Charleton Churchill, meanwhile, is a photographer also from northern California. On his website, he describes himself as an “adventure wedding photographer.” Churchill specializes in wedding photos with an adventure flare, like the one seen here.
Everest, of course is the world's tallest mountain, at 29,029 feet. But instead of going for the peak, the photo shoot took place at the Nepal Everest base camp. However, the camp is still quite a trek, and 17,600 feet up.
“She said she wanted an adventure wedding and hadn’t chosen a destination, asking for my opinion,” Churchill said (seen here). "They were thinking tropical or some place enjoyable.” But Churchill had another place in mind.
“We had planned to go to the Bahamas and get married,” Ashley said. However, Churchill knew the couple were experienced hikers. “(He) knew we were capable of doing Everest and just threw it out there like, ‘Would you guys go to Everest to get married?'”
To prepare for the journey, Ashley and James trained for nine months. They built up their leg strength at the gym, and went for long hikes. They would need to build endurance if they were to make it up to the Everest base camp.
Then in March 2017, they flew into Kathmandu to start the trip. They also received assistance by booking three sherpas to join them. They would come in handy, especially since the journey to base camp would take 10 whole days!
And the journey up the mountain came with a price. Churchill got bad food poisoning for a few nights and couldn't sleep. In addition, according to Churchill, “ James had the Khumbu cough which became worse and deeper the higher we ascended.”
And things for James continued getting worse. “The night before Everest base camp...James woke up catching his breath feeling like he was suffocating, tight chest,” Churchill said. “Our guide and another Sherpa hooked up the oxygen mask/tank to James, and he slept on oxygen for the remainder of the night.”
To avoid any major health issues, the plan was slightly adjusted. “Just a bit over a week prior to us, an Australian died of high altitude sickness from base camp," Churchill said. "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.”
They finally made it to base, but didn't have much time. “When we arrived to base camp, we were told we have 1hr and 30 minutes to eat, get married, pack up, and get on a helicopter,” Churchill said. When it comes to getting perfect wedding photos, that's not a lot of time.
When it was time for the photos, that meant it was also time for the bride and groom to change into their clothes. Of course, this presented another challenge, since they had to wear the dress and tux in incredibly cold whether. The temperature during the shoot ranged from -5 to 5 degrees Fahrenheit.
“It was really cold but you can’t tell, I do have two pairs of pants and two pairs of socks on under my dress,” Ashley said. “I was just thinking ‘Let’s do this as long as I can bare it!’” She added, “I wanted to push myself as much as I could while still being safe.”
“Once they exchanged vows, there was happiness, it was bright,” Churchill said. “But they took off their glasses and looked into each other’s eyes with all sincerity. Capturing them with the Khumbu Ice-fall behind them was just unreal, and in a wedding dress in below freezing temperatures, even with the sun up.
“The photos are amazing and we’ll treasure them for the rest of our lives,” James said, “but the experience also brought us closer together.” And now they forever have these photos to commemorate their epic journey. “It was life-changing," he added.
And if this was the wedding, what do they do for a honeymoon? Ashley said they'll finally get to it next year, but it will be “Somewhere tropical and relaxing!” Then she added, “But this Everest adventure has brought us so much closer, it was amazing.”