Rescuers on Glyder Fach with the Coastguard helicoper. Photo: Llanberis MRT

Rescuers on Glyder Fach with the Coastguard helicoper. Photo: Llanberis MRT

Two climbers were plucked from an avalanche-prone Snowdonia gully after spending the night in sub-zero temperatures on the mountain.

Rescue attempts had to be abandoned on Wednesday night in deteriorating weather when the pair could not be found.

The search resumed again at first light today, with three mountain rescue teams joining Ogwen Valley Mountain Rescue Organisation members in the operation to find them on the main cliff of Glyder Fach.

The two men, aged 35 and 40 and from West Yorkshire, were eventually found and winched from the mountainside unharmed.

Chris Lloyd of the Ogwen Valley team said its members were alerted about 5.30pm after the two men got into difficulties while winter climbing.

He said the pair had set off early for their climb. “Unfortunately, the gullies were filled with deep fresh powder snow,” Mr Lloyd said. “Progress was difficult and slow. They realised that they were in danger of being avalanched out of the gully by dusk, so telephoned 999 for mountain rescue.”

Rescuers were called out 15 minutes after the first alert. The team leader had tried unsuccessfully to locate the climbers using the Sarloc smartphone system. Mr Lloyd said: “He only managed a brief telephone conversation before their phone battery failed.

“With limited information, three hill parties were deployed. One went up the Gribin ridge and around to the summit. A second went up to the bottom of the gullies. The third party was carrying the long ropes and rescue gear ready for use by either party.

“En route up from Cwm Bochlwyd, the rescue party did get a glimpse of the torchlight through the low cloud and driving snow. However, with such poor visibility it was hard to place them on the crag.

“The lower party encountered deep soft snow and drifts in the lower parts of the gullies. There was a high risk of causing an avalanche in the gully, should anyone have climbed it.

“Meanwhile the upper party encountered Arctic conditions on the summit with strong winds, poor visibility and deep soft drifting snow.” The rescuers on Glyder Fach’s summit tried to check the upper parts of gullies on the cliff.

The Caernarfon Coastguard Sikorsky S-92 helicopter made three attempts to get into the cwm below the cliff but was prevented from flying in by poor visibility.

Mr Lloyd said: “By about 1am it was decided to recall the hill parties and plan for another attempt at first light.”

On Thursday morning, in improving conditions, three Ogwen Valley members were joined by six Llanberis MRT and four Aberglaslyn MRT members along with 11 RAF MRT members on the mountain.

Mr Lloyd said: “Voice contact was made with the two thus confirming which gully they were in. With improving visibility, the S-92 helicopter was able to locate the pair and winch them from the mountain.

Footage from the Coastguard helicopter of the men being winched from the gully

“They were flown down to Oggie Base in the valley floor for hot food and drinks, a rewarm by the log fire and a de-brief.

“The risk of avalanche remains high with a good depth of wind-blown soft powdery snow.”

Tris Newey, duty commander for the UK Coastguard said: “Both men were suitably equipped but were caught out in atrocious weather conditions.

“This is a great example of all the civilian search and rescue authorities working together pooling resources like the Coastguard search and rescue helicopter, the police and mountain rescue teams.

“These teams worked hard to rescue these climbers and did a marvellous job. It’s a happy ending for everyone.”

Rob Johnson, chairman of Llanberis MRT, added: “While many of the valleys are clear of snow, there has been some significant build-up of snow higher on the mountains and strong winds distributing the snow on to leeward – sheltered – slopes and gullies.

“There will be cornices forming and a considerable avalanche risk in gullies and on leeward slopes above approximately 800-900m.

“If you are heading out into the mountains of Snowdonia this weekend plan your journey carefully and come equipped for winter conditions.”

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