Woman dies after 14 hours on freezing mountain: Climber was found in a deeply hypothermic condition as rescuers flew her to hospital

A WOMAN died yesterday after being rescued from the Scottish mountain where she had lain exhausted for more than 14 hours in severe weather conditions.

Jane Thomas, 33, from Penrith, Cumbria, who had set out for a day's climbing, was pronounced dead shortly after arriving at hospital in Inverness, police said. She had been reported as 'deeply hypothermic' in the RAF helicopter which took off from near the summit of Cairn Gorm.

She was found by a police dog about 300m from the summit after an operation by more than 70 civilian and military mountain rescue volunteers, sniffer dogs and RAF helicopters.

John Allen, the leader of the Cairn Gorm mountain rescue team, said yesterday that Mrs Thomas, her husband, Robert, and George McEwan had set out for a day's climbing in Coire an Sneachta on Sunday.

As the weather closed in, Mr Thomas decided to return to their base, a car park. When his wife and Mr McEwan had not returned by 9pm on Sunday night he reported them overdue.

Rescuers knew that the climbers were experienced and well equipped, and decided to wait a while before launching a search.

But by midnight rescue teams had set out. While they were searching, Mr McEwan returned - after a seven-hour trek - to alert rescuers that Mrs Thomas had succumbed to exhaustion.

'He had tried to dig a snow hole for her, but it was impossible in the deep, soft snow and severe wind conditions,' said Mr Allen.

'Their equipment was good, and they are experienced people. It looks like they made a navigational error at the top and went the wrong way when the weather deteriorated,' he said.

Rescuers estimated that Mrs Thomas and the searchers had endured ground temperatures of

7C which, combined with winds of up to 60 knots, have a chill factor equivalent to -25C.

A search was launched in Glencoe last night for two off- duty members of the Parachute Regiment who failed to turn up after a weekend's walking in the Scottish mountains.

Conditions in the area over the weekend were described as 'hellish', with driving snow and high winds.

Two RAF helicopters and members of Glencoe Mountain Rescue Team were taking part in the search.

(Photograph omitted)