Interview: The Ultimate Climber Wedding - Climbing Magazine

Interview: The Ultimate Climber Wedding


Well, this is adorable. Brian and Mandy Fabel threw out the usual wedding-day worries (food, flowers, DJ) and replaced them with a long hike and hand jams by giving themselves a challenge. The approach to their sacred union would involve leaving their home in Lander, Wyoming, climbing the Northeast Face (5.8+) of Pingora in the neighboring Wind River Range, having a small ceremony on the summit, and then returning home. All under their own power. That’s a 10-mile bike ride. A 25-mile hike. Nine pitches of climbing. And then the whole thing again in reverse. Perhaps they missed out on seeing some distant relative drink too much and perform the chicken dance with gusto, but we suspect their memories more than make up for it. Watch the video of their awesome union at A Climber Wedding Challenge.


How did this idea come about?Brian: On our second or third date, we went backcountry skiing with a friend of ours and came up with this idea that it would be fun to bike from Lander to climb something in the Wind River Range. We thought the idea of a human-powered ascent was really cool, but we always came up with an excuse not to do it. Then we went to a friend’s wedding and thought, “We like some aspects of weddings, and others we don’t. We should just totally do it our way—by finally doing that human-powered Pingora ascent we’d dreamed about.” It was this cool metaphor with a long adventure that tested us mentally and physically to romp to the top of a peak in the mountains that are near and dear to us. And we invited our friend who had the original idea with us, Jamie O’Donnell, to officiate.

So were you already engaged when you decided to do this?Brian: No. We didn’t do that the traditional way either.

What kind of planning went into it?Mandy:Step one: Our friend Jamie got ordained on the Internet. Step two: Logistics. We had a four-day window at the end of August where we were waiting to see about the weather. We went on three training days in the Winds. We needed to do a lot of hiking to get in shape to walk that far. We previewed the route two weekends prior so we’d be able to climb it in the dark or if it was wet. We called that our pre-marital counseling. Then the week of, we watched the weather and dialed in our final itinerary, adding videographer and photographer friends to record the ceremony.

Did you dress up for the ceremony?Mandy: I didn’t want people to see the photos and think that we happened to climb Pingora and then said, “Oh! Maybe we should get married!” So I had a wedding dress that I had gotten the week before at a thrift store for $8.

So tell us about the big day(s).Mandy: We left the house on bicycles at 6:00 a.m. with all of our gear. It was about 10 miles up Sinks Canyon, with a couple thousand feet of elevation gain. It took us about an hour and a half. Then we stashed our bikes in the trees and started walking at 8:30 a.m. We were hiking for 25 miles, and we would be doing it again the next day, so we kept a nice leisurely pace. It was a “just keep hiking” sort of day. We arrived at the base of Pingora at 7:00 p.m., ate food, and got to bed around 8:00. We got up at 3:00 a.m. to do the approach and start the climb. One, we had another long day ahead of us. Two, we wanted to beat the thunderstorms. And three, we didn’t want to end up behind other parties. We actually had the whole climb to ourselves the whole day, which was really lovely. We got to the top smoothly. The only hiccup was that I dropped a No. 3 Camalot, which was a bummer, but we decided we can just ask for one in our wedding registry. Yes, we have a registry. We’re not totally nuts.

What was the ceremony like?Mandy: We exchanged rings, and we said vows. Brian was actually still writing his vows on the climb up. And Jamie did a great job officiating.

Brian: I was like, “Gosh, I didn’t know we were doing vows!”

Mandy: So we had the ceremony, and then drank some champagne. Not very much because none of us had eaten enough to consume alcohol. And then we descended. Three raps and then walk off the rest of the way. We got back to camp about 2:00 p.m., sat and ate food, drank more champagne, and geared up for our respective hikes. Our plan was to hike until we got tired, or until dark, and then camp another night and finish in the morning. So we set off.

Brian: I was very tired at that point. I would’ve been fine if we just had the party and then retired for the evening and had a nice morning of sleeping in with fresh coffee.

Mandy: But then it would have rained on us. And we did not take a stove, so we couldn’t have actually had coffee. We ended up powering through and made it home, getting into bed at exactly 3:00 a.m. We really made the most of our wedding day—24 hours. Then we slept. We planned to sleep for a long time, but we both woke up ravenous a few hours later.

Were your families disappointed they couldn’t be there?Brian: They would say, “Oh, wish we could have been there, but I don’t want to do that trip.”

Are you going to have any kind of get-together for everyone else?Mandy: We’re gonna do a big party next summer on the Fourth of July in Lander. Everyone’s invited; you can put it in the article! Since no one was invited to our first wedding, we’re going for the other extreme and saying that everyone’s invited to our party. //