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ADVENTURE WEDDING, MT. EVEREST BASE CAMP
JAMES AND ASHLEY ELOPEMENT, MARCH 16, 2017
ADVENTURE WEDDING PHOTOGRAPHER: CHARLETON CHURCHILL

adventure wedding on mt everest base camp by charleton churchill

 

WE DID IT. James and Ashley married at Mt. Everest Base Camp (EBC) and became the first couple to exchange vows in a wedding dress and tux. And I, as an adventure wedding photographer, have been wanting to photograph a real wedding (with a wedding dress and suit) at Everest base camp since 2011. It’s one of the most epic and beautiful locations in the world that’s difficult to get to, and nobody’s done it before. So we are thrilled to have finally pulled it off.

We trained for the year and planned to be on the mountain for 2-3 weeks in order to acclimatize our way up to base camp so James and Ashley can get married and get a few photos. The actual hike to base camp after landing on the mountain from Kathmandu took nine hiking days, but you plan for three weeks from the time you take off from your home airport to return home. I’ve trained much of my life in the outdoors, climbing many mountains, training in high altitude mountaineering, leading teams, photographing, even to the summit of the highest peak in north America, Alaska’s Denali, Mt. McKinley, at 20,320 ft., in colder and harsher conditions. I have even fell in a crevasse, but was roped in and rescued.

I had attempted base camp with another in 2015, but the devastating earthquake of Nepal including the massive avalanche that swept EBC, turned everyone around off the mountain. I wasn’t sure if I would find another couple to get married on Everest anytime soon.

Last year, our bride Ashley, who was following me on Instagram, reached out me. She said she wanted an adventure wedding and hadn’t chosen a destination, asking for my opinion. They were thinking tropical or some place enjoyable. I mentioned Mt. Everest base camp, and well…here we are now.

Both James and Ashley made for great trail partners. We were like family. Ashley is tough girl who crushed it on the mountain trail and maintained a great pace.  James is a great man who took care of Ashley, always looking after her needs. Plus he’s a comedian who made us laugh often. It can be difficult after a few days on a long mountain trek with all the pressure and lack of resources to maintain a smile, but we did well.

Now saying this was an epic and amazing trip is true, but I would be remiss if I didn’t share it came with some suffering, doubt, fear, anxiety, and physical pain. Often times when striving for something great, there’s usually a cost. There’s no glory without suffering. We worked hard for these images with much less time to photograph a short wedding than we planned. It started snowing hard a few days into the journey. According to our Sherpa guide, it dumped more snow on us than it had all winter. The temperatures ranged from -8 degrees to 10 degrees Fahrenheit from 14,000 ft. camp and above, so your hands would quickly freeze if left out of the gloves, like when I tried to film and take photos.  I actually had to turn a live Facebook filming off because my hands were burning cold. I had to start over and rewarm my hands.  Also, James and Ashley married in the -5 degrees to 5 degrees Fahrenheit range, and in her wedding dress. We especially had to keep her warm, on top of keeping warm, downing soup, food, drinking hot liquids, and moving, all vital.

Besides enduring the frigid temps, food poisoning kept me up a few nights at high altitude, trying to get sick, but I just couldn’t get anything out. The first night I didn’t sleep at all. It was rough and made it difficult for me to hike for a few days, had to push through the wall I was experiencing. James had the Khumbu cough which became worse and deeper the higher we ascended.

The night before Everest base camp at Gorak Shep, 16,942 feet, after we had hiked just below Kala Patar at 18,514 feet for acclimatization hike, James woke up catching his breath feeling like he was suffocating, tight chest. We searched for our guide around midnight and the doors were locked to the lodge, we threw small rocks at windows whispering loudly, I walked around this lodge trying to find a way to get in, and found a back door into the kitchen that was open, and finally found him. Our guide and another Sherpa hooked up the oxygen mask/tank to James, and he slept on oxygen for the remainder of the night. The stories of hikers getting medevaced out from our location didn’t help. Just a bit over a week prior to us, an Australian died of high altitude sickness from base camp. We decided to fly out in the morning to be safe, not attempt base camp, and get married later. 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.

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. So, we ate, drank, and got married in an hour. James and Ashley exchanged vows at Mt. Everest Base camp right in front of the famous Khumbu ice-fall where people use ladders to maneuver over crevasses, and with the beautifully carved Nuptse Face in the backdrop. Their epic wedding was surrounded by all these famous mountains. It was beautiful, short, and we captured a few photos before packing and getting ready to leave. When thirty minutes passed, and then an hour, and then losing cell service (because cell service runs off solar), more time passed, we realized the helicopter wasn’t going to make it and we would have to sleep overnight at base camp, which I thought was great, but bad for James. However, we would have him on oxygen the whole night, which was all good. The weather became worse, which was unsafe for the helicopter to arrive that evening. Our next chance would be the early morning, and that is exactly what happened.

After sleeping on the glacier hearing the cracking below us, on top of hearing the thundering avalanches all night,…the helicopter came, and early. The faint but ascending juddering sound of the helicopter in the distance was a beautiful sound. I saw the look on James and Ashley’s face, and they were relieved, we all were excited. The pilot, hooked up to oxygen, took James and Ashley first because the air was too thin at base camp to take all four of us and our bags.  They dropped James and Ashley off at a lower altitude, and then returned to get me and Naga, our guide. We headed to Lukla Aiport which is at the base of the mountain, the renowned and most dangerous airport in the world because of it’s short landing strip and cliff that follows. Within a few hours, we were back to Kathmandu on a bus, warmed up, and back to our hotel with some of the creature comforts we missed while on the mountain.

Here are some of the images I photographed while on the mountain. Originally, we tweaked the calendar to allow two nights at base camp to capture as many wedding photos as possible. I had many image ideas to massage with them, but because of the circumstances, we only had so much time to capture them in the freezing cold. However, even with the small amount of time we had to capture James and Ashley and their wedding, I think we nailed it.

