| 17.8°C Dublin

'Unspeakable tragedy' as 'firm friends' fall to deaths during Mont Blanc mountain climb


Colm Ennis (L) and Peter Britton Credit: Facebook/Rathgormack Climbing Club

Colm Ennis (L) and Peter Britton Credit: Facebook/Rathgormack Climbing Club

Colm Ennis (L) and Peter Britton Credit: Facebook/Rathgormack Climbing Club

The family and friends of the Irish men involved in the fatal Mont Blanc mountain fall are "shocked and saddened" by the "unspeakable tragedy".

Peter Britton (55) and 37-year-old Colm Ennis were involved in the tragic accident in the Dent du Geant (Giant’s Tooth) sector of the French mountain range over the weekend.

The bodies of the men were found yesterday at around 4pm.

The Department of Foreign Affairs confirmed that they are offering consular assistance to the families involved, including through their embassy in Paris.

In a statement released this evening by the department, Mr Britton's friends and family requested privacy "in dealing with the loss of a loving husband and father".

"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".

The two men were experienced climbers and were founding members of the Waterford-based Rathgormack climbing cub. Mr Britton ran the club while Mr Ennis was "heavily involved" with its organisation.

CEO of Mountaineering Ireland, Karl Boyle, told independent.ie that the men were "very passionate" about their climbing.

"Both Peter and Colm were very experienced and competent climbers. They had climbed extensively both here in Ireland and abroad," he said.

"They have contributed hugely to the sport locally. Our condolences go out to their families and all their colleagues and friends from the club itself."

Mountain police in the Mont Blanc region reported that the men got into difficulty in their climb when they "slipped" and "broke loose" from their ascent ropes.

The two men were seen falling by other climbers some distance away who called to mountain rescue service.

A team of emergency personnel reached them by helicopter within 15 minutes and found the two men close to each other at the bottom of the 200m slope.

A spokesperson for PGHM High Mountain Rescue said all indications were that the men were experienced and well-equipped climbers.

“They had good equipment and good clothing. We do not yet know how they fell,” a spokesman told Independent.ie

It is believed the two climbers had stayed in a small hotel on the Italian side of the Alps the night before their fall, and crossed into French territory where they fell to their death.

The tragedy follows the deaths of two Finnish climbers, aged 25 and 40, who were killed in the same range last week.

Online Editors