Tributes paid to Alps avalanche victim Roger Payne

 

The mountaineering world has led tributes to one of the UK's most respected climbers after he was killed alongside two other Britons in a devastating avalanche.

Roger Payne, a mountain guide and former general secretary of the British Mountaineering Council, was among nine people who lost their lives after being hit by a massive wall of snow in the French Alps yesterday.

The victims were killed as they traversed Mont Maudit - translated as Cursed Mountain - in the Mont Blanc range near Chamonix.

Mr Payne, who was an avalanche instructor and well known across many branches of world climbing, was described as "one of the very best mountain guides" by fellow enthusiasts.

Dave Turnbull, the current chief executive of the BMC, said the mountaineering world was "shocked and saddened" by his tragic death.

"Roger was one of the UK's most enthusiastic and respected climbers, with a track record of Alpine and Himalayan mountaineering stretching back to the 1980s," he added.

Kenton Cool, a leading Alpine climber who knew Mr Payne, described him as "one of the very best mountain guides" and said he was "stunned into a silence" after hearing the news.

He told the BBC: "Roger was a very cautious, incredibly experienced guide. This is going to send shockwaves through certainly the British guiding fraternity and the French one - a very close-knit French community in Chamonix."

British mountaineer Sir Chris Bonington also paid tribute, saying the climber, who had taken part in more than 20 expeditions to the world's highest and most challenging peaks, was "a very special person."

Mr Payne, who was also a former president of the British Mountain Guide, was originally from Hammersmith in West London, but reportedly lived in Leysin, Switzerland, with New Zealand-born wife Julie-Ann Clyma, who is also an experienced mountaineer.

In a distinguished list of achievements, the couple became the first to make it to the summit of Mount Grovesnor in China in 2003.

Two other Britons - including climber Dave Compton - were reported missing following the avalanche, but were confirmed safe and well after presenting themselves to police in Chamonix yesterday evening.

All those believed to have been missing have been accounted for, but police are due continue searching the area this morning.

As well as Mr Payne and the two other Britons who are yet to be named, the avalanche claimed the lives of two Spaniards, three Germans and one Swiss, according to the Prefecture de la Haute-Savoie.

They all were part of a 28-strong group which left a climbing hut to attempt the route, described by local guides the second most popular to the top of Mont Blanc, following a 1am breakfast.

The group included independent climbers and others supervised by professional mountaineering guides.

At around 5.20am, French authorities received reports that a "slab" avalanche had hit several groups of mountaineers who were roped together on the northern face of Mont Maudit at 13,123ft (4,000m).

Several dozen gendarmes and other rescuers along with two helicopters were sent to the scene to pull the dead and injured from the mountain. Nine people were taken to hospital in Sallanches with minor injuries.

The prefecture said some climbers had crossed the path of the avalanche before it hit and others were able to turn back.

Describing the sequence of events, it said block of ice 16in (40cm) thick broke off and slid down the slope, creating a mass of snow that was 6ft (2m) deep and 328ft (100m) long.

Regional authorities believe the avalanche may have been triggered by a climber accidentally snapping off a slab of ice on the mountain.

Mr Compton, of Ellesmere Port, and his climbing mate were reported missing along with two Spaniards following the tragedy.

He later revealed he was half an hour behind the group caught up in the avalanche and had turned back to Chamonix after seeing the aftermath.

The 41-year-old said he did not realise there was a search party out for him or the scale of what had happened until he saw the news.

Foreign Secretary William Hague sent his condolences to the friends and families of those affected, saying he was "very saddened" by the tragedy.

The Mont Blanc massif is a popular area for climbers, hikers and tourists but a dangerous one, with dozens dying on it each year.

Climbers had been warned to be careful earlier this summer because of an unusually snowy spring, while recent storms had apparently left dangerous overhanging conditions on some of the popular climbing routes around Mont Blanc, the highest mountain in Western Europe.

