Avalanche victims plunged 1,000ft say rescuers

Four climbers who died in an avalanche fell around 1,000 feet and ended up buried under up to two metres of snow, rescuers said yesterday.

Two PhD students and a junior doctor were among the four killed in the avalanche on Bidean Nam Bian, near Glencoe, in the Scottish Highlands.

Tom Chesters, 28, of Leeds, Una Rachel Finnegan, 25, from County Antrim, Northern Ireland, and Christopher William Bell, 24, from Blackpool, were killed while walking near Glencoe on Saturday.

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Mr Chesters was a PhD student at Hull University, Ms Finnegan was a junior doctor who had been living in Edinburgh and Mr Bell was studying for a PhD in ocean mapping in Oban on Scotland’s west coast.

A second woman was also killed in the accident. Her next of kin have asked for her name to be withheld until her extended family have been informed.

A 24-year-old woman from the Durham area remains in critical condition in hospital.

Another man survived the incident by using his ice axe. He has asked for his name to be withheld.

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All six were said to be experienced winter walkers and were well equipped for the conditions.

Andy Nelson, deputy head of Glencoe Mountain Rescue, said being caught in an avalanche was “a brutal experience”.

Mr Nelson, who co-ordinated the rescue, said: “Being in an avalanche is literally like standing on a carpet and having it pulled out from underneath you.

“Any thought of trying to swim out from out of it is futile.

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“You are on steep ground, essentially standing on a raft of snow that is sliding downhill at speeds of maybe 40mph to 50mph.

“It would have unfolded in a split second; they would have felt the snow moving and then they would have been travelling at a speed that was impossible to stop.

“The man that survived was standing above the snow and we think he actually jumped and got his ice axe into firmer snow.

“They slid over some very rocky ground and ended up about 1,000 feet below, under between 1.5 and two metres of snow.

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“It’s a brutal experience. There are enormous forces at work and you are being twisted about at high speed.”

It is believed the party were descending from a peak on the south side of the valley when the snow-covered slope they were crossing broke away.

All of the missing climbers were found within four hours of the alarm being raised.

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