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Paralympic flames lit on mountains

The flames which will light the Paralympic torch have been lit on top of the UK's four highest mountains as athletes began arriving for the London Games.

Four groups of Scouts trekked up Scafell Pike, England's highest peak, Slieve Donard in Northern Ireland, Snowdon in Wales and Ben Nevis in Scotland - the UK's highest point - to ignite the flame.

The climbers, made up of disabled and non-disabled volunteers, all arrived at the summit of each mountain at different times where they struck a metal against a rough steel surface to make the necessary sparks. Each flame was then placed in a miner's lantern and brought back down to the base on foot, from where it will be transferred to the capital of the home nation for a day of Paralympic celebration.

Lord Coe, chairman of the London 2012 organising committee, said he thought the Paralympics would take a lot of people by surprise.

Speaking at the summit of Snowdon where he had climbed with the Welsh Scout group, Lord Coe told the BBC: "I think that when they see the quality of Paralympic sport - rather like a lot of people in the Olympic stadium who were watching an Olympic sport for the first time - when people see Paralympic sport for the first time they're going to be blown away by the quality of what they're seeing and the spirit surrounding that."

Ellie Hamilton-Hunter, 16, from Old Colwyn, was part of the Snowdon group and said: "I hardly slept last night because I was so excited - and then I had to get up at 4am so we could set off at dawn. It was amazing to be part of the group which lit the flame, it's part of history now and I'm very proud."

The Northern Ireland torch was lit by Bernadette Sloan from Warrenpoint. The keen hillwalker is blind and was accompanied to the summit by her guide Danny McSherry. "It was one of the best moments of my life," she said after the descent. "It was an absolute privilege to have been given the honour of lighting the flame."

In Scotland, four Scouts worked alongside climber Kevin Shields and journeyed 4,409ft through thick fog and rain to reach the peak of Ben Nevis in Fort William.

Mountaineer Karl Hinett and four Scouts climbed Scafell Pike in the Lake District National Park. Mr Hinett, from Tipton, who suffered multiple injuries when he was badly burned in a petrol bomb attack in Iraq, described the climb as a "huge honour".

From the Paralympic celebrations in the capitals, the national flames will be taken to Stoke Mandeville, the spiritual home of the Paralympic movement, where they will be united during a special ceremony on Tuesday to create the London 2012 Paralympic Flame.

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