In May 2023, amidst the towering Himalayan peaks, my then-fiancé and I embarked on an extraordinary adventure that would forever etch itself in the tapestry of our love story. Our destination was Everest Base Camp, a place where dreams of daring mountaineers and adventurers come to life. Featured by the New York Times.
But for us, it was more than just a trek. It was a journey that brought us face to face with the raw beauty and challenges of the world’s highest mountain. As we exchanged vows in a place where few have ventured to declare their love, we found ourselves enveloped in an experience unlike any other. It was difficult, testing our endurance and resilience, yet simultaneously, it was the most amazing and exhilarating journey of our lives.
So, How Did we Come to Exchange Vows at Over 17,000 Feet?
The story goes back to August 2021. Austin and I had been engaged for almost a year with no clue of where or how we wanted to celebrate our special day. Our only desire was to keep our wedding both unique and budget-friendly. Then, in a lighthearted moment, my dad playfully suggested, “What about Everest?”
That seemingly whimsical suggestion resonated with us, and we looked at each other with excitement. The idea captured our imagination and hearts, offering a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity that encapsulated our adventurous spirits. It was an unconventional choice, but one that felt right for us.
Finding the Right Trekking Company
I immediately delved into researching trekking companies, a task that turned out to be more challenging than I thought. After thorough exploration, it became clear why Ian Taylor Trekking was the best choice for us.
Their website was the first thing that stood out. It provided us with a well-structured itinerary, valuable tips and advice, and comprehensive guidance on preparation and training.
The price they offered was not only reasonable, but incredibly inclusive. It covered everything from meals to lodging to essential assistance and a remarkable team of professionals.
What truly set Ian Taylor Trekking apart though was their responsiveness and personalized approach. They were readily available to address our queries and concerns and went above and beyond offering us the opportunity to have our wedding ceremony at Base Camp.
After choosing Ian Taylor Trekking and sending in our deposit, we immediately started training. Austin and I are very active generally, but we knew that tackling the Himalayan terrain required a specific approach to building strength and endurance.
Living in the Northeast, we faced the challenge of not having easy access to high-altitude peaks, so we just started walking… a lot. We would walk after work and for hours on weekends. As time progressed, we intensified our training by adding ankle weights, weighted vests, and stuffing our backpacks. We also incorporated the stair master at our logical gym into our routine and we set off on hikes in the Catskills or Poconos whenever we could on weekends.
When we finally embarked on the trek, we were pleasantly surprised to discover that our training had not only prepared us well, but had also made the trek relatively easier than we had initially anticipated. Investing time and effort in our training made the journey that much more enjoyable and manageable.
Packing and Gear Selection
This was definitely the most costly part of our adventure, but we sure are glad that we invested in quality gear! We followed the checklist provided on Ian Taylor Trekking’s website, which was a fantastic resource.
The website’s recommendations also accounted for differences in temperature preferences, which was great because I tend to feel the cold more than Austin. Our adherence to the checklist ensured that we both had the right gear to stay comfortable throughout the trek.
Arriving in Kathmandu
After months of anticipation, we finally arrived in Kathmandu on May 10. Ian Taylor Trekking’s team picked us up from the airport in the wee hours of the morning and took us to the Ramada Encore hotel in the vibrant neighborhood of Thamel. The hotel was not only incredible, but it also provided some of the best breakfast options I’ve ever had. This, coming from someone who has traveled a good amount.
We had a few days to kill before our flight to Lukla, which we spent visiting the city. Ian’s team gave us some great suggestions of things to do and places to see, including Swoyambhu Mahachaitya (The Monkey Temple).
The night before our flight to Lukla, Ian’s team gave us a final rundown on what to expect, dos and don’ts, answered our questions and concerns, and gave us the chance to pick up whatever equipment we had rented.
The time had almost come!
The morning of our flight to Lukla was probably the hardest for me. I had heard about how the Lukla airport was one of the world’s most dangerous airports, but the team’s professionalism was a beacon of reassurance in the midst of my pre-flight anxiety.
The flight to Lukla, despite its reputation, turned out to be surprisingly smooth. In Lukla, our anticipation was met with the warm hospitality of our sherpas, who promptly served us tea and coffee to recharge after the flight. We filled our water bottles, and immediately embarked on our trek.
In hindsight, no amount of preparation could have fully equipped us for the incredible rollercoaster of experiences that awaited us.
The first day of trekking to Monjo was long and difficult. But as the days went on, the routine of the trek became a comforting and stabilizing element. Mornings started with an almost instinctive ritual of putting on our hiking boots and joining our team for breakfast. With full stomachs and backpacks full of essentials, we would set out on the trail. After a few hours, we would stop for a tea break before continuing until lunch time. The afternoon leg of the trek also included a short break or two, as needed, before reaching our final destination for the night.
The Importance of Great Sherpas
Our team of sherpas played an instrumental role in making the trek more enjoyable. The daily itinerary was meticulously planned, ensuring that we had adequate time for rest, meals, cultural experiences, and exploration. Perhaps one of the most valuable pieces of advice we received was the night before our flight to Lukla when we were instructed to follow the sherpas’ steps. We truly felt the benefits of maintaining a steady pace that aligned with the sherpas.
What started as a professional relationship transcended into a deep connection with our sherpas. We soon started to see the team, our sherpas and fellow trekkers, as a second family. The sherpas weren’t just guides, but companions who shared their knowledge, culture, and warmth with us. Their infectious smiles taught us to appreciate the beauty of the journey, not just the destination.
One memory stands out among the rest. On the day of our wedding, one of the sherpas offered to help me get ready. She brought me to the tent where she had been cooking so that I wouldn’t have to get ready in the cold. She then helped do my hair and get my dress on. I couldn’t have asked for a better bridesmaid if I tried!