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
Life and Style
A monstrous idea? Body transplants might no longer be science fiction
Science An Italian neurosurgeon believes so - and it's not quite as implausible as it sounds, says Steve Connor
Sport
Demba Ba (right) celebrates after Besiktas win on penalties
footballThere was no happy return to the Ataturk Stadium, where the Reds famously won Champions League
Arts and Entertainment
Natural beauty: Aidan Turner stars in the new series of Poldark
arts + ents
News
Mia Freedman, editorial director of the Mamamia website, reads out a tweet she was sent.
arts + ents
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
ebooks
ebooksA special investigation by Andy McSmith
News
people
Arts and Entertainment
The write stuff: masters of story-telling James Joyce, left, and Thomas Hardy
arts + ents...begging to differ, John Walsh can't even begin to number the ways
Sport
Jose Mourinho on Sky Sports
footballEXCLUSIVE COLUMN Paul Scholes: It was not a leg-breaking tackle, as the Chelsea manager had claimed
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: Bookkeeper

£23000 - £26000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This small, friendly, proactive...

Recruitment Genius: Photographic Event Crew

£14500 - £22800 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This is a fantastic opportunity...

Recruitment Genius: Software Developers - .NET / ASP.NET / WebAPI / JavaScript

Negotiable: Recruitment Genius: A Software Developer is required to join a lea...

Austen Lloyd: Corporate Tax Solicitor - City

Excellent Salary: Austen Lloyd: A first rate opportunity to join a top ranking...

Day In a Page

HIV pill: Scientists hail discovery of 'game-changer' that cuts the risk of infection among gay men by 86%

Scientists hail daily pill that protects against HIV infection

Breakthrough in battle against global scourge – but will the NHS pay for it?
How we must adjust our lifestyles to nature: Welcome to the 'Anthropocene', the human epoch

Time to play God

Welcome to the 'Anthropocene', the human epoch where we may need to redefine nature itself
MacGyver returns, but with a difference: Handyman hero of classic 1980s TV series to be recast as a woman

MacGyver returns, but with a difference

Handyman hero of classic 1980s TV series to be recast as a woman
Tunnel renaissance: Why cities are hiding roads down in the ground

Tunnel renaissance

Why cities are hiding roads underground
'Backstreet Boys - Show 'Em What You're Made Of': An affectionate look at five middle-aged men

Boys to men

The Backstreet Boys might be middle-aged, married and have dodgy knees, but a heartfelt documentary reveals they’re not going gently into pop’s good night
Crufts 2015: Should foreign dogs be allowed to compete?

Crufts 2015

Should foreign dogs be allowed to compete?
10 best projectors

How to make your home cinema more cinematic: 10 best projectors

Want to recreate the big-screen experience in your sitting room? IndyBest sizes up gadgets to form your film-watching
Manchester City 1 Barcelona 2 player ratings: Luis Suarez? Lionel Messi? Joe Hart? Who was the star man?

Manchester City vs Barcelona player ratings

Luis Suarez? Lionel Messi? Joe Hart? Who was the star man at the Etihad?
Arsenal vs Monaco: Monaco - the making of Gunners' manager Arsene Wenger

Monaco: the making of Wenger

Jack Pitt-Brooke speaks to former players and learns the Frenchman’s man-management has always been one of his best skills
Cricket World Cup 2015: Chris Gayle - the West Indies' enigma lives up to his reputation

Chris Gayle: The West Indies' enigma

Some said the game's eternal rebel was washed up. As ever, he proved he writes the scripts by producing a blistering World Cup innings
In Ukraine a dark world of hybrid warfare and murky loyalties prevails

In Ukraine a dark world of hybrid warfare

This war in the shadows has been going on since the fall of Mr Yanukovych
'Birdman' and 'Bullets Over Broadway': Homage or plagiarism?

Homage or plagiarism?

'Birdman' shares much DNA with Woody Allen's 'Bullets Over Broadway'
Broadchurch ends as damp squib not even David Tennant can revive

A damp squib not even David Tennant can revive

Broadchurch, Series 2 finale, review
A Koi carp breeding pond, wall-mounted iPads and a bathroom with a 'wellness' shower: inside the mansion of Germany's 'Bishop of Bling'

Inside the mansion of Germany's 'Bishop of Bling'

A Koi carp breeding pond, wall-mounted iPads and a bathroom with a 'wellness' shower