W.Va. couple climbs to top of a mountain to tie the knot
Newlyweds Stephen Hyndman, 28, and Tori Konovalchik Hyndman, 27, said “I do” with a view.
The professional rock climbing guides got married atop the South Peak of Seneca Rocks in Pendleton County, W.Va.
It’s about 1,000 feet above Seneca Rocks Mountain Guides, the guiding service and school where the two met.
They weren’t the only couple to do such a thing, but they were the first to broadcast the ceremony, which took place on Aug. 8.
“Anyone who is interested in doing this can definitely do it,” says Hyndman. “For us, it was a natural decision in a lot of ways because what we do is take people with no climbing experience to the summit.”
Their wedding day
Just like they’ve done hundreds of times, the pair ventured up the mountain in casual clothes and climbing shoes only to change into formal attire once they reached the peak for the wedding to take place. Afterwards, they rappelled down the mountain. Hyndman says his biggest worry that day was that the live stream would bail during the ceremony.
He wasn’t concerned about marrying the love of his life or the trek up the mountain. The duo has a good calculation of risk and they are pretty good about knowing if it is over their heads and when to head back to the camp site. They are passionate about the outdoors. The highest they have climbed is 14,000 feet above sea level, he says.
They delayed their honeymoon which will be a trip to Sicily in November, where they, of course, plan to find places to climb.
A love of climbing
Stephen Hyndman and Tori Konovalchik Hyndman prefer to scale rock which is what attracted them to Seneca Rocks.
The two travel the world to rock climb in premiere destinations from Argentina to Thailand, where they got engaged
She is from outside of Boston. He is from the Washington, D.C., area. They live in Riverton, W.Va., which is 7 miles from Seneca Rocks.
“Some people thought we were crazy but people in our circle understood, and thought it would be awesome,” she says.
They came up with the idea together.
When they got engaged the couple initially joked about getting married at the top of a mountain. Then, there came a moment when they looked at each other and said, “Let’s get married at the top of a mountain.”
“I remember looking at Stephen and we both agreed at that moment that we are really going to do this,” says Konovalchik Hyndman. “We could have very easily gone up there and gotten married. But no one would have seen it.”
Sharing the moment
The hardest part was trying to figure out how to do it their way and incorporate and include everyone in their big day, she says.
It took some time to figure out how the ceremony would be communicated from the top of the mountain to the 50 guests below, because there is no cell phone service in that area. But with the help of Tom Cecil, they did it via a drone. Cecil, who has run Seneca Rocks Mountain Guides for 30 years, put together the perfect team to allow an officiant, a vocalist with a guitar and assistants for the bride to reach the top. To capture the event, Cecil, an FAA-licensed drone pilot, navigated two drones to capture audio and stunning video and photos that were transmitted live nearly 1,000 feet below to a projection screen and four 80-inch TVs to the more than 100 wedding guests.
“I didn’t expect their families to climb up to the top of Seneca Rocks,” Cecil says. “When we realized we could broadcast both HD video and audio from the summit of the rock to our deck below, we knew we had found the perfect solution. Now, everyone could enjoy and be part of the ceremony. ”
When they were pronounced husband and wife, the couple could hear the distant whoops and cheers from below.
“Once you become comfortable being in the outdoor setting you are drawn to the mountain,” Konovalchik Hyndman says. “It is so beautiful and natural. We love going up the mountain and guiding people up there that is was such a shame to have this beautiful mountain between us be hidden behind walls and under a roof. It was like we shared our moment with the whole world.”
Coming down the mountain
After the ceremony, the couple literally “tied the knot” when connecting the two ropes they used to rappel simultaneously to the bottom — touching down for the first time as a married couple and joining their family and friends for a reception.
“We’ve helped friends get married on the summit before, but we now offer a unique summit wedding experience,” Cecil says. “We’ve had many calls expressing interest, and the package that we have includes training to get you ready for the summit. Anyone who has climbed at a gym can climb up to the summit of Seneca Rocks with our help. ”
And have a wedding with a spectacular view.
JoAnne Harrop is a Tribune-Review staff writer. You can contact JoAnne at 724-853-5062 or [email protected] or via Twitter