Climber dies on Mont Blanc after qualifying as a guide

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The Independent Online

A British rock climber has been swept to his death by an avalanche on Mont Blanc in the French Alps, a week after he had qualified as a mountain guide.

Paul Holmes, 33, originally from St Asaph in north Wales, was killed while climbing out of a glacier near one of the pinnacles of rock known as the Needles on Wednesday afternoon.

His climbing partner told rescuers that they had been hit by a sudden avalanche which swept Mr Holmes into a crevasse, breaking the rope between them. His body was recovered and is being returned to the UK.

His father, Kenneth Holmes, 74, also a keen climber, said: "His whole life was climbing. It was what he wanted to do. He was fully aware of the dangers, but it was in his blood." He said his son had been determined to follow him as a climber. "He used to be left at home, and when he was five or six he said: 'I think I'm old enough to come'."

His son, a geography graduate from Manchester University, had been "euphoric" at qualifying as a guide at Zermatt in Switzerland. "I couldn't believe how cock-a-hoop he was. He was so pleased with life." When they had last spoken, his son had told him that he wanted to do two more climbs before returning to the UK next week.

To qualify as a guide, Mr Holmes had needed to spend time in the Alps and he had been working for a travel company in Chamonix. He had planned to return to Sheffield, where he had been living, to buy a house as a UK base before moving back to the Alps.

The Foreign Office and the British Mountaineering Council are co-ordinating the repatriation of his body and the funeral is due to take place in Sheffield.

A second Briton has also been missing on Mont Blanc since Sunday, the Foreign Office said. Brian Simpson had climbed the French side and was planning to descend on the Italian side when he disappeared. A search was begun but was called off due to bad weather.

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