Talk about peak beauty.
In a wedding shoot like no other, photographer Charleton Churchill, along with a brave California couple, made the 17,600 ft.-journey to a base camp on Mount Everest in Nepal for an unforgettable experience. And the pictures are out of this world.
“Photographing at base camp Mount Everest was unbelievable surrounded by the Himalayas,” Churchill tells Global News.
“What I wanted to do is marry my passion for the outdoors with wedding photography and form something different.”
Ashley Schmieder and James Sissom were married on Mar. 16, in front of Khumbu Ice-fall at the base camp.
The long journey ahead
In a lengthy post on his personal blog, Churchill explains the couple first got in touch with him last year through his Instagram page. They were looking for an “adventure wedding” and bells went off in Churchill’s head: “I mentioned Mt. Everest base camp, and well…here we are now,” he writes.
“Ashley’s reaction was more of excitement when I mentioned Everest to her.”
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Churchill had previously attempted this shoot with another couple in 2015, but a devastating earthquake and subsequent avalanche ran everyone off the mountain. Ashley and James’ request for adventure made for a perfect opportunity.
The trio trained for a year and planned on being on the mountain for two to three weeks, all of which was an enjoyable task for Churchill who has spent most of his life training outdoors.
“I have been climbing mountains all my life, getting dirty. My dad took me in the wilderness quite often, so I love adventure.”
The photos speak for themselves
The photos, which are now on his website, document the couple’s journey from beginning to end.
Although, Churchill points out that shooting wasn’t always so easy: his equipment was cold, he had to keep his batteries warm and sometimes his gear wouldn’t work.
They also hit several road blocks, including frigid temperatures, sleepless nights and even food poisoning.
“The first night I didn’t sleep at all. It was rough and made it difficult for me to hike for a few days; [I] had to push through the wall I was experiencing,” he writes. “James had the Khumbu cough, which became worse and deeper the higher we ascended.”
His cough got so bad that he had to use an oxygen mask the night before the wedding, leading the trio, along with their guide and Sherpa, to consider abandoning their plan.
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But things looked better the next morning.
“After waking up and having a discussion with our guide, and James feeling better, he mentioned that we can get to base camp carrying oxygen, photograph a short wedding, then fly out on a helicopter,” Churchill explains.
Tying the knot
The couple had 90 minutes to eat, get married, pack their gear and travel back down the mountain via helicopter.
The result is a story as beautiful as it is captivating.
“I had some photos already in mind, but I only captured around one-quarter of the photos I wanted to get. I didn’t know where I was going to photograph the couple, because I hadn’t been there,” he says.
Although Everest is one of the world’s most sought after adventures, Nepal’s mountaineering association said tourists were also turning it into a health hazard, The Guardian reports.
In 2015, foreign climbers were leaving large amounts of urine, feces and garbage on the mountain.
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In the same year, members of the Indian army trekked up Everest just to pick up waste and trash, CNN reports.
And while Churchill says his trip was one-of-a-kind, he would do it again.
“What’s next is more mountains and regions of the world. I have many ideas and locations around the world if couples are interested.”