When it was time for Christina Janz to toss her bouquet after her wedding ceremony, there wasn’t a large bridal party waiting to catch it.
Instead she tossed it from the summit of Mount Whitney where she married her husband Dr. Brian Janz after two days and 16 miles of climbing to an elevation of 14,508 feet.
“You know, marriage is tough. And it takes a lot of work, a lot of perseverance, a lot of effort,” she said. “It kind of symbolized for us what it would take for a marriage."
Mount Whitney, part of the Sierra Nevada mountain range in California, is the tallest in the contiguous United States. Brian, an experienced climber, suggested that the mountaintop would be a unique venue for the pair to start the next chapter in their life.
They also visited Badwater Basin in Death Valley, the lowest elevation point in North America. For the couple, it was a promise that they could get through the high points and low points of marriage by doing it together.
They met through friend Scott Morsberger, of Westminster, a cardiology physician assistant, as he and Brian were training for Mount Rainier. Christina joined them hiking parts of the Appalachian Trail.
Mount Whitney was her first major climb. The physical preparation was intense, she said, but the preparation for the ceremony was simple.
“At the last minute, I decided I was going to do a wedding dress, so I ordered it off of literally Amazon,” she said. “It came in three days.”
She is a certified nurse practitioner with Carroll Health Group Primary Care. Brian is a hand surgeon who practices in Westminster and Eldersburg as well as other areas of Maryland. They live in Woodstock.
They changed into their wedding garb after making the climb to the top. Brian’s dark hiking pants served as the bottom of a mountaineer’s tuxedo and he put on a white shirt and bow tie. Christina fit her dress over her hiking clothes.
"At that point, we sort of realized that we did this. This is going to be the next chapter of our life," he said. "You’re kind of overwhelmed with excitement at that point and also joyous that you’re making this next step.”
"When you climb up the top, there’s a log book for whoever summits it, so it was fun that we were able to sign it with our own names.”
Their wedding/climbing party was small, and made up of medical professionals. Dr. Scott Jerome, of Finksburg who practices cardiology in Westminster, was ordained in order to perform the ceremony and Morsberger filled in the roles of best man, climbing buddy, bridal party, GoPro camera operator and more.
Looking down was an “exhilarating feeling,” Christina said.
“And of course when you’re getting married, it’s a whole bunch of emotions,” she said.
During the ceremony, Jerome presented them with the climbing rope that had tied the party together through the last 500 feet of the climb.
The family and friends not up to the 16-mile climb weren’t excluded from the ceremony. At the top of Mount Whitney, there is cell phone service and they were able to livestream to Brian’s parents in Ohio and Christina’s parents in Greece.
They will have a more traditional ceremony back at ground level next month.
The pair were hitched without a hitch — until the trek down. Christina ran into altitude sickness, which she was able to manage. Then the party ran into a rock slide, which sent Christina sliding down 30 feet. A boulder narrowly missed Jerome.
“It reminds you that there’s inherent dangers,” Brian said. “A couple of us ended up with some minor injuries, but nothing huge.”
Of their unique destination wedding, Christina said, “I don't know many people who would do that.
“But if it was someone who was into mountaineering,” she continued, “then I would say yes, absolutely do it. It was an amazing experience.”