John Griber was inching his way down a 45-degree ice face on Mount St. Elias, choosing his route to avoid almost certain death if he fell, when he heard the swishing.
About 40 feet away, fellow climber Aaron Martin was off his skis and on his side, sliding with no way to stop.
"All I heard was Gore-Tex on ice," Griber said. "He was sliding on his right hip."
Griber watched for 30 seconds as Martin slid hundreds of feet and out of sight. Then he yelled for a second skier in the party, Reid Sanders. His calls were met with silence. Martin, 32, of Lake Tahoe, Calif., and Sanders, of West Yellowstone, Mont., were presumed killed in falls on the Tyndall Glacier.
The Associated Press on Friday, Griber, his voice at times cracking, said the party of four intended to climb to the summit of the 18,008-foot Mount St. Elias, the second tallest peak in the United States, and be the first to ski or snowboard to sea level from that height. All four were experienced mountain skiers. Martin and another team had attempted the descent last year but were turned back by a snowstorm at about 15,000 feet.