I haven’t met many girls with the determination and enthusiasm to embark on a 6 hour hike along a deserted coastline (complete with near vertical bouldering down the side of a mountain) just to lose every last ounce of body heat under the sharp, ice-cold sting of water falling from 40 feet above, all in overcast, 60 degree weather. Before I go any further, I want to thank Nhu-y for her dedication; such physically grueling shoots seldom happen. And thank you for your patience, as you fearlessly conquered the terrain and waited for me to slowly inch my terrified bottom down the cliff face. My entire backside was covered in dust, the product of literally sliding from one unstable foothold to another.

After a long and winding walk, an endless debacle with poison oak (it was EVERYWHERE), and scaling the cliff, we finally made it to Alamere Falls, one of only two California waterfalls to pour directly onto a beach. After a few joyous whoops, we realized what a daunting task we actually had in front of us. These falls were huge and rushing like the Niagara. It was going to be really, really cold.

Two meager sweaters, a sopping wet and mostly useless towel, tamarind-coated mango lollipops, and a few slices of cinnamon bread were Nhu-y’s only respite from the endless water crashing onto her. She’s a trooper though, and hypothermia was not going to stop her. Every twenty minutes, we would pause for a mini defrost session. I wrapped her in every piece of clothing we had on us, stood on her feet to share my body heat with her frostbitten toes, and rubbed her hands until their bluish tint became a more reassuring purple. I was essentially her human microwave.

We finished our day with a few shots outside the torrential falls. From this vantage point, the waterfall took on a much dreamier disposition that was wholly different from the ferocity of actually being in it. Once the color returned to Nhu-y’s fingers and we squeegeed our silver pants and lace dress into the river running through the beach, it was my turn to enter the falls (for the Instagram, of course). Only then did I understand what kind of physical pain I was expecting from her…5 minutes later and it was Nhu-y’s turn to squeeze me until my body would stop shaking.

We raced, half-delirious, down the coastline back to our car, eager to blast the heat and find two steaming bowls of soup. We got to our local Safeway counter at 7:58 only to hear a disheartening, “Sorry, we close at 8.” Resigned and mourning, we resorted to two bags of XX-Hot Cheetos for dinner. Unfortunately, the soup didn’t pan out but we did manage to create a dazzling set of photographs, a day’s worth of frigid memories, and our own little inside joke: #HYPOTHERMIA!!!

Photography and Creative Direction: Ankur Maniar | Model: Nhu-y Phan | Clothing: Silver Culottes and Lace Dress from Zara