Backpacker|January - February 2020
Mountaineers Yevgeniy Krasnitskiy (39), Vasily Aushev (35), Constantin Toporov (37), and Rus Khasbulatov (33) survived a days-long storm on Mt. Rainier in June 2019. As told by Yevgeniy Krasnitskiy to Corey Buhay
WHAT WAS LEFT of the tent fit just the tops of our bodies. Outside, in the white snarl of the storm, only our cramponed feet digging into the snow kept us from tumbling down the northern slope of Mt. Rainier. The tent floor was in shreds, and wind had sucked my pack and sleeping bag into the void two days ago. This was day five on the mountain.

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