Adventure Of A Lifetime
Bride Ashley Schmieder reached out to Churchill on Instagram, whose work she was a fan of and inquired about ideas for an adventure wedding. Charleton mentioned Mt. Everest base camp; the idea excited the adventurous bride.
First Time For Everything
This was Churchill’s first time shooting at this location as well. He did try with another couple in the past, but Nepal’s devastating earthquake and subsequent avalanche ran everyone off the mountain.
No Wedding Planner Needed
Much of the wedding planning was physical training to trek the mountain. The three of them trained for about a year in order to spend almost three weeks on the mountain.
Physical Training Is Key
Churchill, in particular, enjoyed the training as he is a huge outdoor buff. The couple are also both avid backpackers and hikers.
Another part of the planning included booking three Sherpas — an English translator, a lead guide, and a chef. They were also provided three porters to help carry their duffle bags.
Yes To The Dress
A porter also carried Schmieder’s dress and Sissom’s tuxedo which was carefully folded into a cardboard box in order to remain wrinkle-free.
Along the way, the group stopped at various towns during their trek visiting with monks and locals before climbing some 5200 meters to the Mount Everest Base Camp Trek, where they took their wedding photos.
Hiking Boots Necessary
“There was one particular day we hiked in 3 feet of snow,” says Sissom. “That was an unexpected storm, and the sherpas hesitated to let us go because the snow was so deep and we had to go along a steep cliff.”
About 14,000 feet up, the group began experiencing altitude sickness; enduring headaches, loss of appetite and nausea. Groom James developed a terrible cough, dry, deep, and painful, where he could barely breathe at times.
During shooting, temperatures ranged from minus five degrees to plus five degrees. Despite these frigid temperatures, the photos turned out to be breathtaking. However, taking the pictures wasn’t always so easy with the equipment nearly freezing and sometimes refusing to work.
As for the bride and how she was coping wearing her wedding dress in such freezing conditions: “It was really cold, but you can’t tell, I have two pairs of pants and two pairs of socks on under my dress.”
The couple had only 90 minutes to eat, get married, pack all their gear and head back down the mountain in a helicopter. “I had some photos already in mind, but I only captured around one-quarter of the photos I wanted to get,” Churchill says.
A Special Blessing
Due to regulations in Nepal, the couple was not able to be legitimately married on the mountain, so they exchanged vows and rings. They also received a blessing from a monk on their way up the mountain.
Through Struggle Comes Joy
“This was a beautiful moment we shared together to start this union,” says Sissom. “It was romantic starting a life together through pain and struggle.”
“Awesome is a cliché,” Churchill says in describing the experience. “But if it was re-introduced to mean what it really means, this is as close as you come under God to having a sense of awe.”