Climber dies yards from Alps shelter

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A climber was found frozen to death less than 275m from the safety of a mountain refuge in Austria after he and his two companions were overwhelmed by a sudden blizzard, during what was supposed to be a gentle afternoon walk.

The three Germans – aged 46, 41 and 36 – started out on a hut-to-hut walking tour at an altitude of about 1,800m in the Alps near Salzburg on Tuesday afternoon. However, the journey, which normally takes less than three hours to complete, turned into a nightmare.

The trio found themselves rapidly engulfed in a snowstorm and had to struggle to make any progress in drifts that were at times waist-deep. "The weather was extremely bad already and then it began to snow," said Bernhard Tritscher, a member of the Austrian mountain rescue service who was called to help the stricken men.

Mr Tritscher said two of the climbers had collapsed from sheer exhaustion just as they were nearing the safety of a hut. The third and youngest climber managed to carry one of his semi-conscious companions to the refuge and that saved the older man's life.

By the time the younger man returned to the outside, the third climber, aged 46, had died from hypothermia. Both survivors were recovering from their ordeal at a hospital in Salzburg.