California Couple Ties the Knot in Dramatic Mount Everest Wedding

A shared love of adventure has transformed a Sacramento couple and their wedding photographer into viral sensations.

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Adventure wedding photographer Charleton Churchill
Ashley Schmieder, 32, and James Sissom, 36, got married at Everest Base Camp – clad in a wedding dress and tuxedo, no less.
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Adventure wedding photographer Charleton Churchill
A passion for the outdoors has shaped the relationship between Sissom and Schmieder, who was born in Mountain View and grew up in Oakley. "It’s a space where we have learned what we believe to be the fundamentals of a solid relationship, to be dependable partners that motivate each other," said Schmieder, 32.
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Adventure wedding photographer Charleton Churchill
So when it came to get married, the intrepid couple and Churchill picked Everest Base Camp. "Once the possibility was out there, we had to figure out a way to make it happen," said Sissom, 36.
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Adventure wedding photographer Charleton Churchill
The trio planned the wedding for a year and spent months training for the grueling hike. They flew into Kathmandu on March 7, having decided to spend two weeks on the mountain prior to the wedding, hoping to give their bodies time to acclimate to the altitude.
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Adventure wedding photographer Charleton Churchill
But as is the case with best laid plans, things went awry quickly, starting with storm-fueled snow and winds. "It was very cold!" Sissom said, noting that temperatures fluctuated between – 5 and 5 degrees Fahrenheit. "What we thought would be a well-beaten dirt trail, turned into a path covered in snow and ice."
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Adventure wedding photographer Charleton Churchill
The group continued the trek despite the inclement weather. But soon Sissom developed a cough, Schmieder had headaches and Churchill came down with food poisoning. The combination of his cough and the altitude compelled Sissom, who is asthmatic, to get hooked up to bottled oxygen.
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Adventure wedding photographer Charleton Churchill
"We all anticipated that was the end of our journey," Schmieder said. On the day of their wedding, though, her now-husband "woke up feeling strong enough to continue" and so they did.
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Adventure wedding photographer Charleton Churchill
"We knew we would get to the base camp someday, but never imagined it would be the place where we would exchange our vows," Sissom said.
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Adventure wedding photographer Charleton Churchill
Instead of heels and formal shoes, the adventurous couple picked heavy-duty and practical hiking shoes.
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Adventure wedding photographer Charleton Churchill
"We decided it would be best to get to base camp, quickly do our ceremony and photos, then head out on a helicopter to Lukla," Schmieder said. "We scrambled once we arrived to get as much in as possible before the helicopter arrived at 2 p.m." But it never did.
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Adventure wedding photographer Charleton Churchill
Another storm was making a beeline for the trio and their guide. So they were forced to spend the night at the Everest Base Camp.
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Adventure wedding photographer Charleton Churchill
"We headed out the next morning on the helicopter, everyone beaming at the thought of a hot shower," Sissom said.
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Adventure wedding photographer Charleton Churchill
Due to the obstacles they faced, the group shortened their trip from three to two weeks.
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Adventure wedding photographer Charleton Churchill
Now, nearly two months later, Churchill’s stunning photographs have gone viral. They have been shared 50,000 times and counting – 10,000 of which came in a single day. "It has been quite the shock!" Schmieder said. "We expected some exposure, but had no idea we would receive interest of this magnitude."
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Adventure wedding photographer Charleton Churchill
For his part, Churchill seems slack-jawed at the response to his photographs, which have been nominated for awards. He can also no longer keep track of requests for his services, which are pouring in from Germany, Australia, Russia, Belgium, Japan and New Zealand.
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Adventure wedding photographer Charleton Churchill
"This has always been bigger than me," he said. The attention to his photos demonstrates to Churchill "that we all connect to doing something greater than ourselves, facing fear, working hard, pushing through the challenges and difficulties of trying to accomplish something great, and being rewarded in the end. It's truly humbling and exciting."
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