A DURHAM woman is in a critical condition after surviving an avalanche that claimed the lives of four other climbers.
The 24-year-old, an experienced winter walker who “loved the mountains”, was among a party of six friends who were engulfed by a wave of snow in the Scottish Highlands on Saturday afternoon.
It is believed they were descending from a peak on the south side of Bidean Nam Bian, a mountain near Glencoe, when the snow-covered slope they were crossing broke away, burying five of them hundreds of feet down the mountain.
Two men and two women were found dead beneath two metres (6.5ft) of snow, but the Durham woman was rescued and rushed to Belford hospital in Fort William with serious head injuries.
She has since been transferred to the Southern General in Glasgow and remains in a critical condition, Northern Constabulary said. Her family are said to be by her bedside in hospital.
One of the dead was Una Rachel Finnegan, 25, a junior doctor from County Antrim in Northern Ireland who was living in Edinburgh. Reports that she studied at Newcastle University could not be confirmed by The Journal last night.
PhD student Christopher William Bell, 24, who was from Blackpool but studying in Oban, and Tom Chesters, 28, a Hull University PhD student who was living in Leeds, also died. The fourth victim has not yet been named.
A sixth climber survived by jumping from the path of the avalanche and digging his ice axe into a firmer block of snow. The man, who asked not to be named last night said his friends were all experienced winter walkers.
He said: “Five of my friends and I were descending a mountain in Glencoe in an area known as Church Door Buttress when the party was swept away by a snow avalanche. It is with much sadness and deep regret that some of my friends have died as a result.
“All in the group loved the mountains and are experienced winter walkers. Can I ask that the deceased’s families and I are allowed to grieve in privacy at this difficult time.
“My sincere thanks go to members of the public, mountain rescue teams and other emergency services who assisted.”