Irish News

Thursday 2 October 2014

Tributes to Mont Blanc climbers

Published 28/07/2014 | 20:09

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The climbers died in a fall on Mont Blanc

The family of an experienced mountaineer who died with his friend on Mont Blanc have described their deaths as an unspeakable tragedy.

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Peter Britton, 55, from Clonmel, and his climbing partner Colm Ennis, 37, from Waterford, were killed in an accident descending from the summit of the famous peak in the French Alps.

The pair were said to be firm friends.

Rescuers in the resort town of Chamonix said the two climbers had been very well equipped but fell when it appeared that a rope came lose.

The accident happened on a section of the massif known as the Giant's Tooth, or Dent du Geant at about 4013m.

Mr Britton's family paid tribute to the two men.

"The family and friends of Peter Britton are shocked and saddened by the tragic accident that occurred yesterday, July 27th, on the descent from the summit of Mont Blanc in the French Alps," they said.

"Our thoughts are also with the family of his climbing partner, Colm Ennis.

"Peter and Colm were firm friends and had many years' experience as an Alpine climbing team, and their loss is an unspeakable tragedy.

"Peter's family would be grateful for privacy in dealing with the loss of a loving husband and father. "

News agency AFP reported that the exact cause of the fall was not known, adding that the deaths came two days after two Finnish mountaineers were also killed on Mont Blanc massif when they slipped on a mound of snow and fell into a crevasse.

The men were members of the Rathgormack Climbing Club.

Mountaineering Ireland paid tribute and described them as experienced, self-sufficient Alpinists who had climbed together extensively in Ireland, the Alps and elsewhere.

Spokesman Karl Boyle said: "Peter and Colm would have been well prepared, well equipped and fully aware of the risks involved.

"They had significant Alpine experience and have climbed together for many years. Both had contributed so much both through their club and in other voluntary organisations. Our hearts go out to their families."

Mr Britton was a founding member of the Rathgormack club in the Comeragh mountains.

The organisation said he was the "life and soul of the club".

Mr Ennis was also hugely involved in the De La Salle Scout Group and the pair were said to be responsible for introducing many people, young and old, to the mountains and crags of Ireland.

The Department of Foreign Affairs embassy in Paris is supporting the families of the two Irish mountaineers.

Mont Blanc is the highest mountain in western Europe at more than 4,800 metres . It is located in the Alps between Aosta Valley in Italy and Haute-Savoie in France.

First climbed in 1786 it retains huge appeal for mountaineers from all over the world.

Concerns have been expressed, however, that the mountain is becoming a tourism hot spot and controversy has also raged after an American climber tried to make the ascent with his nine-year-old son and 11-year-old daughter to set a new world record.

Video of the youngsters being knocked off their feet on the Corridor of Death have been broadcast on ABC News in the US.

Patrick Sweeney, his son PJ and daughter Shannon, got caught in the start of an avalanche, forcing them to call off the attempt.

Press Association

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