About 42,934 steps on the road to love

In May 2021, Andrew Yves Hughes proposed to Lauren Rosalie Bird from a high place: the summit of Mount Everest. He fell to one knee after raising a small orange flag that read, “Lauren, will you marry me?”

Perhaps most important was the fact that Mrs. Bird was not there.

Her answer (yes) wouldn’t come until two months later, when Mr. Hughes, 40, got home with her in Seattle. While boating on Lake Washington in July, Bird, 32, presented the orange flag and played her a video he had recorded of the proposal on his phone.

A professional mountaineer, Mr. Hughes’ 2021 trip to Everest came after a disastrous attempt to climb the mountain in 2019. The extreme weather conditions on that trip left him with pneumonia and he had to be flown by helicopter to a hospital in Kathmandu, Nepal.

He had met Ms. Bird, who described herself as a “hiker,” the year before, on a blind date arranged by their mothers’ friends in December 2018. Both were from the Seattle area, and at the time were newly single: Mr. Hughes had just finished A marriage of five years and Mrs. Bird was coming out of a serious relationship.

Their first date, held at a country concert, was fun but boisterous, and they had little opportunity to chat.

They agreed to meet again, but hours before their second appointment, Mrs. Bird texted Mr. Hughes a statement that she thought would cancel their plans: they should be friends and nothing more.

Mr. Hughes suggested, unchecked, that they still meet. They did, and this time they shared two hours of easy, intimate conversation over chips, guacamole, and pisco. Shortly after the parting, Mrs. Bird sent a letter of apology to Mr. Hughes: “I called friends very soon.”

They continued to see each other and the relationship quickly solidified. Within weeks of their first meeting, Ms. Bird remembered sending Hughes a text message that included a revealing confession: “I miss you and don’t really know you yet.”

“It was crazy how quickly I got in touch with Andrew,” she said. “He’s very, very nice and a great listener.” He was drawn to her warmth, kindness, and intelligence, and soon fell upon her.

Mr. Hughes, who graduated from the University of Washington, holds a master’s degree in theory and history of international relations from the London School of Economics and Political Science and a law degree from Seattle University School of Law.

After a stint as a lawyer, he ran an unsuccessful campaign to represent Washington’s 7th congressional district as a Democrat in 2012. Two years later, in 2014, Mr. Hughes climbed Mount Rainier. Since then, he has climbed to the highest peaks on every continent and has plans to start an outdoor equipment company called Dialed Outdoors.

Ms. Bird, who also graduated from the University of Washington, now works as a real estate appraiser and owner of Madison Home Appraisals in Seattle.

In 2020, when the arrival of a pandemic forced Mr. Hughes to stop his mountaineering life, he and Mrs. Bird moved together in the Fremont neighborhood of Seattle. Although he had to cancel a planned trip to Everest that year, with the help of Mrs. Bird, he simulated the trip at their home.

After counting the number of steps needed to ascend the mountain, Mr. Hughes got up early one day and climbed the steps to their front door–all four–continuously until 3 AM, completing the distance roughly equivalent to the summit of Everest. It took him a total of 19 hours and 42,934 steps, depending on his watch. Mrs. Bird served as a support crew the entire time, sleeping in a tent in their yard and offering Mr. Hughes hamburgers and pickle juice to fight cramps.

At their wedding on June 24, the couple climbed to the Top of the Rock observation deck above 30 Rockefeller Plaza in Manhattan, where they wed Mr. Hughes’ sister, Brook Feinerman, a subsidiary of US Marriage Ministries. Among the seven vaccinated family members in attendance were also his mother, Jill Day, and Mrs. Bird’s parents, Pam and Tim Bird.

After the short ceremony, the newlyweds visited more Manhattan locations, including Central Park and the Grand Central Terminal, as part of a leisurely exploration that was more of the bride’s pace.

“I hope Andrew eventually moves on to adventures that don’t involve frostbite, hospitals, and months-long travel,” she said of her new husband.

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