Everest Base Camp Part 4: Christmas in the mountains

Wednesday 25 December

Woke up this morning with a banging headache, and was a bit worried about altitude sickness, but it turned out to be the trapped nerve in my neck rearing its ugly head, which was in some way a relief. My shoulders felt like rocks – not sure whether this is due to using walking poles or just walking with a rucksack all day. By breakfast, I was feeling super energetic however, unlike almost everyone else in the group. I had to be rather careful today not to annoy everyone by being too upbeat when they were all tired and lethargic. Today was also much warmer, starting off at 4 degrees C in the shade, but turning into a balmy 23 degrees in the sunshine within an hour. After an initial descent to our first teabreak at the bottom of the valley, we then ascended around 600m at a very steady pace, and I was down to a Tshirt and zipped-off trousers. The only thing which spoilt this almost perfect day for walking was the wind which sent clouds of dust everywhere.

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Of course, the promised hot showers at our teahouse in Thyangboche were yet again not working, due to frozen pipes (a common problem at this time of year), but as the afternoon was warm and I felt so filthy, I decided to ask about the possibility of a cold shower. This turned out to be a bucket of water with a jug, in an outside shed. My initial reaction was to recoil, but when I had a look inside the shed, I thought I’d give it a go. In fact, it turned out to be not bad at all, though I might just have emitted one or two girly shrieks when I poured the cold water over my head. I was quite impressed with my own bravery, especially as no one else went near the shower, and felt quite proud! I think the others just thought I was mad rather than brave. To be honest, I think a cold shower on a warm afternoon is much more appealing than a hot shower in a freezing cold room. And if you’re going to have a cold shower, I think the bucket system is actually better than running water. Either way, it’s something everyone should experience once!

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We also visited the monastery in the afternoon, where we were lucky to see all the monks praying because one of the important monks had just died the previous night. They didn’t mind us coming in and sitting quietly at the back while they prayed, which seemed odd. Indeed, I felt rather uncomfortable about intruding on their grief, but our guides were quite sure that it was fine.

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Even after another short acclimatisation walk a few hundred yards up above Thyanboche, where we had yet more fabulous views of Ama Dablam and various other peaks, I was still feeling tiptop and full of energy and enthusiasm. The other two single girls in the group have decided to share a room permanently, which means I get a single room to myself for the rest of the trip. I have no objection to sharing, but it’s rather nice to have my own space.

The oddest thing about today was that we kept forgetting it was Christmas. Because they don’t celebrate it here, there’s no sign of anything Christmassy, and, having often been away in non-Christian countries for Christmas, it didn’t bother me at all. Although yesterday, we did see Santa Claus posing beneath Everest.

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