Thank you everyone for following along, on Facebook, Facebook live, Instagram, the news, etc.. I will be posting more images behind the scenes on Instagram, so you can follow there. We just created a Youtube site where you can view video of behind the scenes as well. Also, please drop a comment at the bottom of this blog, I would love to hear from you, what country or state you followed from, what you enjoyed the most, and anything that moves you.

Lastly I would like thank the wonderful supporters and friends of this epic adventure who believed in our work and photography enough to invest their confidence in me.

Profoto – Profoto B2 Light
Nikon & Nikon NPS– All my Nikon Gear.
BHLDN – Stylish wedding Dress Attire
Sierra Mountain Outdoors – Sutter Creek, Ca.
Lacie Rugged Drives – These rugged drives get banged up and last me.
Black Rapid – Camera straps for my hiking weddings
Trillo & Leather Co. – My stylish leather straps for non-hiking weddings
Light and Motion – Headlamps and Stella lights
Borrowlenses – Camera and lens rental
Marmot – Clothing & camping needs

My amazing wife Kelly and three daughters who not only support me, but encourage me to live adventurously.

flight to Lukla airport with view of himalayas

Here’s James and Ashley flying from Kathmandu to the base of the mountain to prepare for our wedding adventure. It’s a 35 minute flight with a view of the Himalayan mountain range if you get clear skies. It’s a nice flight, unless the wind picks up, and then your small plane gets whipped around like ours did on the return flight.

couple flying from kathmandu to lukla airport

beautiful lukla flight early sunrise

Above: I wanted to get a good image the world’s most dangerous airport in the world from the cockpit foreground, so I had to get the front seat.

landing pad at lukla airport the shortest runway most dangerous

welcome to lukla airport

himalayas image from lukla airport

Above: We landed and it was beautiful and cold. We would start our journey here at this place, meet our Sherpas and our Guide.

couple starting adventure hike to base campAbove: We didn’t waste anytime staying at Lukla airport; we were there, downed a cup of hot tea, negotiated some trekking gear, and then we were gone. Ashley and James starting off in their hike through the villages of Lukla .

spinning the prayer wheels

enjoying coffee on the mountain

This was the best coffee on the mountain, a hot carmel mocha latte, delicious. We enjoyed coffee together more than a few times.

hiking to namche bazar bridge

Above: The infamous bridges across the canyon on our way to Namche Bazar.

adventure couple on adventure

Above: I enjoyed the chemistry of this couple, very natural, having fun, spontaneous

adventure of a lifetime epic wedding photography

dangerous bridges to namche bazar crossing dangerous everest bridge to namche bazar

engagement couple crossing himalayan bridge to Everest base camp to get married eloping couple on trail to hike to base camp

namche bazar This is Namche Bazar where the devastating 2015 earthquake hit Nepal and Mt. Everest, with my other couple. This is where we had to turn around in 2015. This time it snowed more than it had all winter.  groom in his room at namche with his apple computer groom getting a shave at the local barber on everest namche bazar

Our groom James got a clean shave at Namche Bazar. He thoroughly enjoyed it. His first.
snowy winter adventure hike to wedding destination everest trek in the winter snow of march hiking along the himalayan wilderness more bridges on trek of ebc mt everest mountain with the spin-drift

Our first real view of Mt. Everest behind the other mountains with the spin-drift coming off it.  When we woke up, it was bitter cold, hands were freezing trying to live facebook, but I was blown away to see this view from our little lodge.

Stories of hikers getting medevaced off the mountain due to altitude sickness were told as well as demonstrated before us.
Here we saw snow leopard tracks in the fresh snow. It warmed up a little on our way to the next camp, but it was still cold. You can see the famous Ama Dablam Mountain in the background candid photo of couple getting married in the himalayas adventure wedding hiking to location for an elopement Mt. Everest landscape photos

Beautiful sunset on the mountain. wedding couple trekking from camp to camp on everest Taking a break above Lobuche and enjoying the view behind us.
adventure wedding couple hiking through wilderness in the himalayasSpontaneous burst of love surrounded by epic mountains. everest base camp trek photo with hikers trekking through the snow This is an accurate and good photo of how tired, beat up, and cold we were, trying to recover at camp.  Each day we hiked around 4-8 hours. We arrived here at Gorak Shep, 16,950 feet.
groom and bride in Gorak Shep preparing to get marriedOkay, here we’re finally getting an opportunity to get dressed, hike up near Kala Pattar for the first look of the couple, Ashley getting in her wedding dress at just near 0 degrees Fahrenheit. We didn’t have much time, but we pulled it off. We were already beat up, tired and lacking oxygen. Our Sherpa Guide insisted on taking my camera bag because he saw how sick and beat up I was on the trail. Some of my camera gear wasn’t functioning because it was too cold, but we were able to get some photos. bride getting her dress on with sherpas helping at Kala pattarOur amazing Sherpas helped Ashley put her dress on in the freezing cold. It was bright and cold and they requested to wear a beanie and glasses, which I thought was unique and different. I wanted them to do their thing and wear what they wanted. first look of the bride and groom on Mount Everest with mountains everywhere in the himalayas

Here we go, the first reveal of Ashley in her wedding dress with Mt. Everest in the background (middle behind the mountains and darker). Yes that is a steep cliff/hill behind them where we just hiked up. One of my favorites here with real smiles, as James gets his first look. I’m glad my Nikon camera gear was functioning at full force here. couple marries on Mt. Everest with wedding dress bride and groom gets married on everestA moment to enjoy the view of Mt. Everest together and where we have been. from kala patar, wedding couple gets married with Mt. everest in the background and Nuptse face at 18,000 feet epic bridal portrait on Mt. Everest in her wedding dress and bride wrap in below freezing temperaturesOne of my favorites here above. creative groom photo on adventure wedding mt everest Late night image after we had woken up to put oxygen on James. I saw that it was clear and retrieved my camera for a quick photo with the stars and Nuptse standing tall. 

