Challis native McKinsey Bruning, née Van Pelt, grew up with the Salmon River in her backyard, “born and raised doing all things outdoors.”
Despite that, she’d never climbed nearby 12,662-foot Mount Borah.
“I wanted to save it for something really special,” Bruning said. “I was actually going to climb it a couple years ago, but I just didn’t feel ready mentally, so I’ve been saving it.”
While McKinsey and her family love to hike, camp, hunt, fish, swim and boat, climbing was her mom Cindy’s passion. Cindy Van Pelt was an avid climber who traveled the world climbing mountains. Cindy died of breast cancer in 2000, “when I was a little girl,” McKinsey said.
But last Friday, McKinsey, 29, made her way to the summit of Idaho’s tallest peak for a very special occasion — her wedding.
McKinsey and her now-husband Jordan Bruning, 30, set out on the trail at 5:30 a.m. wearing headlamps in the darkness for the first hour. They were joined by Alex Amar, a childhood friend from Challis who’d become ordained and flown in from Alaska to officiate the wedding, and McKinsey’s brother, Matt Van Pelt, who’d come in from Arizona to witness the ceremony.
After several hours of hiking, and a brief respite about three-fourths of the way up to help Amar fend off altitude sickness, McKinsey and Jordan were married at the summit in a simple ceremony.
“It was my idea,” McKinsey said of the mountaintop nuptials. “We’ve been together 11 years. We didn’t want something fancy and big. We wanted something intimate and something that had a lot of meaning behind it — something that just kind of portrayed what we love to do.”
McKinsey’s something borrowed was an orange-and-magenta Patagonia anorak that her mother had worn while summiting the mountain with Matt two decades ago.
While at the summit, McKinsey and Matt recreated the triumphant pose a photo Matt had taken with their mom from their Mount Borah hike.
Once the ceremony was over, and with thunderclouds closing in, the wedding/climbing party hurried down the mountain to avoid the rain. And while they did get rained on a little bit, it did nothing to dampen their day.
McKinsey and Jordan, who live in Pocatello, met through a mutual friend from Challis while in college at Idaho State University. McKinsey, who graduated from ISU in 2013, is a stay-at-home mom for the couple’s two children, daughter Hartley, 8, and son Cache, 7. Jordan, a Twin Falls native, is a welder who commutes to work at Bayer in Soda Springs.
Hartley and Cache didn’t accompany their parents on the hike but got to participate in the weekend festivities when their uncle Matt, a pilot, flew them over Mount Borah on Saturday morning.
“They were super-excited,” McKinsey said.