Letter: A storm that no one could weather

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The Independent Online
Sir: What impeccable timing that Alison Craig's letter 'Survival that can be bought for pounds 1.95' (22 December) should appear on the day of Jane Thomas's memorial service. For the information of Ms Craig, Jane and her climbing partner, George McEwan, were extremely well equipped for the climb they chose to do. At least one of them had a strong waterproof nylon survival bag into which they both could have fitted.

They were both very experienced mountaineers. They had taken note of a reasonable weather forecast and were caught out in a storm that arrived considerably earlier than predicted - a storm of a severity that few seasoned Scottish mountaineers will ever experience. It would not have mattered one jot to their survival if they had had Everest-grade sleeping bags in their rucksacks - they were unable to open their rucksacks because the buckles, straps and the sacks themselves were completely encased in ice. Their hands were frozen solid. They could feel nothing and hold on to nothing.

The wind was so strong that they were continually blown off their feet and were reduced to crawling much of the time. The wind was so noisy that they could not hear what each other said even when they shouted directly into each other's ears. Visibility was about two metres. Conventional mountaineering theory of building up clothing in a layering system goes out of the window in such circumstances. It is physically impossible to do so. The plastic bag Ms Craig recommends would have frozen instantly into a brittle state and been shredded within minutes.

Yours sincerely,

STEPHEN REID

CAROLINE FANSHAWE

Penrith, Cumbria

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