Panorama shot with 5 images stitched together. Ashley signing the rock which is customary here after arriving to Mt. Everest base camp, but with their wedding date and wedding. Arrived to base camp with our bags, getting ready to eat, drink, and get married, then fly out on a helicopter all within an hour and a half. Not much time, but we did it. I brought my apple macbook pro and Lacie rugged drive to back up data. I left another rugged drive at the hotel in Kathmandu to send off separately in case photos got lost. I have backups for everything.
wedding dress at base camp mt. everest hanging on a tentSince we didn’t have much time to shoot, I threw the dress on the tent and didn’t care about cleaning anything. I actually liked the image better all rugged, not cleaned up , and with the Sherpas chillin in the background. James getting ready with the Khumbu Ice-fall in the background. bride on mt. everest getting in her dress

Ashley got dressed inside the tent and the temperature was around -3 degrees to 6 degrees Fahrenheit on their wedding day. stylish bride at Everest base camp with her wedding dress in front of the khumbu ice-fall wedding ceremony at base camp of Mount Everest with a tuxedo and wedding dress and fur wrapAnd this is officially the ceremony. Since they were eloping far away from home, we had no minister, but they exchanged vows, exchanged rings, and shared from the heart how much they were going to pursue and love each other. It was truly a moment of awesomeness, knowing where we were at that time, and how hard we worked to get there, this moment was finally happening. They were getting married surrounded by an orchestra of mountains. The Khumbu Ice-fall right behind them, the starting point in climbing to the summit of Mt. Everest. Truly unreal. exchanging vows at ceremony with bride and groom in attire exchanging rings at Mt. Everest Base camp on March 16, 2017 Wedding couple gets married on everest and kisses near ice-fall of the khumbu region couple gets married at everest base camp and then they kiss on the snow Hilarious here, Ashley’s lipstick smeared all over Jame’s face and lips after they kissed. Mt. Everest base camp wedding photos of bride and groom adventure wedding photography at mt everest with couple in the snow married in front of The North Face Everest tents at base camp, first couple with wedding dressOur tents we were to sleep in for two nights originally, but because of altitude issues, we took a helicopter down much earlier than we wanted. We waited for the chopper to arrive, but bad weather held it off until the early morning. We slept overnight in these tents hearing the rumbling and crashing of avalanches all around us, as well as the crackling of the glacier below us; that was a little edgy.  So, yes we were sleeping on one massive glacier.  The whole EBC is situated on a glacier. Mind-blown at 17,600 ft.
adventure wedding photos on mt everest on the icy glacier getting married in mountain bootsYes, they married in these boots. I love boots and couples getting married in them.
destination wedding photos at (EBC) everest base camp with in march 2017 wedding couple hiking in wedding dress and tuxedo on glacier of khumbu of base camp everest trek couple marries on Mt. Everest in backpack and wedding gown candid group shot of bride, groom, and sherpas, cook, and guide

Our amazing Sherpas, cooks, and most hospitable hard workers on the mountain who were with us the whole time. We had a great team.  These guys work their butts off and took care of us. landscape photo of morning at everest base camp and blue sky what basecamp on Everest looks like in March, not a lot of people khumbu ice-fall on march 16, 2017 recent photo at basecamp everest black and white photo of sherpas below khumbu ice-fall and Nuptse face wedding couple leaving basecamp after getting married leaving on a helicopter adventure couple that just married getting on helicopter to go home elopement photos of adventurous couple getting on helicopter This is a great moment after we got off the helicopter, then immediately flew down to Kathmandu on a plane, and got on the bus.  It felt good to be warm again. epic cloud photo on everest of two hearts in sky just before wedding couple marries on mt. everest base camp in the himalayas

This is what I call a God moment. I capture an image and realize later I captured something bigger than myself, which I didn’t originally intend to shoot. I just thank God for the beautiful meaningful moment, I take no credit because it was unintended. Two Hearts become one. March 16, 2017, we are on our way to base camp that very morning to get James and Ashley married and this happens,…there are two hearts in the sky, like a puzzle. One heart is full and the other empty; that day their hearts became one. Absolutely no Photoshop here, I didn’t touch the sky, this just happened on their wedding day.

Congratulations to our couple, James and Ashley. A truly epic and rare wedding that will go on the books as one of my favorite weddings of all time.

 

BOOK PHOTOGRAPHER CHARLETON CHURCHILL FOR YOUR WEDDING

 

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  • Elicia Gonzales - This is so amazing!April 20, 2017 – 3:37 pmReplyCancel

  • Casey Carnegie - These photos are so incredibly beautiful; you have perfectly captured the love of this amazing couple! Such a stunning backdrop for an amazing once-in-a-lifetime moment. These photos are worth all the time and effort you all put into getting there. Congrats to you all on such fantastic adventure. Cheers to James and Ashley!April 20, 2017 – 3:38 pmReplyCancel

  • Elicia Gonzales - This is incredible.April 20, 2017 – 3:38 pmReplyCancel

  • Amanda Gray - These are truly stunning. You take beautiful photos!!!! I wish I had known about you when my husband and I got married. 🙂 Love seeing your work.April 20, 2017 – 3:48 pmReplyCancel

  • Jawn - OMG! It’s awesome beyond words…

    PS: Glad the Stockman’s hat made an appearance ??April 20, 2017 – 3:52 pmReplyCancel

  • Fara Smith - These are unbelievable! LOVE, LOVE, LOVE! The colors are so rich. Awesome job! What an adventure!!April 20, 2017 – 3:52 pmReplyCancel

