Belfast Telegraph

Friday 29 August 2014

Avalanche Briton was climbing ace

Gendarmes use blankets to hide victims of an avalanche at Chamonix rescue base in the French Alps (AP)
Six climbers have been killed in an avalanche in the French Alps (AP)
Rescue workers take off to fly to the avalanche site in Chamonix in the French Alps (AP)

A respected climber was one of three Britons killed in a major avalanche in the French Alps.

Roger Payne was a mountain guide and former general secretary of the British Mountaineering Council (BMC).

Dave Turnbull, the current chief executive of the BMC, said: "The mountaineering world is shocked and saddened to learn of the tragic death of Roger Payne, former BMC general secretary and former president of the British Mountain Guides. Roger was one of the UK's most enthusiastic and respected climbers, with a track record of Alpine and Himalayan mountaineering stretching back to the 1980s. Our thoughts are with Roger's friends and family - in particular his wife, Julie-Ann."

The avalanche happened at around 13,123ft (4,000m) on Mont Maudit in the Mont Blanc range near Chamonix, according to the BMC's website.

There were at least 28 people on the route, who left just after a 1am breakfast. The avalanche came down from the Mont Maudit slope at about 5.30am.

Two British climbers and two Spaniards who were reported missing after the avalanche were confirmed by local police as being alive and well when they presented themselves at the police station in Chamonix on Thursday evening.

The four survivors had changed their climbing route on Mont Maudit, police said. It is not clear whether the two British men and two Spaniards turned around, or simply changed their routes, but they are healthy, police said.

All those believed to have been missing have now been accounted for but police said they would continue searching the area on Friday morning.

The avalanche on Mont Maudit, which translates as Cursed Mountain, claimed the lives of three Britons, two Spaniards, three Germans and one Swiss, according to the Prefecture de la Haute-Savoie.

The avalanche may have been triggered by a climber accidentally snapping off a slab of ice on the mountain, regional authorities said. A block of ice 16in (40cm) thick broke off and slid down the slope, creating a mass of snow that was 6ft (2m) deep and 328ft (100m) long, according to a statement by the prefecture.

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