16: May 21, 2003, South Col. Elevation 26,000
feet: Climbed from Camp 3 to the South Col yesterday,
the 20th. Was surprised that about half of all
climbers making the climb around me were using oxygen.
I managed to make it oxygen-free, but was totally
whipped when I got here. The altitude is very tough.
Very hard breathing. Fluid beginning to build up in my
lungs. Bad cough.
At the South Col, I am faced with a double whammy. My
body can't stand to stay at this altitude for long.
And the Sherpas are using oxygen, which only lasts so
long. Have to try right away for the summit. Winds are
high, but I have to try it anyway.
Rested a few hours. Headed up for the summit at 4 in
the morning to time the summit for mid to late
morning. Takes 18 to 20 hours to get back here, so
must time it right. Very cold. High winds. Bad cough.
Had to stop often just to resist the wind. Pushing
hard to get higher. Survival conditions. Got about
halfway to the Balcony, maybe 27,000 feet. Winds just
too strong. Turned back. Took some oxygen on the way
down. Wind just killing me.
Stayed oxygen-free most of the day. Rested. Feel
better now, but still have a bad cough from fluid in
the lungs. Skipped some rope here for the people in
the fitness classes. Love you.
Have one more shot for the summit. The Sherpas only
have enough oxygen for one more attempt. When it's
gone, they go down. If I stay here for another day
waiting for calmer conditions, their oxygen won't be
enough for another try. So must go again tonight. The
winds don't look good, but I'll give it my best shot.
Pray for good weather. Pray for me.