  • Steve Thorn - Thanks Charleton for sharing your story and the incredible photographs. What an experience for everyone involved.April 20, 2017 – 3:57 pmReplyCancel

  • Benjamin - Charleton, absolutely incredible set of images. Pure magic! Truly beyond words, mate!April 20, 2017 – 4:03 pmReplyCancel

  • Jordan Brishia - Thank you for being utterly cool! Great read and great adventure.April 20, 2017 – 4:03 pmReplyCancel

  • Kerry Winfree - These are amazing!! I love looking at each of these and seeing the beauty of the mountain and couple. Congrats Ashley and James!!April 20, 2017 – 4:16 pmReplyCancel

  • Sally - Absolutely stunning, what an amazing adventure! I teared up when James saw Ashley for the first time and then again when they got married. Love it! ???April 20, 2017 – 4:18 pmReplyCancel

  • Jenn Lewis - Absolutely breathtaking. Perfection.April 20, 2017 – 4:20 pmReplyCancel

  • Martha Perez - OMG I was so happy looking at all the Pictures Until I saw the ROCK and tears just came in my eyes …
    what an emotional moment after fallowing your Journey!
    Just Simply Beautiful.

    I feel like Just saying beautiful is not good enough!!!
    Maybe Epic is the better word … Thank you for the MemoriesApril 20, 2017 – 4:55 pmReplyCancel

  • Hiram Trillo - Incredible and inspiring! This is next level storytelling.April 20, 2017 – 5:04 pmReplyCancel

  • Trillo & Son Leather Co. - Thank You for sharing such an inspiring story with us all. This imagery is beyond gorgeous! Keep up the adventures and thank you for taking us along.April 20, 2017 – 5:08 pmReplyCancel

  • Savannah Lauren - This is the most incredible thing I’ve ever seen.
    Gonna keep watching your work from Tampa!April 20, 2017 – 5:14 pmReplyCancel

  • Sebastien - Words don’t exist for an adventure that has never be seen before. There are so much to talk about: the hike, the difficulties, the team, the couple, the photographer, pushing your own boundaries. This all made me feel alive. Thanks for doing it, and thanks sharing with us.April 20, 2017 – 5:59 pmReplyCancel

  • William Innes - I know we have talked about this in the past. So glad it became a reality. Truly Epic in so many ways!April 20, 2017 – 6:54 pmReplyCancel

  • Katie Rebman - Truly Stunning! Ashley is my friends daughter and as soon as she mentioned their adventure I couldn’t wait to see your images. You have a gift, hopefully I can watch you speak while you’re here in Portland in January.April 20, 2017 – 6:58 pmReplyCancel

  • Nichole - Looks freezing but what an amazing wedding adventure. Congratulations!April 20, 2017 – 7:02 pmReplyCancel

  • Bill Lavallie - EPIC. You set the bar so high.April 20, 2017 – 7:07 pmReplyCancel

  • Rebecca Dykstra - Absolutely brilliant, Charlton!!!April 20, 2017 – 7:11 pmReplyCancel

  • Cathryn Schmidt - Truly EPIC!!! Congratulations James and Ashley on a life filled with adventure! Way to go…tough girls rule!!!April 20, 2017 – 7:11 pmReplyCancel

  • dana berenson - wow wow wow. and can i say wow. truly epic and beautiful. makes me want to get married again (to the same man) and have you be my photographer and do something spectacular.

    Nepal is a magical place and you really captured the beauty of the Khumba and your couple.

    DanaApril 20, 2017 – 7:13 pmReplyCancel

  • carol - WOW !! amazing photosApril 20, 2017 – 7:21 pmReplyCancel

  • jay - Fantastic adventure for my co worker James.
    Beautiful photography.April 20, 2017 – 7:50 pmReplyCancel

  • Jason Smith - Amazing shots from a what looks like the adventure of a lifetime. This is definitely a bucket list item for most of us. Thanks for sharing these breathtaking photos, and congratulations to the bride and groom!!April 20, 2017 – 8:08 pmReplyCancel

  • Amy Schumacher - Breathtaking! What an amazing opportunity for all that were involved. Definitely on my bucket list. Congratulations James and Ashley, so happy that you had this experience.April 20, 2017 – 8:26 pmReplyCancel

  • Karen Whatmore - Absolutely breathtaking, so brave of all of you, and you all carried it off so well. I love your picture of the two hearts in the sky, how incredible and miraculous was that?April 20, 2017 – 9:15 pmReplyCancel

  • Rick Gonzales - These photos are breathtaking that you captured Churchill. The story & photos belong in an issue of National Geographic and Wedding magazines. CONGRATULATIONS to the NEW couple to have YOU as their photographer of choice. Outstanding work my friend… 🙂April 20, 2017 – 9:30 pmReplyCancel

  • Yaneck Wasio - another amazing story told through your images. so amazingly beautifulApril 20, 2017 – 9:53 pmReplyCancel

  • Elena Hernandez - Truly one of the most amazingly romantic moments of nature and love and the struggle to get to where you want all in a few images for the world to see… Just like life, we struggle to get the things and moments we want to remember and Charleton captured the entire thing with such clarity and grace.
    Thank you for sharing these magnificent images with all of us to give us a glimpse of another part of the world that is majestic and fierce.
    Congratulations to Ashley and James on surviving Mt. Everest and showing the world that you were willing to climb to the top of the world to shout out how much you love each other…God bless you on your journey through life together…
    Blessings,
    Elena HernandezApril 20, 2017 – 10:55 pmReplyCancel

  • Kelly Chisholm - Wow! You should write a book about this adventure. Was mesmerized by the story as much as the pictures. I think you need your own TV show also. I’d watch it. Destination Churchill! So glad you found your calling and went for it.. Beautiful.!!April 21, 2017 – 6:20 amReplyCancel

  • L2 - ABsolutely. Stunning.April 21, 2017 – 8:07 amReplyCancel

  • patrick caden - Absolutely stunning!April 21, 2017 – 10:12 amReplyCancel

  • Sean Lively - Amazing adventure! I’m so happy for you guys!April 21, 2017 – 10:46 amReplyCancel

  • Scott Nyberg - What a trip, literally! Those are some phenomenal wedding pictures! Congratulations to James and Ashley on their epic adventure wedding!April 21, 2017 – 12:59 pmReplyCancel

  • Jim and Joyanne Sissom - Our dear son James, you have always done things your way, which is one of the things we admire about you. Ashley, we knew from the beginning that you were the one that was going to marry into our family and we are very happy to have you.