Highlights Along the Way
The whole journey is a highlight in itself. The towering peaks, dramatic landscapes, and the sheer challenge of the trek create a tapestry of unforgettable memories. However, when we reflect on our journey, there were a few moments that stood out, moments that transcended the physical and touched our hearts in profound ways.
1. Lifelong bonds – The camaraderie among fellow trekkers and our Sherpa guides was the most significant highlight of our EBC trek. By the end of the journey, we had forged friendships that would last a lifetime. We laughed, shared stories, and supported each other through every uphill battle, which made the journey unforgettable.
2. Meeting Kanchha Sherpa, a living legend – We had the opportunity to meet Kanchha Sherpa, the last living surviving member of the historic 1953 summit expedition led by Sir Edmund Hillary and Tenzing Norgay, while in Namche Bazaar. His tales of determination, courage, and the monumental first ascent of the world’s highest peak left us in awe. Meeting him was a humbling experience, reminding us of the rich legacy that Everest carries.
3. Tengboche Monastery – We visited the monastery after a 7.5 mile hike that day. There, we felt a moment of profound connection to the divine, which we have never felt before. Sitting in meditation, we found solace and peace, feeling as close to a higher power as we ever had.
Arriving at Base Camp
I will never forget May 22, 2022, the day we arrived at Base Camp. The day began in Gorak Shep, a place where the biting cold is a constant companion, and where the anticipation of reaching our destination, Everest Base Camp, had been building for days.
The previous evening, we were meant to embark on a side trek from Gorak Shep to Kala Patthar to watch the sun set over Everest. But this bonus trek was delayed until the next day due to weather. On May 22nd at 3 AM, Austin decided to conquer Kala Patthar with a few others from our group. They ended up running slightly behind schedule, which delayed our departure for Base Camp.
The clock was ticking and we had a narrow window of opportunity for good weather during our wedding ceremony. I was stressed, with my mind singularly focused on how the ceremony would play out.
But then, something incredible happened. As we finally reached the fabled base camp, all that stress and anxiety melted away. In that moment, it was as though time stood still, and the world outside of this breathtaking oasis ceased to exist.
Base Camp Wedding
It was now time to accomplish what we had set out to do. It was an event that happened so quickly, yet it will be etched in our memories forever. Immediately upon arrival, we started to get ready. Our sherpas and fellow teammates helped give us a sense of relief by taking on different roles. Some took photographs, others helped me with the dress train. One of Austin’s friends was our minister and the other our ring bearer. It was all coming together.
Then, around 1:30 PM on May 22nd, everything came together seamlessly on the edge of the Khumbu Glacier. With helicopters swirling in the distance, we said our vows in front of God, who felt closer than ever, our two friends, my parents, and our teammates, who had become the family we made during the trek. Their presence, like our loved ones back home, reinforced the idea that family isn’t solely defined by blood, but by the bonds we create on the shared journey of life.
The ceremony was short, but euphoric. It was as though the mountains themselves had whispered their approval and invited us to become a part of their timeless story. We exchanged rings, shared our first kiss as a married couple, and everyone erupted in jubilant cheers. We hugged each other smiling, not only celebrating our union, but our shared accomplishment. In a beautiful gesture of respect and blessing, the sherpas placed white scarves, known as “khata,” around our shoulders. It was a humbling and awe-inspiring experience that reaffirmed the profound connection between love, the family we found on our journey, and the spiritual power of nature.
Sleeping at EBC
In the spirit of the unconventional, we also chose Ian Taylor Trekking because they are one of the only agencies who offer the opportunity to sleep at Base Camp. And who doesn’t want to spend their wedding night in below zero weather?
As the weather got worse after the ceremony ended, we settled into our tents for the night. The boisterous celebrations and the whirlwind of emotions from our vows were replaced by a serene stillness. Austin, who had been up since the early hours of the morning, fell asleep almost immediately. I stayed up as the sherpas were delivering pasta and tea to our tents. In the distance, there was music emanating from another campsite for a while, but gradually, the world fell silent, leaving only the sound of the snowfall and the mountain winds.
In the middle of the night, around 3 AM, I woke up and unzipped the tent to reveal a scene of unimaginable beauty. The inky black sky above was adorned with the brilliance of the Milky Way, its stars shimmering like diamonds against the backdrop of the towering Himalayas. It was a sight that transcended words, a celestial marvel that etched itself into my memory. I returned to my slumber, and when morning came, it was time to prepare for our descent.
Life Lessons from the Himalayas
In the end, our trek to Everest Base Camp wasn’t just a breathtaking adventure or a unique wedding venue; it was a profound lesson in the limitless potential of the human spirit. We realized that when you step out of your comfort zone, even the seemingly unachievable becomes possible. It’s a reminder that the most rewarding experiences often lie beyond the boundaries of the familiar.
As we stood before the towering Everest, surrounded by the majestic Himalayas, we were reminded that life’s greatest treasures are found in the journey, not just the destination. We encourage you to push your own boundaries, dream big, and pursue the extraordinary. The world is full of wonders waiting to be discovered.
Our trek to Everest Base Camp not only allowed us to declare our love for each other in the most epic of settings but also changed our lives in profound ways. It taught us the value of perseverance, the beauty of simplicity, and the importance of cherishing every moment. We learned that in the face of challenges, we can find our greatest strengths.
So, whether it’s trekking to a remote mountain base camp, starting a new career, or simply taking that first step towards a dream, don’t let fear or comfort hold you back. Embrace the unknown, and you’ll be amazed at how it can transform your life. Remember, it’s not about the altitude you reach; it’s about the attitude you carry.