Constantin and Rus slept. I lay awake with Vasily, thinking about my family. And then, we heard a roar as snow ripped loose from the slope above us. The nylon billowed as ice smashed into the walls. I threw my elbows over my head as Vasily dove over Rus’s body. It wasn’t until the noise stopped that we noticed Constanin wasn’t moving.
We’d started what was meant to be a three-day ascent of Rainier’s famed Liberty Ridge on Friday. I’d summited Rainier six times before. Vasily and Constantin were experienced mountaineers, and Rus an elite ice climber. Our weather window was narrow, but I trusted them. That first night, we heard others talking about rockfall near high camp, which had killed a climber a few days prior. So we settled on a new plan: We’d acclimatize for 24 hours, then skip high camp to launch a single-day summit bid.
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January - February 2020