Andrew Hughes, who was born and raised in Poulsbo, is so high on love he climbed Mount Everest to show it.
Hughes reached the summit of Mount Everest on May 23 at 10:10 a.m. Standing atop the highest mountain in the world at 29,032 feet he reached into a pocket, pulled out a small orange flag, and dropped to his knees as he unfurled the flag that read, “Lauren will you marry me?”It was only the second-known marriage proposal from the summit, and a record for the highest-known proposal by an American ever.
Hughes had to wait for an answer until he returned home to Seattle weeks later. So the proposal remained a secret to his team, led by Garrett Madison, who was born and raised on Bainbridge Island. On July 3, while boating across Lake Washington, Hughes presented Lauren Beard, who grew up in Gig Harbor, with a small box. Inside was the flag he had taken to the summit. As Beard unfurled the flag, Hughes received the loving answer he longed for – “yes”.
At points during the two-month expedition, Hughes overcame a lung infection, cold injuries and over 20 pounds of muscle loss. He endured extreme conditions from cyclone weather systems to ice fall collapses while continually navigating the risks of climbing during a time of COVID-19. He did all of that to not only realize his dream of climbing the Seven Summits but also his much bigger dream of declaring to Beard that her love was his world while atop the world.
“When you arrive in such summit moments in life, you also arrive at a realization that no summit is arrived at absent the love and support of all of those in one’s life,” Hughes said. “And that while summits are meaningful, it is those you love in your life which truly matter.” Making Beard and their shared love forever part of his summit moment is the beginning of “the two’s happily EVERest after,” he said.
Hughes grew up on a farm near Big Valley Road and was class president at North Kitsap High School in 2000. He went to law school, became a lawyer and ran for U.S. Congress. But he wasn’t satisfied. Growing up in the Pacific Northwest, Hughes has always loved the outdoors. On a whim he decided to climb Mount Rainier in 2014.
“That was the gateway for which there was no going back,” he said. “I restructured my life, career and finances to find a way to pursue my dream of Seven Summits and the Explorers Grand Slam,” which includes going to the north and south poles. He hasn’t gotten to the South Pole yet, but plans to do that next April.
Now he has climbed the tallest mountain on every continent, something only about 400 people have ever done. He’s also climbed six of the seven tallest volcanoes on each continent. He also founded Beyond the Summit, an e-sports production company focused on creating unique and authentic events, shows and content.
Beard, 31, is a real estate appraiser, while Hughes, 39, is a real estate investor and sponsored mountaineer/adventurer. They met on a blind date in 2018 for dinner in Ballard and then to The Tractor for live music with country artist Logan Mize. Both love the outdoors. Even though she doesn’t mountain climb they enjoy running, hiking, paddleboarding, kayaking, skiing and snowshoeing together. “No matter the season we always can find something to share in the outdoors,” he said.
As for what she thought of his proposal, Beard said: “I was completely blown away and overwhelmed with joy and love. But it didn’t surprise me that he put so much thought and love into making the moment one we will never forget.” She said Hughes has always been a romantic, “even from the first texts and before I ever me him.”
When mountain climbing, Hughes said it’s just as important to train mentally and emotionally as it is to train physically. “In the end the biggest mountains are climbed not by the body but by the mind,” he said.
As to why he decided to propose on Everest, Hughes said he tried the climb twice before but once came down with pnemonia, and the second trip was canceled due to COVID. But Beard supported him the entire way. So he decided if he made it this time it would be because of her love. “I wanted her to know that as much as Everest was my dream, it was a dream eclipsed by my dream of spending a life with her,” he said. Since he’s already been to the summit, they plan for a wedding date next summer, “somewhere closer to sea level.”