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Search suspended for missing climbers after bad weather

Published 17/02/2016

Tim Newton and Rachel Slater are missing on Ben Nevis (Police Scotland/PA Wire)
Tim Newton and Rachel Slater are missing on Ben Nevis (Police Scotland/PA Wire)

The search for two experienced climbers missing on Britain's highest mountain has been suspended after further bad weather.

Efforts to locate Rachel Slater, 24, and Tim Newton, 27, on Ben Nevis in the Scottish Highlands were suspended on Tuesday after five hours of searches due to treacherous weather conditions.

The pair, from Bradford in West Yorkshire, went climbing over the weekend and were reported overdue on Monday.

Lochaber Mountain Rescue Team planned to resume the search at first light today but heavy snow, fog and blustery winds have forced them to review their plans.

No foot searches have taken place because of the awful conditions however a search and rescue helicopter was deployed during breaks in the weather.

However, that helicopter later had to be diverted to assist a rescue following reports of a separate avalanche in the Creag Meagaidh area of north Lochaber.

Two members of the Ben Nevis search team were caught up in an avalanche on Tuesday but survived unscathed.

Rescue team leader John Stevenson told BBC Radio Scotland: "We're expecting more bad weather so we've put everything on hold and are reviewing it.

"There were high winds yesterday which have died down a bit but it's still very blustery on the hill and the areas we want to look at have had a lot of fresh snowfall blown in so they are very unstable and we wouldn't like to put people in there until there is a bit of settlement.

"It's always a worry when you're putting people in to these areas. It's quite scary and very hard work in these conditions."

Mr Stevenson added: "As time goes on it's very difficult, the weather conditions have been really bad and no-one has heard from them or seen them is a worry. You always have hope but as time goes on that diminishes quite rapidly."

It is believed the couple had been camping behind the Charles Inglis Clark (CIC) memorial hut on the north side of the mountain.

Seasoned climber Ms Slater is a graduate of Manchester University and is employed as an environmental consultant near Bradford.

Mr Newton, originally from Leicester, also lives in Bradford and studied physics at the Universities of Manchester and Leeds, according to his Facebook profile.

He joined Hinckley Mountaineering Club in Leicestershire in 2010 before he moved away to university, with fellow climbers there calling him a natural.

David Gair, club president, said Mr Newton had a wealth of experience garnered in the Himalayas, the Alps and in Scotland.

He added: "He's a quiet, unassuming and very likeable young man.

"He's a very competent mountaineer and if anybody is able to deal with this situation, he can."

Friends and fellow climbers have been posting messages on social media praising the search teams and voicing hope that the couple will be found safe.

One wrote on the UKClimbing forum: "Great, enthusiastic young climbers. Such good role models for the sport.

"I've seen them out and about in the past and follow their logbooks cos they climb routes I'd like to. I hope they are found OK. I'm crossing everything and thinking of them and the search teams."

An appeal was made by Chris Denham, pastor at Hope City Church in Leeds, where Mr Newton's brother is assistant pastor.

He posted a picture of the couple on Instagram with the message: "Please pray today for the safe return of Tim & Rachel (Tim is the brother of our Assistant Pastor, Ed Newton, in Leeds).

"Also pray for the weather to clear which is preventing rescue teams from searching at present and for all the family. Believing for miracles to be taking place on that mountain because God is Able!"

Anyone who was climbing or walking in the Ben Nevis area over the weekend and saw the couple is being urged to contact police on 101.

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