    Charleton, thank you for choosing my son and daughter in law to be the first couple ever to get married in wedding attire on Mt Everest. Your pictures are unbelievable, you captured the love that James and Ashley have for each other. I hope that we have the opportunity to thank you in person.

    Mt Everest is truly God’s country! What better place to commit yourself for life with each other!April 21, 2017 – 2:28 pmReplyCancel

  • Alisha Rudd - Swwwooooooonnn! Absolutely stunning. I bet that was one you’ll never forget. <3April 21, 2017 – 7:04 pmReplyCancel

  • Courtney Hathaway - These are beyond gorgeous!April 22, 2017 – 8:14 amReplyCancel

  • Desiree - You seriously need to connect with North Face and sell them that awesome tent picture with the bride and groom. Seriously, a wonderful experience and the pictures make it seem as though I was there myself! Very well done Charleton!April 22, 2017 – 2:36 pmReplyCancel

  • JOE TICKNOW - These absolutely phenomenal Charl ! I have goosebumps looking at this photos. congratulations for the beautiful newlywed.April 22, 2017 – 4:49 pmReplyCancel

  • Christine Casto - Charleton, you captured my daughter Ashley and son in law James persona
    Ity perfectly in the photos…. So amazing and beautiful.. Love the bond you guys formed!April 23, 2017 – 12:20 pmReplyCancel

  • Tejas Shah - Really nice & beautiful photographs…! Perfectly depicted the chemistry between the couple… and cheers Ashley & James.April 23, 2017 – 10:47 pmReplyCancel

  • Craig Hanson - Spectacular! I think everybody should do their wedding there.April 25, 2017 – 8:24 pmReplyCancel

  • Carley - Absolutely breath takingly beautiful photos.
    PS- James is the best bartender ever.April 25, 2017 – 10:23 pmReplyCancel

  • Gary - What an amazing experience this must have been! These photos capture an experience I can only imagine being part of… dobt mind if i live vicariously through you for a few minutes! Beautiful bride. Congratulations james!April 30, 2017 – 8:26 pmReplyCancel

  • Suzanne - So in love with the pics and the post! You captured them perfectly! What an amazing experience for you all! ?????May 1, 2017 – 8:13 amReplyCancel

  • Rui - I don’t normally comment on things like this but these pictures are Amazing. Congratulations!May 4, 2017 – 9:31 pmReplyCancel

  • Shelley D - Congrats and thank you for showing us a part of the world most of us will never get to experience. You are a beautiful couple!May 6, 2017 – 2:19 amReplyCancel

  • Meow - This is absolutely stunning! I blame you for my high standard in getting married from now! 🙂
    Congratulations for both of them from Thailand!May 8, 2017 – 5:04 amReplyCancel

  • Ash Shres - Awesome photos. Didn’t know EBC was so amazing. Hope you guys had great time in our country 🙂May 8, 2017 – 8:18 pmReplyCancel

  • Marlene Snyder - Incredible wedding adventure. Awesome photos and gorgeous mountain scenery. Best wishes to the happy couple.May 9, 2017 – 7:43 pmReplyCancel

  • Christine - Superlative! These images are a showstopper. They are so intense and beyond moving. The majestic and scary Mt. Everest looming in the background is powerful. Congratulations and thank you for sharing the world with us. Wow. Really, wow.May 9, 2017 – 8:32 pmReplyCancel

  • Ulla - WOW ?May 10, 2017 – 1:28 amReplyCancel

  • Ulla - Just WOW…..May 10, 2017 – 1:29 amReplyCancel

  • Zubeer Mushtaq - Your pics just took by breath away, still can’t believe what I just saw. Amazing pics and many many congratulations to the couple.May 10, 2017 – 1:35 amReplyCancel

  • Debi - Your pictures are amazing. Thank you for sharing. The two hearts at the end of the shoot are incredible.May 10, 2017 – 3:54 amReplyCancel

  • Larysa - Thank you very much for the stunning beauty of the photo! Happiness and sublime love to the newlyweds! In fact, they were crowned by God!May 10, 2017 – 1:27 pmReplyCancel

  • Karlo Gavric - When you are determined to do some awesome stuff 🙂 so nice.May 10, 2017 – 11:31 pmReplyCancel

  • Carol Machos - WOW..!! These photographs are truly amazingly BEAUTIFUL.!May 10, 2017 – 11:45 pmReplyCancel

  • steve wheller - Charlton,

    You have inspired me and what an incredible journey and wedding. Incredible landscapes, people and real emotions caught on camera. This one wedding you will never forget. I would love to do something like this before I go.

    Steve Wheller
    South Wales, UKMay 11, 2017 – 12:57 amReplyCancel

  • Alessandra - Absolutely breathtaking, simply stunning, no words!!!!!!May 11, 2017 – 2:10 amReplyCancel

  • Alexander Leaman - Congratulations – this is such a complete story and a testament to commitment and determination. All kinds of metaphors abound! I don’e know how anyone could come away from this without being completely energised and inspired. I’d love to shoot an adventure wedding but always assumed that it wasn’t possible, but you’ve proved that anything can be done if you want to do it. So, calling all Adventurous brides and grooms…..?!! 😉 Stunning pictures and unbelievable achievement.May 11, 2017 – 6:05 amReplyCancel

  • Karen - WOW!!!! I am speechless!!!May 11, 2017 – 6:58 amReplyCancel

  • Wedding's Art | Photo & Film - Wow!!Congrats!!!
    It’s really amazing!!!

