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Tuesday March 12, 2019 - Email this article to a friend

Mathieu Biselx was climbing with three fellow members of the Swiss Alpine Club. They died in the avalanche that swept them down a gully on the UK's highest mountain.

The three men who died on Ben Nevis on Tuesday were a Swiss national and two French nationals.

They lived in the Valais region of Switzerland.

They had travelled to Scotland on Sunday with 30-year-old Mathieu Biselx, who is Swiss.

He was seriously injured in the avalanche and has been speaking to the Swiss newspaper, Le Nouvelliste, from hospital in Scotland. 

"It's terrible, they're not here anymore. They won't see their families again," he said of his climbing partners.

The four men were in Number 5 Gully on Ben Nevis when the avalanche struck.

"We weren't very high up and suddenly we heard a noise," Mr Biselx said.

"We looked round and two seconds later we were carried away by heavy, compact snow.

"When I regained consciousness only my head and an arm were sticking out of the snow."

Mathieu BiselxThe sole survivor - photo Mathieu Biselx Facebook


















Details of the victims emerged as warnings were issued about the continuing risk of avalanches in the Scottish highlands.

According to the Lochaber Mountain Rescue Team, whose volunteers were involved in the rescue, this was the third avalanche in Number 5 Gully in three days.

On Saturday evening four people were avalanched while climbing in the gully.

One was swept down the gully but was not buried or injured.

"We would urge climbers to check the SAIS avalanche information before heading out at moment," the team said.

"The high winds and snow are creating high avalanche risk conditions, with natural releases possible on certain aspects."

A major rescue operation was launched after reports of the avalanche just before midday on Tuesday.

Mountain rescue teams rushed to the scene.

The Inverness Coastguard helicopter, three ambulances, an air ambulance and a trauma team were also despatched. 

Conditions were said to be extremely difficult with very high winds, snow, thunder and lightning.

Ben NevisBen Nevis - photo Lochaber Mountain Rescue Team














"Police Scotland is currently co-ordinating a mountain rescue response following reports of an avalanche on Ben Nevis this morning," said an initial statement from Police Scotland's Highlands and Islands Division.

"Police were informed that the avalanche had occurred in Number 5 Gully area at around 11:50am.

"We can sadly confirm that two people have died and two people have been injured.

"Volunteers from Lochaber Mountain Rescue Team and Glencoe Mountain Rescue Team remain at the scene and were assisted by the Maritime and Coastguard Agency and Scottish Ambulance Service."

In an update issued on Tuesday night Police Scotland said one of the two injured climbers had now died.

"This has been a challenging operation and I want to pass on my thanks to the mountain rescue teams, colleagues at the Maritime & Coastguard Agency and Scottish Ambulance Service for their assistance in extremely difficult conditions," said Fort William Inspector, Isla Campbell.

"I would also like to praise members of the public and staff from the Scottish Avalanche Information Service who were on scene at the time and provided immediate assistance."

Heavy snow has been affecting the Highlands, with the Scottish ski areas getting their first proper taste of winter this week.
On Monday the Scottish Avalanche Information Service put the avalanche risk for the Ben Nevis area at "high".

Another climber - a 57-year-old man - died in hospital after being rescued from Glencoe on Saturday.

A second man who had been with him was treated for hypothermia.

They had spent Friday night in freezing conditions on the mountain.

They were discovered several hours after being reported overdue from a climb on Friday.

It was initially thought that they had been caught in an avalanche.

We reported the news in our News In Brief.

For the Spirit of the Mountains - PlanetSKI: Number One for ski news

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