Two climbers fall 600 feet in Scotland - and survive

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The Independent Online
TWO CLIMBERS escaped with relatively minor injuries at the weekend after falling 600 feet "like rag dolls" down a cliff face on the Grampian peak of Lochnagar, the jewel of the Queen's Balmoral estate.

The two climbers who survived the fall on the favourite mountain of the Prince of Wales were Thomas Nye, 24, who suffered chest injuries and Ingrid Iredale, 20, who escaped with minor facial injuries and a fractured vertebrae. Both students in Edinburgh, they fell from a snow and ice climb known as "parallel gully A".

Sergeant Graham Gibb of the Braemar police-civilian mountain rescue team said Mr Nye and Ms Iredale bounced part of the way down the cliff face, before a 100ft fall cushioned by deep snow.

"It is a freak survival," he said. "There have been many people who have done the same thing and lost their lives. They would have been bouncing off rocks, and witnesses who saw it happen said they went down extremely fast, like two rag dolls.

"To have people survive, one with virtually no injuries to speak of, is remarkable and nobody in the team can quite believe it has actually happened. There are any number of rocks there on which people would normally have been battered to death."

Extraordinary circumstances surrounding the accident on Sunday illustrate how crowded popular climbing areas like Lochnagar have become. In superb conditions - bright sunshine, little wind, and crisp snow on the summits - thousands of climbers and winter hillwalkers were out across Scotland.

The students were discovered by rescuers from the Braemar and Aberdeen teams winched down from a helicopter to deal with another accident in which a climber fell from a gully and landed on a separate party of three.

An unnamed climber had fallen from midway up Raeburn's gully and landed on another party heading up the same route. According to rescuers, there were about 40 people gathered underneath the climbing routes, an unusually high number as the weather was good after two poor seasons.

"If you choose to queue for a climb, then you are laying yourself wide open to the possibility of someone falling on you," Sgt Gibb said.

One of the three, Bill Morgan, 51, of Aberdeen, suffered a broken leg. After scaling the cliff, rescuers had to lower Mr Morgan 1,000 feet and carry him out. He followed the two students to Aberdeen Royal Infirmary for treatment.

Prince Charles gave the mountain celebrity with his story for children, The Old Man of Lochnagar. He was following in the footsteps of Lord Byron, who ascended the mountain when aged 15 and later wrote of its "wild and majestic" crags, extolling "the steep frowning glories of dark Lochnagar".

On another Scottish peak, a man died on Sunday as he slid 1,000 feet. Killin mountain rescue recovered the body of John Cooper Bryan, 54, of Balornock, Strathclyde, who slipped and fell on Ben More, near Crianlarich. He was walking alone.

A search in the Highlands by Dundonnell mountain rescue for two climbers on the 3,472ft An Teallach in Wester Ross was cancelled yesterday when it emerged they had earlier returned to their car and left.