I received a very interesting study from America that was examining the effects of the oxygen out of the mask – pretty impressive! If you take two liters per minute to rest at the summit, it is like being at base camp. That means like being at 5,300 meters (17,400 feet). If you’re exerting yourself it is a little less extreme, but if you look at the fact that most will consume four liters per minute of the “english air”, as the Sherpas used to call it, out of a bottle on summit day, it pretty much proves Reinhold Messner’s statement: You’re actually climbing a 6,000 meter mountain (20,000 footer). Pretty much exactly 6,500 meters (21,300 feet). That’s a long ways off Everest, which is 8,848 meters (29,029 feet) tall. You’re still missing 3,348 meters (10,984 feet).
That difference became very much apparent to me when I was acclimatising on the mountain. Gerlinde Kaltenbrunner highly recommended to spend at least one night at South Col. Otherwise you’re going out on a limb and it will be dangerous to try to reach the peak. I stuck to that recommendation; it was pretty much my plan to sleep up there in preparation for the summit attempt anyways. But you also know that it is very uncomfortable to camp at 8,000 meters (26,000 feet). You definitely don’t have any of that romantic bonfire camping atmosphere.
During the first night, you pretty much can’t sleep at all, it is more of a constant waiting for the morning to arrive when you’re finally allowed to descend again. But you have to push through that, which does take a little willpower. If you’re climbing with oxygen, on the other hand, you don’t have to put yourself through that.
Many merely stay at 6,400 meters (21,000 feet) for a night before their summit attempt. After that, their acclimatisation is complete. I was thinking about what would happen if you were to run out of oxygen during the summit attempt? You’re not acclimatized and reality will catch up with you very quickly: The air is thin and it will end up in catastrophe, ending with death more often than not!
Fortunately I don’t have to worry about that too much, that decision up to each person on their own. For me it was never an option to use a bottle. For me it was clear from the beginning that I want to reach the summit for real, without fake air.