The climber fell through a cornice on Beinn Eibhinn. Photo: David Brown CC-BY-SA-2.0

The climber fell through a cornice on Beinn Eibhinn. Photo: David Brown CC-BY-SA-2.0

Mountain rescuers have described how they faced horrendous conditions in the search for a fallen climber in the Highlands.

Lochaber Mountain Rescue Team members were avalanched during the rescue and fell through cornices on Beinn Eibhinn at least four times, a spokesperson said.

The man was successfully rescued after he himself fell through a cornice on the 1,102m (3,615ft) munro north-east of Corrour, but the spokesperson said team members risked life and limb in atrocious conditions with very high winds and heavy snowfall in whiteout conditions.

“The guys were having to navigate around the edge of cliffs and gullies in visibility that was not even the length of your arm,” the spokesperson for the Fort William-based team said.

“Although we say it ourselves, the team did an absolutely fantastic job putting both life and limb on the line to get to the guy who was recovered safe and well.”

The rescue, described as an epic, took 10 hours.

And the team warned hillgoers conditions in the Highlands are exceptionally difficult.

It said: “The conditions in the mountains this year are some of the most extreme we have ever experienced.

“Virtually every rescue has had a very high element of risk involved and this is not just in Lochaber but for all teams operating in the Highlands.

“We are quieter than normal with only 11 callouts so far this year but the conditions have been putting considerable demands on us and other teams across Scotland.

“If you are heading to the mountains enjoy but stay safe. If you use the outdoors support mountain rescue in whatever way you can.”

The Lochaber MRT spokesperson contrasted the cash received by rescuers with the wages paid to English Premier League footballers

“All the guys in Scottish Mountain Rescue are volunteers dealing with over 400 rescues per year.

“They provide safety cover for one of, if not the largest participation sports in the UK yet will receive less than one week’s wages for Wayne Rooney in support annually from government sources.

“In fact if any of our guys had been seriously injured or killed this year the total payout in insurance from Police Scotland would have been less than Rooney’s weekly wage. This is no criticism of Rooney, just the undervaluing of the resource by our politicians and agencies.

“In fact if the Crystal Palace fans want to come up to Fort William and throw coins at us we will happily accept the cash.”

The team thanked staff from the Corrour estate for their help during the rescue. Rescuers were unable to call on help from a military Sea King helicopter because of a mechanical problem.

The estate used its all-terrain vehicles to ferry rescuers and equipment part-way up the mountain and provided food for the volunteers after the rescue.

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