21, 1999 - Day 3
"The winds were
so fierce today, that Mike and I had to shout to each other from
ten feet away, and we still couldn't make out the words," said
Mark Wellman, tired but happily resting in another hanging bivouac
on the side of El Capitan. "This climb is turning out to be tougher
than we expected," said Mark from his North Face portaledge, an
aluminum-frame and nylon cot, hanging perpendicular to the vertical
wall of rock. "We thought the route would take eight days, but
it could take ten or twelve. We don't care. We're not on any schedule.
This climb isn't over until we get to the top.". Fortunately,
Mike is starting to feel stronger, getting over his bronchitis,
and starting to get into the flow of the climbing. Mark is feeling
stronger, too. After a full day of effort the two are now about
three hundred feet higher than they started this morning. This
route is turning out to be particularly tough for a paraplegic.
Instead of climbing straight up, there are hundreds of feet of
sideways moves that require long pendulum swings, tough on the
rock chaps and tougher on the nerves, grinding long arcs across
empty stone with a thousand feet of air underneath. On the bright
side, every day they spend up there, reduces the food and water
supply, which lightens the 250 pounds of gear they have to haul
up the wall.
biggest puzzle of the day is trying to figure out why an insurance
company like the Hartford is sponsoring such a tough and risky
adventure as this. "I guess the Hartford figures it's more important
to keep people motivated and fully engaged in the challenges of
life, than scared sick, hiding out at home every day. It took
a lot of guts on their part to help this expedition, and I'm grateful."
plan for tomorrow is to reach Dolt Tower and a few square feet
of flat ground.