By Astha Gupta
An Australian couple battled severe altitude sickness to say ‘I do’ on top of Mount Everest – despite only being able to tie the knot in front of complete strangers.
Heidi Turunen, 32, and 31-year-old Tom Rein went to extreme preparations when they chose Mt Everest Base Camp as their wedding venue – facing two long distance flights and a daunting 14 day, 130km (81 mile) trek to reach their nuptials.
The pair, from Bundaberg, Queensland, fought freezing temperatures and cancellations from both their photographer and celebrant before Heidi was forced to put on her wedding dress behind an icy rock on her big day when there was no tent available to get changed in.
But the adventure-loving couple got the wedding pictures of their dreams when they finally exchanged their vows 5,380 metres above sea level in front of fellow climbers who became their impromptu wedding guests and photographers.
Rawlicious Delicious business owner Heidi said: “Despite facing many problems and cancellations, we decided to follow through anyway. It was our dream and nothing was going to stop us.
“We could only hope we would run into some kind people, who would help us with the photos.
“I also honestly didn’t know if I would make it when I started to suffer from the altitude. Tom helped me to push through.
“On the day of the wedding we had to adapt to the situation and that meant I had to change behind a big icy rock with Tom covering me.
“While choosing a wedding dress, I had just wanted something I loved, warmth and practicality far from my mind. The thermals underneath kept me from freezing.
“I didn’t have a mirror to see myself in the dress. I was too tired to do my hair or make-up anyway.
“But after we said ‘I do’, it must have been the first day after a long time that we were not suffering from headaches and exhaustion.
“We were just so happy, relieved and loved up.”
Tom, a carpenter, added: “If I said I loved every minute of it, that would be a lie.
“There were some tough and very challenging times and the hardest part was to watch Heidi’s health go down.
“But when we made it we felt like we were on top of the world and literally we were.
“The minute I saw her I was completely in love all over again. She was the woman of my dreams and my soulmate.”
Heidi and Tom had chosen to do the trek independently to make it an intimate experience so they were only carrying their 37kg worth of trekking gear including the wedding gown, veil and suit.
The night before their nuptials, things weren’t looking good as they had reached 5,000 metre altitude and Heidi was feeling very sick.
But despite guides advising them to turn back, they paid for a hot shower and drunk local remedy garlic soup before continuing to trek through the snow.
On the wedding day, they had hoped to find a group of climbers whose tent they could borrow to change – but when they reached the base camp there wasn’t a single tent around so Heidi changed into her frock behind a rock instead.
For their wedding meal, the couple ate dahl, rice and electolytes before waking at 2am the following morning to trek to the peak of Kala Patthar, 5,643m above sea level, for a magical sunrise.
Heidi said: “The morning after the wedding, Tom woke me up so we could trek to the peak of Kala.
“We got changed outdoors like the day before. Tom thought I was crazy wanting to get changed into my dress again in the freezing temperature.
“But that’s how I wanted the wedding photos to be so we did it.
“There were other people around who offered to take photos of us and we even ran into a photographer who took few photos of us.”
The couple met in 2013 when Finish Heidi, was travelling around Australia – before Tom proposed in snowy Finland in January 2015.
They love hiking, trekking, running, bike riding and obstacle races and so wanted a wedding venue they would remember for the rest of their lives.
Heidi and Tom began preparations for their wedding, which took place last October, in February 2017 by climbing Queensland’s 700 metre Mount Walsh, multiple times in a row – often wearing weight vests.
After completing the Everest Base Camp trek, they flew to Thailand for a small beach wedding with their families.
And the couple have definitely caught mountain fever with another trip to Nepal and a more challenging Himalayas trek already planned for September this year – but next on the cards is a 21km (13
mile) obstacle race in April in Australia.
Heidi said: “It was Saturday and I just had the idea of travelling to Nepal for trekking.
“Tom was at work, so I called him and asked if he was keen. He was and I jumped online and booked flights! We are impulsive like that.
“Then we started planning the trek. Not too long after I said to Tom, ‘imagine if we got married up there’.
“It was a joke to start with, but then we fell in love with the idea. We both thought it was a fantastic and totally crazy idea.
“We didn’t want big or traditional wedding. We wanted something simple, yet beautiful and different.”