Avalanche victims plunged 1,000ft

Glencoe Mountain Rescue deputy leader Andy Nelson speaks to the media after four climbers were killed in an avalanche on Bidean Nam Bian

St Munda's church in Glencoe, after a morning church service in honour of four climbers killed in an avalanche

Climbers make their way off Bidean nam Bian in the Scottish Highlands by torchlight

First published in National News © by

Four climbers who died in an avalanche fell around 1,000 feet and ended up buried under up to two metres of snow, the man who led their rescue attempt has said.

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

The two men and two women were found dead on Saturday after the accident on Bidean Nam Bian, a mountain near Glencoe in Scottish Highlands. They were among a party of six. One man escaped using his ice axe but a 24-year-old woman from the Durham area is in a critical condition.

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 thoughts of trying to swim out from it is futile.

"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. 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, engulfing five of them and sending them hundreds of feet down the mountain. All of the missing climbers were found within four hours of the alarm being raised.

The woman has been moved to the Southern General in Glasgow and remains in a critical condition, Northern Constabulary said. Members of her family are with her.

The next of kin of those who died have been told and their names are expected to be released later, it added.

Superintendent Philip MacRae said: "Our thoughts are with the families and all those who are affected by this tragic incident. Members of the climbing party were from different parts of the UK and a priority for us has been to trace and inform all next of kin. They have now been informed and we have family liaison officers in place."

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