June 3, 2005
Nepalese Climbers Wed Atop Mount Everest
KATMANDU, Nepal -- Two Nepalese climbers were on top of the world this week - not only because they reached the top of Mount Everest but because they got married there in what was believed to be the first wedding on the summit.
It was a brief ceremony with no procession, champagne or band - only piles of snow and a breathtaking panorama for bride Moni Mulepati, 24, and groom Pem Dorjee, 23, as they exchanged their vows at 29,035 feet on Monday.
"We were there only for 10 minutes, just enough for us to get married and our friends to take pictures of us," Mulepati told The Associated Press on Friday.
The couple was part of the Rotary Centennial Everest Expedition and scaled the peak with 45 other climbers.
Temperatures at the summit were bitingly cold and the weather treacherous, so they had to make the ceremony quick.
They briefly took off oxygen masks and donned plastic garlands while the groom put traditional red powder on the bride's forehead - for Nepalese the equivalent of exchanging rings.
The couple had not told friends and relatives of their plans and were to hold a more formal wedding later in Katmandu, although the date was not set.
On Thursday, a Russian-built MI-17 helicopter crash-landed at Everest's base camp as it tried to collect the married couple and other climbers who had scaled the peak earlier this week. No one was seriously injured, although some suffered bruises and cuts, said Prakash Adhikari of the Himalayan Rescue Association.
Another helicopter was sent to bring back the passengers and climbers.
Mountaineering officials in Katmandu said they don't keep such records, but they have not heard of anyone getting married on the summit in the more than five decades that people have been scaling the slopes.
Relatives spoke of their surprise.
"We only knew they were going to climb Everest and nothing about the wedding plans. But it is fine with us," said Mohan Mulepati, the bride's father.
The wedding was unconventional not just for its locale: the bride was from the Newar community and the groom was a Sherpa - an unusual pairing in a country where most marriages are arranged by parents and people tend to stick to their castes.
"With our interracial marriage, we also wanted to give the message that caste and race has no barriers when it comes to marriage," Dorjee said.
On their return from the mountain, the couple spent their first night at the bride's house in Katmandu.
"We both want to continue climbing mountains," she said.
The wedding came amid a busy climbing season on Everest.
At least 21 climbers from four different expedition teams reached the summit and returned safely to the highest camp on Thursday, according to the Mountaineering Department in Katmandu.
Climbing season on Everest traditionally ends May 31, as warming temperatures make the snow soft and dangerous for climbers.
However, a long spell of bad weather recently broke, offering many hopefuls a late chance at the summit - so climbers have agreed among each other to keep the route open for a few more days. As many as 73 climbers reached the summit Monday and Tuesday, said Mountaineering Department official Umesh Singh.
Since New Zealander Edmund Hillary and Sherpa Tenzing Norgay first reached the top of Mount Everest on May 29, 1953, more than 1,400 climbers have scaled the peak. About 180 people have died trying.
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