    Thanks for share!May 11, 2017 – 8:07 amReplyCancel

  • Steven McMacken - Simply spectacular, Charleton. What an adventure and you told the story so well. The photography vividly captures the stunning beauty of the Khumbu region. Your journey followed the same trails, from Lukla to EBC, that I first took in 1982. Viewing the images brought back wonderful memories of an unforgettable experience. Namaste.May 11, 2017 – 8:23 amReplyCancel

  • Deanna Briggs - Beautiful pictures and beautiful story! What a great adventure for you all! Thank you for sharing with us. Glad you all made it back safe and well!May 11, 2017 – 10:05 amReplyCancel

  • Paul - I cried!! This such an incredibly beautiful wedding and story. I applaud everybody who came together to make this happen. Ashley and James may you somehow live down this moment of unimaginable glory. Charleton, your images are stunning, your writing is delightful, and the ethic of the whole thing most likely comes from the energy you project. Something religious here without a doubt. I feel like shouting amen amen amen, but I’m a Jew. That’s just how all of you made me feel. Thank you!!!May 11, 2017 – 10:58 amReplyCancel

  • Zobaida - Those pics were truely awesome! The people who made the entire event possible are truely blessed, skilled and possess whatever else is needed to have gone through such an event.
    Congratulations to James and Ashley! May the trials of that journey be the toughest you will ever have to encounter for the rest of your lives!May 11, 2017 – 11:36 amReplyCancel

  • Vanessa - What incredible shots! You are one courageous person! I love how you took such a big risk to capture these photos. My hats off to you and the couple!May 11, 2017 – 2:50 pmReplyCancel

  • Karen T - Enjoyed the story and all your great images. Favorites were the “Boots” (of course), the one of Ashley standing alone with the mountains in the foreground and how can you not love the hearts. GREAT Captures!!!May 17, 2017 – 4:06 pmReplyCancel

  • Andrea Towle - As has been said, absolutely amazing, absolutely stunning. The cloud hearts are an amazing gift….and how can anyone look that beautiful after 3 weeks of hiking to base camp?!May 18, 2017 – 11:22 amReplyCancel

  • Joseph James - OK, when is the book coming out and then the movie?May 19, 2017 – 11:27 pmReplyCancel

  • Carla - All the shots were absolutely stunning; but the very last one with the two hearts brought tears to my eyes. The love and majesty of God is so awesome, making the day even more special. Thank you for sharing!May 24, 2017 – 10:11 amReplyCancel

  • Julia - Absolutely amazing work!! I am so touched! The wedding photography industry needs more inspiring photographers like you, Charleston!May 29, 2017 – 10:44 pmReplyCancel

  • Gil Ford Jr - Fantastic wedding at Everest. Kudos to you and the frozen couple. Thanks for sharing. I got the link from LaCie.August 17, 2017 – 3:29 pmReplyCancel

  • Francisco - It was amazingAugust 29, 2017 – 6:10 pmReplyCancel

  • Julie - Thanks for sharing. How heartwarming, magnificent, breathtaking, beautiful…not enough words.September 6, 2017 – 7:35 amReplyCancel

  • Jacqui - Absoluetly anazing! Ashley and James may you enjoy have evehappinesslove and happiness. Totally loved the hearts.September 8, 2017 – 2:29 amReplyCancel

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    bucks every month because you’ve got hi quality content.
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    search for: Mrdalekjd methods for $$$September 30, 2017 – 1:49 amReplyCancel

Mt. Everest Nepal Wedding Story, Beauty in the Brokenness

Please consider donating to help rebuild the lives and homes of the sherpas and villagers of Nepal:
www.gofundme.com/rebuildingnepal

The Story. I’m an adventure wedding photographer who photographs couples from all around the world. Last month, I traveled to Nepal to photograph a Mt. Everest wedding at base camp with a wonderful engaged couple from Colorado, Erik Tappenbeck and Jen Dudley. We had been planning this for a year. We found each other online when I had announced I was available to photograph weddings at Everest Base Camp.

everest base camp wedding photographer

While making our ascent through the Himalayas, a 7.8 earthquake rocked the region of Nepal, including the village where we were staying at that time, Namche Bazaar. We had just returned from an acclimatization hike up to Mt. Everest View lodge at 12,500 feet, where we couldn’t see anything. It was overcast nearly the entire time of our trip. We returned down to Namche Bazaar muddy, sweaty, and soaked from the rain. It was just before noon that we returned when the earthquake suddenly struck.

At that time, I was in my room changing when suddenly the room started shaking (I didn’t think anything of it, I just thought people were moving around in the building).  Then it intensified and the ground started rolling in some fashion, still can’t explain it, with an expanding sound which felt as if an explosion or eruption was to follow.  I leaped outside my room, and started to run towards open area flying past my building where some of the construction started to come undone.  I saw others running from all directions; screams could be heard throughout the village. Emergency sirens you only hear in world war II movies started resounding in the region. I saw a person jump out of a second story window.  Being that our group was on a slope with buildings above us and around us, with the possibility of landslides, I kept looking around me to see if any structures would topple our way.

After twenty or so seconds of shaking, the earthquake subsided. We were all in shock staring at each other, shaking, hearts racing, trying to figure what just happened or if it was coming again soon. Members in our group were in different attire, some in their underwear. Our bride Jen was in her bath towel, as she just jumped out of a solar shower. We had no expectations that something like this would ever happen specially on our trip.

