

— more than 80 phone calls

— a 12 page living google doc containing all my research and notes for the expedition.

— 3 modes of transportation to reach the mountain

in addition, I’ll be lugging up the mountain:

— enough food & fuel for 3+ weeks

— approximately 125 lbs of food & gear

here are a few facts about Denali as well as some general info the unassuming reader:


— attempts: 1232 climbers (56% were successful)

top 5 nations represented

— USA: 716

— Canada: 67

— UK: 60

— Poland: 40

— Japan: 31

average age of a Denali climber: 39.8 years

current weather: -14 to -24F

“[Denali] remains unique among the mountains of the world. Situated at latitude 63º N, it is the highest point near the Arctic Circle. Piercing the central plain of Alaska, Denali is buffeted by storms from the Gulf of Alaska and from the Bering Sea. In few mountain locales of the world does the weather change so precipitously and dramatically. A balmy day of glaciertravel can rapidly deteriorate into a day of survival-snow-cave digging. The intense cold is, of course, another unique feature of Denali, comparable only to the Antarctic ranges. The Himalaya is tropical by comparison. On the South Col of Mount Everest (26,200 feet) in late October, the lowest temperature we recorded in 1981 was 17 degrees below zero. On Denali, this would be a rather warm night at only 14,300 feet in May and June. Temperatures between the high camp and the summit even in the middle of the summer are routinely 20 to 40 degrees below and even lower at night. This combination of extreme weather and temperature pummels the unprepared. Denali also renders the climber more hypoxic; the barometric pressure is lower for a given altitude than on mountains closer to the equator. This difference becomes noticeable above 10,000 feet or so, and makes the summit of Denali equivalent to anywhere from 21,000 to 23,000 feet in the Himalaya (Mt. Everest is at latitude 27º N), depending on weather conditions.” – NPS Denali Mountaineering Booklet.

if you’re wondering ‘why’, well, I’m not climbing this mountain for me. I’ve long since passed the point of self-recognition from climbing. during the past 12 months I have been forming a non-profit, 14,4 | FOUNDATION, with the purpose to assist injured climbers and those who have lost a family member to a climbing accident. our website will be finished in june when I return from alaska. in the mean time you can visit www.fourteenfour.org to donate.

looking over the yosemite valley, 3 weeks ago. after a 30 minute drive through the park I drove around a corner and had my first look at el cap and half dome. I literally had chills.

if not now, when?


2012.05.15 - Magnus - So awesome. All the best!

2012.05.15 - jenny - inspired by your pursuit of the dream. and you're starting a non-profit in your spare time! amazing.

2012.05.15 - Josh Gruetzmacher - Way to make it happen and chase your dreams. I can't wait to see photos from the top :)

2012.06.04 - kmh - incredibly inspiring man. I love adventure and this post just made me pumped for you and a life filled adventure anyone can have!

2012.06.14 - Kyle Petitt - awesome awesome post. you are the man. keep on keepin on!

Your email is never published or shared. Required fields are marked *