Father of missing Ben Nevis climber 'haunted' by avalanche fears

Tim Newton and Rachel Slater Image copyright Newton family
Image caption Tim Newton and Rachel Slater were reported missing after an outing on Ben Nevis, Britain's highest mountain

The father of one of two climbers missing on Ben Nevis said he is "haunted" by the thought they may have been buried alive in snow.

Tim Newton, 27, and Rachel Slater, 24, failed to return from an outing on the Scottish peak on 14 February.

Mr Newton's father Chris, from Leicestershire, believes the Bradford couple were caught in an avalanche.

No attempts to find the pair have been made since "hazardous weather" forced rescuers off the mountain.

Image copyright Newton family
Image caption Tim Newton, originally from Hinckley in Leicestershire, has climbed all over the world

The couple were described as experienced climbers who "loved life" and had everything to live for.

Mr Newton's father, who lives near Hinckley, said he believed that it was no longer a rescue but a recovery operation.

"I think there was an avalanche. Basically snow must have come off the hill side and I think they are buried deep down in one of the gullies," he said.

"The agony for me was the thought that they might be alive but absolutely buried under the snow. How could I cope with my child suffering like that?"

Image copyright Lochaber Mountain Rescue Team
Image caption Search and rescue attempts were hampered by the weather

Mr Newton was first alerted by police on 15 February after a report that the couple had failed to return from Britain's highest peak.

Mountain rescue groups conducted several searches, including a coastguard helicopter, but they were called off because of "increasingly hazardous weather".

Mr Newton said: "I do remember him saying [before the climb] 'oh dad I've had such a tough week at uni. I so need and am looking forward to the climbing'.

"They were so young and enthusiastic, full of life and they had everything in front of them. They were so happy."

Image copyright Lochaber Mountain Rescue
Image caption The couple are thought to have pitched their tent behind the Charles Inglis Clark (CIC) memorial hut on the north side of the mountain

The families of the couple recently went to Scotland and climbed to the Charles Inglis Clark Memorial Hut, close to where they were thought to be camping.

"We all had a cry together... and climbed up to the mountain hut where Tim and Rachel had camped. It made you realise when you climb there how hostile the environment can suddenly become."

No further searches are planned for the pair.

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