At that time, Deanna and Stewart, the group leaders from Mountain Madness, did a head count to make sure we were all okay. We were all good and safe.  The building where we met and ate our meals in was damaged and so to be cautious, we ate outside on a tarp away from risk.  We organized our important items, passports, etc. and waited for the aftershocks that would soon follow.

Within that day we learned of the devastation in Kathmandu and the avalanche that triggered a wind blast through Everest south Base camp above us. As more news came in, much of the group grew afraid and wanted to return home. No doubt, I feared the aftershocks, and in our current location.  Some of us even organized our backpacks including me next to the door, sleeping in our hiking gear, hiking boots, headlamps on our heads, ready to jump out the door at any given shake, which we felt the next few nights. At the same time, I and some others wanted to continue up the mountain since I had been in earthquakes, and the trail was not that difficult with a fixed route.  While there was respect for the mountain, I’ve been up more difficult and colder mountains with crevasses. Still we were with a large trekking group at the time: 20 Trekkers, 35 Sherpas and porters, 26 yaks, and 2 leaders.  We had to make a decision based on the safety of the whole group.  The decision to cancel the trip to Mt. Everest base camp was given and we waited for word and preparations before returning down the mountain.

As we made our way down the trail, we passed many buildings and homes that had been destroyed by the earthquake. It was like visiting a historic landmark with ancient buildings that are no longer inhabitable. We sadly learned that many of our team Sherpas lost their homes in the lower villages and a handful of our twenty-six Yaks had died in Namche Bazaar.  Erik and Jen (our wedding couple) had a heart for the people and were hesitant to marry since there was so much loss.  And after discussing it later, they decided to get married before heading out to the Lukla airport to show that there is redemption in the rubble, beauty in the brokenness, and hope. (Part 2 of this blog).

While we didn’t get wedding photographs with Mt. Everest epically pronounced in the background, we managed to capture their intimate and beautiful wedding with the rest of the trekking group packed in an old Monastery up on the hill. There were smiles and tears of happiness.  Erik and Jen’s wedding changed the mood of the group and brought us in closer together.

And actually this trip turned into something else for us all.

Visiting the villages where our Sherpas lived was an eye opener. We were there to serve however way possible or to see if we could assist in any way.  Instead, we were served.  We were served by the families of the Sherpas with tea and a homemade meal cooked from underneath the tarp while it was raining. They served and fed us with a smile. It was humbling.

I was taken away from our group by a Sherpa father to view the rest of the village, all around it and inside some of the broken homes.  He showed me where families lived and many of them offered me tea as I walked around their damaged homes. I couldn’t understand most of what this father said, but I did sense what he was saying. Most times he would just point and say “all gone” or “no more” and take me to the next destroyed household.

In Kathmandu, there were buildings that were destroyed and people that were hurting or had passed where assistance could physically reach them quickly, but in the villages where we visited (and many others around Nepal), you could only get there by foot.  This village, the families, and the Sherpas needed our help and still need our help today, which is why we set up fund to help restore to these people what they lost. You can go here to donate: www.gofundme.com/rebuildingnepal

This is just part of the story, and I will show you some of the photographs below of what happened on the mountain and in Kathmandu, some taken with my Nikon cameras (I brought along a Nikon D750 and a Nikon D810 camera) and other photos were with my iphone 6plus. If you feel inspired to give a donation to these Sherpa families, I’m sure they would surely appreciate it. Our goal is to raise $150,000.  Each home costs around 5-10,000 to rebuild.  All the funds will go directly to them.  Our team leader Deanna from our trekking outfit Mountain Madness has been involved with humanitarian efforts in Nepal for a long time, and she has a heart for these people and their culture.  You can go to www.gofundme.com/rebuildingnepal to read more about it, and to give your donation. Thank you kindly!

Thank you to our sponsors who supported this trip:
NIKON  (Cameras and Lenses)
BHLDN.COM  (Wedding Dress)
PROFOTO  (B2 LIGHTING GEAR)
BLACKRAPID (STRAPS)
MANFROTTO GEAR

Below are some images from our trip.

path flown to china and kathmandu

My Flight path to China from LAX. Photo of a personal video screen on China Southern Airlines. Taken with my iPhone

the river through Kathandu

We arrived in Kathmandu to prepare for the trip, meet team members, tour the area, and last minute backpack/pack checks before heading to the mountain. The photo above is downtown Kathmandu, which has a river running through it where much religious and traditional activity take place.

monkey resting on a wall

Monkeys are everywhere in Kathmandu just like cats and dogs are everywhere in America. They have a monkey temple also.

sadhus man hinduism of kathmandu

Sadhus man of Kathmandu sitting near the temples downtown.

holy men in nepal called sadhus

aged nepal man national geographic magazine

hinduism candles lit in nepal

lady burns incense around stupa

A woman burning incense near the large Stupa downtown Kathmandu is typical. Burning incense in their religion is a sign of keeping evil spirits away.

kathmandu cows are worshipped

Our driver told us just as we passed cows laying in the middle of the road, that they worship cows as the goddess of wealth.  This beast was right in front of me, so I just stayed to the side hoping for a quick pass.

organizing our north face bags for mt everest trek

Packed and weighed at the Yak and Yeti Hotel, Kathmandu. Preparing near 5a.m. for a flight to Lukla airport, named the most dangerous airport in the world.

high fives getting ready to take off to the himalayas. (Nikon D750). Charleton Churchill.

view of the himalayas while flying to Lukla airport

The Himalayas are beautiful! A gorgeous region to photograph a wedding.

lukla landing strip

You can see why Lukla Airport is the most dangerous. I’m photographing the whole strip within the front window!

