Highlands & Islands

'Hope remains' for missing Ben Nevis climbers

Tim Newton and Rachel Slater Image copyright Police Scotland
Image caption Mr Newton and Ms Slater were reported missing after failing to return from a climbing expedition on the UK's highest mountain

Mountain rescue teams have not given up hope of finding two experienced climbers who went missing on Ben Nevis alive.

The search has been suspended after the rescue helicopter was called to a separate avalanche in Lochaber.

Rachel Slater, 24, and Tim Newton, 27, had been climbing over the weekend but were reported missing on Monday.

Attempts to locate the couple had been suspended on Tuesday because of treacherous weather conditions.

The helicopter had resumed the search on Wednesday before being called away.

Conditions were said to have improved "significantly" but the risk of avalanche remained "considerable".

Ms Slater and Mr Newton, from Bradford in West Yorkshire, were thought to have been camping near the Charles Inglis Clark memorial hut on the north side of the mountain.

'Fresh snow'

John Stevenson of the Lochaber Mountain Rescue Team told BBC Scotland on Wednesday morning that the search operation was being hampered by weather conditions.

It is unlikely teams will be sent out on foot due to "considerable" risk of avalanche.

A search was called off in "atrocious" conditions on Tuesday after two mountain rescuers set off a small snowslide.

Mr Stevenson said: "There has been a lot of fresh snow so the areas we want to look at are still very unstable.

"We wouldn't like to put people in there until we get a bit of settlement in the snow conditions".

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

In a blog post, she wrote: "I've been around rocks my whole life as my parents are very keen climbers - most of my childhood was spent scrambling around at the bottom of the cliff with the occasional easy top rope."

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

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

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."

A statement on the Lochaber MRT Facebook page on Tuesday said: "After five hours of searching, it was decided that conditions were too dangerous to continue search which was focused on Coire na Ciste and South Trident Buttress area following a possible sighting of two people fitting their description climbing in this area early Sunday afternoon."

It added: "Two of the rescue team men avalanched traversing below No 3 Gully Buttress."

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

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