Dastan Kasmamytov waves a Pride flag in celebration on the summit of Denali. | Image via Dastan Kasmamytov

More than 20,000 feet above sea level, where the average temperature is around -30F, two men briefly share a kiss before shielding their faces again from the biting wind.

This is the “magical moment” when Dastan Kasmamytov asked boyfriend Christian Vettermann to marry him, on the snowy summit of the highest mountain peak in North America.

Kasmamytov is the courageous founder of “Pink Summits” — a campaign providing LGBTQ visibility in the global fight for human rights through a series of epic climbs.

As part of a team scaling Denali, formerly known as Mt. McKinley, he and Vettermann were able to celebrate their love and commitment to each other with a truly jaw-dropping vista as a backdrop.

The couple celebrated their engagement framed by stunning scenery of the Alaska Range. | Image by Dastan Kasmamytov

It was the sixth of nine summits in the campaign challenge overall, spanning the seven traditional continents.

Chalking Denali off the list was yet another achievement for Kasmamytov, who has a remarkable life story already and is still in his early 30s.

Born in the former Soviet republic of Kyrgyzstan, he became an activist a decade ago after speaking out against police brutality against LGBTQ people in his homeland.

A fatwa was issued against him by religious authorities and he fled into the mountains for his safety before later moving to Berlin to start a new life.

He started “Pink Summits” in 2018 and the project now offers scholarship opportunities to climbers who want to commit to one or more of their expeditions.

On Denali, the team members waved Pride rainbow flags — it’s become their “on-top-of-the-world” tradition.

However, “the most important thing” for Kasmamytov as he stood on the summit with Vettermann was to make a pledge for their future together.

In a post on Instagram, he wrote: “The moment has finally come to propose marriage to this wonderful man, who gave me so many joyful moments and supported me in difficult times.

“This is the only one with whom I can be who I am, truly myself with all my complex dark character. I won’t find anyone like Chris.

“It was a magical moment, not only to climb this damn difficult peak together, to rejoice at another victory, to see his tears and exclamations of happiness, but also to approach with a proposal of marriage and to realize that we are now doubly happy.

“We descended down healthy and unharmed, although we were very tired from the expedition, since due to bad weather we had to be on the mountain for more than two weeks.”

Kasmamytov has a truly indefatigable spirit. One of his first sporting feats was to cycle from Asia to Europe, and when his research led him to believe that nobody from Central Asia had ever scaled all the “Seven Summits,” he vowed to become the first.

Kasmamytov shared more of his remarkable story in this Reuters interview, recorded in June 2020

The fact there are nine peaks in the “Pink Summits” challenge is due to continental connections and blurred borders.

Aconcagua (Argentina), Kilimanjaro (Tanzania), Mont Blanc (France-Italy), Kosciusko (Australia) and Elbrus (Russia) have all been scaled by Kasmamytov and colleagues in recent years, and now Denali too.

Still to be done are Puncak Jaya on the island of New Guinea, Vinson on Antarctica, and the biggest of them all — Mt. Everest.

Another expedition of note was in October 2022, when a “Pink Summits” team ascended Vladimir Putin Peak in Kyrgyzstan and flew a Ukraine flag as well as a Pride flag in a protest against the Russian war.

Because of his LGBTQ activism, Kasmamytov often encounters physical abuse, threats and harassment — but he remains undeterred, vowing this week in a media release to “show that hatred and violence make queer communities only stronger.

“Dastan and his team want to inspire other LGBTIQ+ people to fight for their rights, freedom, love and life, in spite of injustice and cruelty.”

With his happy news arriving to coincide with the start of Pride Month, Kasmamytov continues to shine a rainbow beacon from the highest points on the planet.