Fears grow for missing climber

THE search for an Essex climber missing in the Scottish Highlands was called off for the day last night due to deteriorating conditions and a risk of further avalanches.

THE search for an Essex climber missing in the Scottish Highlands was called off for the day last night due to deteriorating conditions and a risk of further avalanches.

Fears for the safety of the 39-year-old man, who has not yet been identified but is thought to be from the Colchester area, are growing after he was last seen when he left the Glen Nevis youth hostel on Friday morning.

Staff and visitors believe the man intended to scale the north face of Ben Nevis, Britain's highest mountain, and they raised the alarm on Saturday morning when he failed to return.

The search, involving a 60-strong mountain rescue team from Lochaber and RAF Kinloss, an RAF rescue helicopter and five search and rescue dogs, resumed at first light, around 7am yesterday .

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But the search was called off at around 4pm and police issued a description of the man in the hope of witnesses being able to help rescuers pinpoint whereabouts he may have gone.

Northern Constabulary last night told the EADT the man's family have been informed.

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They appealed for anyone who was walking or climbing in the area over the weekend who might have seen him.

He is described as six feet tall, of slim build, with shoulder length hair in a ponytail.

He was possibly wearing a silver jacket and carrying a purple rucksack.

John Stevenson, of Lochaber Mountain Rescue Team, said the conditions had become too dangerous to continue without firm information on the man's likely whereabouts.

He said he was worried for the man's safety, adding: "He has been out far too long and the conditions are not good, it's not looking good for him at all."

"We have done as much as we can with the information we've got and in the areas we would want to look at the snow conditions are just too bad to put people into them.

"We did get a good clearing for most of the day and the helicopter did a good sweep search for us as well.

"But we are working on second hand information, we're just trying to guess and looking in the areas we think he night have gone.

"There's a huge snow-covering and some very large avalanches, mainly on the north face, where the coires that we would want to look in are. That's always a worry when people are missing.

"If we knew for sure where he was we would go in, but until we get something firmer it is just not safe to proceed."

He said the rescue team did not expect to return to the hills last night , and were monitoring the weather in the hope of a thaw.

A spokesman for Northern Constabulary said last night conditions in the area have been dangerous for days.

"If he did go up on Friday, I'm pretty sure he would have been well advised not to," he added.

Spokesmen for both the University of Essex Mountaineering Club and Colchester Climbing Club said yesterday they were not aware of any of their members making a trip to the Highlands.

Anyone with information is asked to contact police at Fort William on 01397 702361.

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