Ben Nevis avalanche kills two climbers

Cordelia O'Neill,Press Association
Wednesday 30 December 2009 16:27

Two climbers were swept to their deaths in a massive avalanche on Britain's highest mountain today.

They were found by rescue teams searching Ben Nevis after tonnes of snow swept down the mountainside.

Police said the avalanche in the Coire na Ciste area was several hundred metres in length.

It was one of three to take place on Scottish mountains within a matter of hours and followed a warning from avalanche experts.

The alarm was raised on Ben Nevis this morning when a member of the public reported seeing two people caught up in a large avalanche.

Lochaber mountain rescue team and six rescuers from RAF Leuchars launched a search in the hope of finding the climbers alive.

But both bodies were discovered in an area known as No 3 Gulley on the north face of Ben Nevis.

Northern Constabulary said they did not have information about the age or sex of the climbers and formal identification will take place once next of kin were informed.

A report will be submitted to the procurator fiscal.

After another avalanche, a rescue was launched in Torridon, Wester Ross, to find a climber who was swept away.

The man was later found alive at Liathach Ridge by rescuers. He was conscious but cold and had an injured arm.

The alarm was raised in Torridon shortly before noon, just an hour after the avalanche at Ben Nevis.

And a third search was under way following an avalanche on Beinn an Dothaidh in Argyll.

Sportscotland Avalanche Information Service had been warning about dangers on the hills caused by the recent snow.

The calm but cold weather increases the likelihood of avalanches because of the build-up of surface hoar.

The phenomenon, rarely seen in Scotland, happens when fresh snow falls on older snow crystals that have hardened on the side of the mountain. This produces a slippery layer, meaning avalanches are more likely.

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