British climber tells of three-night ordeal trapped on freezing Mont Blanc

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The Independent Online

A British climber told yesterday how he survived for three freezing nights on the summit of Europe's highest mountain after becoming trapped with a fellow climber who later died.

A British climber told yesterday how he survived for three freezing nights on the summit of Europe's highest mountain after becoming trapped with a fellow climber who later died.

Edward Allen, 49, from Fairford, Gloucestershire, was stranded in freezing winds with a German woman near the 4,248m summit of Mont Blanc, where they were cut off by in a severe snow storm on Sunday.

The temperature fell to -20C (-4F), which combined with the wind chill factor would have felt as low as -40C (-40F).

Mr Allen's 25-year-old German companion, who had not been named yesterday, died of hypothermia on Tuesday after rescue teams failed to reach the pair due to the terrible weather conditions.

The pair started their ascent of Mont Blanc from Courmayeur on the Italian side of the mountain on Sunday. Bad weather struck when the climbers had reached 4,100m (13,500ft) so they attempted to take shelter by digging snow holes, but were at the mercy of strong winds.

Mr Allen said: "There was nothing I could do to save her. The winds were so ferocious, they battered the life out of her. The temperature was already minus 20, then with the wind chill factor it was double that and it just took her away."

He added: "She stopped functioning rationally and said to me, 'Unless the helicopter comes now I'm not going to make it'. I told her we had to keep going and said I was going to dig another snow hole over a ridge. When I came back she wasn't moving at all."

Mr Allen was finally rescued late on Wednesday after spending a day with the dead German woman. Rescue teams had been alerted but the weather conditions prevented a search helicopter from taking off.

The Alps are a favourite summer destination for climbers, but temperatures high up can drop dramatically after dark. On average, more than 100 people die each year while hiking, skiing or climbing in the Alpine area - though that is a tiny percentage of the number of visitors, thought to be about 10 million.

Tony Ryan, from the British Mountaineering Council, said: "Choosing a route based on your best estimate of conditions is crucial to safe Alpine climbing. Timing is not just about matching your route to the weather and conditions, it is also about making a realistic assessment of your fitness and acclimatisation."

He added: "The unexpected can happen and it is essential that you have the reserves to deal with these situations."

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