Some 42,934 Steps on the Road to Love

In May 2021, Andrew Ifits Hughes proposed to Lauren Rosalie Beard from a lofty perch: the summit of Mount Everest. He dropped to one knee after unfurling a small orange flag inscribed with the words “Lauren, will you marry me?”

Perhaps even more notable is the fact that Ms. Beard wasn’t there.

Her answer (yes) would not come until two months later, when Mr. Hughes, 40, was back home with her in Seattle. While boating on Lake Washington that July, he presented Ms. Beard, 32, with the orange flag and played her a video he had recorded of the proposal on his phone.

A professional mountain climber, Mr. Hughes’s 2021 Everest expedition followed a disastrous attempt to summit the mountain in 2019. Harsh weather conditions on that trip led him to get pneumonia and he had to be evacuated by helicopter to a hospital in Kathmandu, Nepal.

He had met Ms. Beard, a self-described “hiking dabbler,” the year before, on a blind date arranged by friends of their mothers in December 2018. Both are from the Seattle area and, at the time, were newly single: Mr. Hughes had just ended a marriage of five years and Ms. Beard was coming out of a serious relationship.

Their first date, which took place at a country-music concert, was pleasant but loud, and they had little opportunity to chat.

They agreed to meet again, but hours before their second date, Ms. Beard texted Mr. Hughes a pronouncement that she thought would nix their plans: They should be friends and nothing more.

Undeterred, Mr. Hughes suggested that they still get together. They did, and this time the two shared hours of easy and intimate conversation over chips and guacamole and pisco sours. Soon after parting, Ms. Beard texted Mr. Hughes an apology: “I made the friends call too soon.”

They continued to see each other and a relationship speedily took root. Within weeks of their first meeting, Ms. Beard recalled texting Mr. Hughes a revealing admission: “I miss you and I don’t even really know you yet.”

“It was crazy how fast I connected to Andrew,” she said. “He is very, very sweet, and an amazing listener.” Charmed by her warmth, kindness and wit, he fell just as quickly for 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 the Seattle University School of Law.

Following a stint working 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. He has since climbed the highest peaks on every continent and has plans to start an outdoor gear company called Dialed Outdoors.

Ms. Beard, also a graduate of the University of Washington, is now a real estate appraiser and the owner of Madison Home Appraisals in Seattle.

In 2020, when the arrival of the pandemic forced Mr. Hughes to put his mountaineering life on pause, he and Ms. Beard moved in together in Seattle’s Fremont neighborhood. Though he had to cancel a planned trip to Everest that year, with the help of Ms. Beard, he simulated the excursion at their home.

After calculating the number of steps needed to ascend the mountain, Mr. Hughes woke early one day and climbed the steps leading to their front door — all four of them — continuously until 3 a.m., completing a distance that roughly equated to reaching Everest’s summit. It took him a total of 19 hours and 42,934 steps, according to his watch. Ms. Beard acted as his support crew throughout, sleeping in a tent in their yard and delivering Mr. Hughes hamburgers and pickle juice to fight cramps.

For their wedding on June 24, the couple ascended to the Top of the Rock observation deck atop 30 Rockefeller Plaza in Manhattan, where they were married by Mr. Hughes’s sister, Brook Feinerman, an affiliate of American Marriage Ministries. The seven vaccinated family members in attendance also included his mother, Jill Day, and Ms. Beard’s parents, Pam and Tim Beard.

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

“I’m hoping Andrew will eventually transition to adventures that don’t involve frostbite, hospitals and long months of travel,” she said of her new husband.