Last time I wrote to you I was shivering at Base Camp, 5,364 metres above sea level. I was expecting some discomfort at this altitude. What I wasn’t expecting was the extreme, bone-penetrating cold.
Temperatures sank to minus 14 degrees at night, and we were sleeping in unheated lodges and tents. I learned to stow the next day’s clothes in my sleeping bag at night where they would be warmed by body heat, so getting dressed in the morning was slightly less of an ordeal.
Everything is harder and takes longer in these conditions. You become much more vulnerable and dependent on others. That’s why I was warmed and cheered beyond belief by the happy, caring attitude of the Nepalese Sherpas who were such an integral part of our expedition.
Their practical help, always delivered with a smile, reminded me that positivity is the best way of coping with harsh conditions. Every night they would hand out drinking bottles filled with hot water so we didn’t have to drink icy cold water in the freezing night. And this attitude was not just limited to the employees – it’s woven throughout the Sherpa culture.
I learned that even under extreme conditions there’s always something you can do to make things a little better. One highlight was handing out woollen New Zealand beanies, complete with silver fern, to 36 kids at Pangbouche School. It felt good to give something back to this community, which lives permanently in the extreme Himalayan conditions. I brought 50 beanies in my baggage – thank goodness for compression packs – and was pleased to see them worn with such pride and appreciation.
Back home in Auckland, I find that just about any problem is a ‘first world problem’ by comparison. We are so lucky, and have so much. It’s something I’ll remember long after my memories of Himalayan ice have faded.
Something else that takes the chill away is the advent of summer. I don’t know about you, but I’m looking forward to a relaxing Christmas in Auckland, with some mountain biking treks around Woodhill Forest. Bevan and his family will be enjoying a well-earned break at Whangamata so say ‘Gidday’ if you see them at the beach.
This time of year is also a great time to set new goals for 2017.
What is it that you want to achieve next year? I encourage you to come up with a stretch goal, whether it’s getting back into education, training for a sports event or learning to play the harp. Do that thing you’ve always wanted to do – and do it for yourself. You’ll find that everyone around you benefits when you are happy and fulfilled in a project.
Do share your goals too – I’d love to hear what you’re up to.