a plane landing at Lukla aiport

start of everest trek at lukla dangerous airport

The view from above the airport of Lukla village where you can buy necessities before heading up to Mt. Everest Base camp, even a fake Starbucks cup of coffee.  It doesn’t taste anything like the real one. Still, it’s great to buy a Lukla Starbucks mug from there because it’s rare indeed? There aren’t any Starbucks locations in Kathmandu, not even sure they have one in Nepal.

starbucks coffee lukla airport in Nepal

Fake Starbucks at least had wifi, comfortable couches, and a huge TV for news.

backpack trekking overview everest base camp

Our team Leader Deana from Mountain Madness leading us in preparations before hiking up to Mt. Everest Base camp, or at least planning for it.

mountain madness trekking group hiking downtown lukla

walking across everest suspension bridges

Many bridges exist along the trail with a little swinging back and forth, but they are stable.

mountain men hiking to base camp

everest sherpa walking across bridge

Sherpas, porters, and yaks carry so much weight. The courtesy is to pull over and let them pass.  I have a video of a man carrying 220 pounds of weight.

phakdang trekking lodge for hikers

We stayed in this small village called Phakdang for a night.

high bridges along everest base camp trail

everest trek high bridges

prayer flags on high suspended bridges on everest trek

Most of the bridges you see along the path have prayer flags tied up all over.

all for adventure wedding photography

the village of namche bazaar panorama

Village of Namche Bazaar.

acclimatization hike to everest lodge

Here we are on a acclimatization hike to Mt. Everest View Lodge at around 12,500 feet, but because of the clouds moving in, we couldn’t see jack squat. This is the highest we went before the earthquake happened a few hours later near noon.

charleton photo with sherpas on everest view lodge

Me with some of our Sherpa friends with Mountain Madness.  They work their butts off plus they are kind.

emergency on mt everest during earthquake

The Earthquake hit and helicopters were flying in and out! Many of them were on rescue missions from Mt. Everest Camp 1 down to lower Base camp. Many climbers were stuck on Camp 1 because the avalanche wiped out the ropes and path to get down.

rubble from namche bazaar earthquake

This is one of our buildings in Namche Bazaar that was damaged.  This building is connected to the place where we slept. iPhone 6plus.

team members making phone calls after the earthquake

The Roen Family, father and two sons.  This family was on our trekking team. Not only that, I photographed their sister’s/daughter’s wedding last year in my area of northern California. They live only near 5 miles from my home. Crazy right? Out of all the trekkers in the world who decide to be on a 20 person trekking team with this specific outfit, Mountain Madness, somehow the world seems smaller when the father of the bride, whom you photographed last year, is on your team. Small world.

emergency helicopters to rescue everest injured climbers woman of nepal praying

evening photos at namche bazaar

leaving namche bazaar after the earthquake

After 4 days in Namche bazaar, we have word that it’s safe to go down to lower elevations.  Many trekkers and Everest climbers are making their way down quickly too.

man washing hair outside

rest stop during the hike

everest base camp trail earthquake rubble

Here are some of the buildings you can view along the trail that are damaged by the earthquake.

a commercial building along everest trail destroyed

the road to nepal village

We were taken to a village where our Sherpas live and to see the destruction. This is the path to their village (there are many villages in Nepal).

nepal sherpa carrying load

sherpa family who lost their home

Here is one of our Sherpas who lost his home here with his wife. So sad!

earthquake-destruction

Here is a father who lost his home and is showing me around the village where many homes have been damaged. Many of the Sherpas from our team lost their home here.

broken homes crushed home in nepal everest base camp village dog pet in village sherpa homes ruined rock and rubble in lukla village earthquake destruction lady who lost her home

woman who lost her home

home made of tarp in nepal

Many families are currently under tarps eating and living even now as we speak, which is why we are trying to raise awareness and funds. The building behind this tarp is demolished, and I tried to go inside, but it had collapsed, unlike the image below.

crushed-village-home

women of nepal cooking outside

sherpa family feeding us food

This is the family who cooked us a delicious meal, called momos from scratch, served us 100 of them. The Sherpa on the left serves on Mountain Madness and lives here with a destroyed home. This is their tarp, it’s raining hard while they are cooking for us.

celebrating life under tarps

Under the tarp being served with drinks and delicious food. So humbling truly.

sherpa boy in village of nepal sherpa girl carrying load

charleton churchill helping rebuild nepal

A photo of me which bride Jen captured.  I didn’t do very much, but I saw these guys trying to rebuild their wall and figured I would lend a hand.

night photo downtown lukla

Downtown Lukla before flying off to Kathmandu and heading home.

lukla aiport taking off after quake

kathmandu old city

Kathmandu was destroyed in many areas and preserved in others.  Here are some photos below of Kathmandu where there was damage. They lost many people and buildings.

nepal quake rocks oldest building in nepal

This was the oldest building in Kathmandu, now gone!

kathmandu nepal quake ruins military in kathmandu cleanup kathmandu rocked by earthquake old rubble and bodies downtown kathmandu walking downtown kathmandu burned and rubble from earthquake old buildings and wires nepal quake rocks nepal

motorcycles and mopeds downtown kathmandu

Downtown Kathmandu where there was destruction, but for the most part, was organized for traffic by the time we arrived. Bodies were removed, and the streets were cleaned up.

china southern airlines back to LAX

 My flight from Kathmandu back to Los Angeles, and eventually back to Sacramento, home. However, the work continues.  With all the villages destroyed and families still under tarps without homes, we are hoping to meet our goal of $150,000 to help rebuild their lives and their homes. If you have already donated, thank you kindly. Every gift big or small is appreciated!  If you haven’t already donated, please consider giving a token of your generosity.  Thank you.

www.gofundme.com/rebuildingnepal

mount everest wedding couple

The redemption of this story: PART II – ERIK AND JEN GET MARRIED can be read HERE:

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