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Police say climbing victims blameless

FIVE CLIMBERS and a fell walker died amid a spate of accidents over the weekend, when cold bright weather attracted more people than usual to the fells, moors and mountains of northern Britain.

Four of the deaths were in two accidents in Scotland. Police said the climbers were not to blame, but were victims of the risks inevitably associated with the sport.

'They were not in any way being reckless,' Sergeant Bill MacLean, of Northern Constabulary in Inverness, said. 'Weather conditions were good, and as far as we can gather they were well-equipped. Our message to climbers remains: be well-equipped for what you are doing, pay attention to local weather forecasts, be experienced and enjoy yourselves.'

On Britain's highest mountain, Ben Nevis, two climbers fell 1,000ft to their deaths. Malcolm Stork, 32, and Nigel Walton, 34, electricians from Skipton, North Yorkshire, were ice and rock climbing on the mountain's Minus One gully when they fell.

Eighteen members of the Lochaber mountain rescue team were called out, along with a Royal Navy helicopter, but both men were dead. Their bodies were airlifted to hospital in Fort William.

The second fatal accident was on Lochnagar, a mountain near the Royal Family's Balmoral retreat.

At first, search teams thought they were looking for one man with a leg injury. But when they reached the spot they found one climber dead and a companion near by, suggesting that both had fallen together. They were named last night as John Buchanan, 30, an electronics engineer from Stonehaven, Aberdeenshire, and John Inglis, 31, a research scientist from Meadowhouse Road, Edinburgh.

The fifth death was of a 51-year- old man who had been walking alone on Saddleworth Moor, near Oldham, Greater Manchester. He was reported missing on Saturday evening, and found yesterday near the Dovestones Reservoir by a mountain rescue dog, after a night of sub-zero temperatures. The man, who has not been named, is believed to have been looking for new locations for fell-walking.

A sixth man died when he fell while attempting an ice climb at the summit of Newlands Pass in the Buttermere area of Cumbria.

The body of a canoeist, Colin Unwin, of Stoke-on-Trent, Staffordshire, was recovered by police divers after a 24-hour search in the River Conwy, near Betws-y-coed in North Wales. He had got into difficulties while canoeing on Saturday and was washed away.