Mont Blanc claims two more lives

Two more climbers have died on Mont Blanc following the deaths of nine people last week in an avalanche – the highest death toll in almost 50 years.

Rescue crews have confirmed the deaths of a Polish woman and a Spanish man on the Dome du Gouter peak on the Italian-French border of Mont Blanc on Saturday night.

An Italian official said the pair had been found after spending more than 24 hours in a snow hole more than 4,400 metres (14,436ft) up the mountain. They had been climbing with two others when they were caught in bad weather on Friday night, rescue services said.

The other climbers, also from Spain, managed to reach the Gouter mountain refuge earlier and alerted authorities who sent help.

Jean-Baptiste Estachy, commander of the mountain rescue service in Chamonix, said on BFM television that while the climbers were on the French side, the Italians were dispatched because they had a helicopter better suited to the weather.

An avalanche on one of Mont Blanc's most popular routes, Mont Maudit, killed nine climbers and injured 14 others on Thursday. Among the dead were three British climbers: Steve Barber, 47; John Taylor, 48 and Roger Payne, 55.

Yesterday, nine candles were lit on the altar of the mountaineers' church of St Michel in Chamonix, in memory of the climbers.