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Monday 25 March 2019

Irish climbers' narrow escape from avalanche

Death ridge: Mountain rescue team member Donald Paterson points to the spot on Ben Nevis where an avalanche swept away the climbers. Picture: PA
Death ridge: Mountain rescue team member Donald Paterson points to the spot on Ben Nevis where an avalanche swept away the climbers. Picture: PA

Conor Riordan

Two Irish climbers have spoken of their narrow escape from an avalanche on Ben Nevis that claimed three lives.

Eoin Donnelly and Jean Gill, both 20, had travelled from Co Kildare to Scotland to try to reach the UK's highest summit.

However, less than 40 minutes before the deadly avalanche struck, they decided to turn back due to poor weather conditions deciding it was "too dangerous".

Ms Gill said: "When we started it wasn't too bad, we got near to the lake and it was so windy - there were hailstones blowing into our face.

"We basically had to change our plans and turn around because it was getting too dangerous, because the wind was so strong it was really hard to walk with it blowing against us."

Mr Donnelly added: "The wind was so, so bad - you couldn't open your eyes the hail was so bad.

"I'd say there was about a foot of snow. It was just really, really scary.

"Once you got to the point the ground was frozen over so you wouldn't have been able to cross without crampons or proper climbing gear.

"When we did decide to turn around we said 'we need to go home - this is too dangerous'.

"We crossed a guide with a group of hill-climbers and he was, like, 'these people want to go up there, but there's no chance'.

"Even an experienced climber with climbing gear would be crazy to go, because the weather was so dangerous."

The pair booked into a hostel and only learned the next morning that three climbers, all members of a Swiss climbing group, had been killed.

Irish Independent

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