Life & Leisure

Bolivian couple say wedding vows at 6,462 meters above sea level

By Yolanda Salazar

La Paz, Aug 27 (EFE).- Bolivians Jhonny Pacheco and Heydi Paco decided to tie the knot in a truly unique setting: the summit of the La Paz department’s Mt. Illimani, a snowcapped peak near the cities of El Alto and La Paz that is situated at a height of 6,462 meters (21,187 feet) above sea level.

The idea for that extremely high-altitude wedding seemed crazy at first, but the couple was determined to somehow make it a reality, Jhonny told Efe.

He noted that it had been on both of their minds – and his in particular – after he had proposed to Heydi at the top of Mt. Huayna Potosi, a peak near La Paz that rises to a height of 6,088 meters.

After they had achieved that feat, it only seemed natural that the wedding would occur in an equally unforgettable place, and Illimani was seen as the most special destination of all.

“Of all the mountains I’ve climbed in Bolivia, Illimani has something magical. It has something interesting, something that draws you in and wins you over,” Jhonny said.

They chose experienced mountaineers as their bridesmaids and groomsmen and together devised the plan for the big day.

The couple traveled from their home in the central department of Cochabamba to La Paz and then set out on the three-day ascent to the summit of that emblematic peak.

Several members of the group were tasked with carrying the gowns, decorations and food up the mountain, each of whom loaded 20 kilos of weight into their backpacks.

The bride and groom and their guests hiked for one day to a mountain camp known as “nido de condores” (condors’ nest); the following morning they embarked on the most challenging stretch of the journey and eventually arrived on Aug. 7 at the frigid summit, where they were greeted by a temperature of -10 C (14 F), Heydi said.

Video footage of the ceremony shows Jhonny wearing a mountaineering helmet and crampons and walking down a makeshift aisle bordered by bouquets of flowers while latched on to his best man.

Heydi also wore crampons and was guided to her waiting husband-to-be by a rope. She wore a long wedding veil that two of her climbing companions held aloft behind her and carried a bouquet of roses in her arms.

The couple then received their marriage certificate from one of the other mountaineers and each said “I do,” prompting a big round of applause from their assembled guests.

Due to the intense cold wind atop Illimani, they quickly changed into their climbing clothes and made their way back down to a mountain camp to celebrate and take some photos.

“It was a dream come true for me. As a couple, we’ll remember it forever,” Heydi said.

For her and her husband, Mt. Illimani now is an enduring symbol of their love and their bond but also of the first goal they achieved as a married couple. They also will always be able to point to that mountain in western Bolivia’s Cordillera Real, a sub-range of the Andes, and know they were the first to celebrate their wedding at its majestic summit.

“It was a good decision. I think it was the best place to be closer to heaven and closer to God. It will always be something unforgettable,” Jhonny said. EFE


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