The climber fell to his death on the North Face of Ben Nevis. Photo: Peter CC-BY-SA-2.0

The climber fell to his death on the North Face of Ben Nevis. Photo: Peter CC-BY-SA-2.0

A climber has died after falling from a route on Britain’s highest mountain.

Rescuers put themselves at risk to bring his companion to safety and recover the man’s body from the climb, which was described as the longest in the UK.

The man, in his 50s, was climbing with a companion on the North Face of Ben Nevis on Friday when the incident happened.

Lochaber Mountain Rescue Team was called out shortly after 6pm after the climber’s companion rang 999.

The rescue operation to reach the surviving man and recover the climber’s body lasted almost 12 hours and was described by rescuers as one of the most difficult and technical it had ever carried out.

Lochaber MRT said the two men were about 150m-200m from the top of the Long Climb on the mountain when one of them fell.

The ensuing rescue involved 18 Lochaber team members, 13 from the RAF Mountain Rescue Team and the Coastguard helicopter from Inverness.

A Lochaber MRT spokesperson said: “This proved to be one of the most difficult and technical rescues Lochaber Mountain Rescue Team have ever been involved in.

“Conditions did not allow R951 [the Coastguard helicopter] to do any more than taxi people and equipment onto the mountain. We were assisted by the RAF MRT on the evening.

“The rescue involved a 600m lower down the route, the longest climb in the UK, to get one of the climbers who was stuck on belay. This was a very technical exercise, locating the precise location of the casualty in cloud and in the dark on a huge face on very dangerous terrain, as the top of the route is very loose this year.

“The lower from the very summit of Ben Nevis was down the whole of the Orion Face with the rescuer and casualty hanging free for long sections of the lower before reaching the safer ground at the base of Observatory Gully.

“The summit team, supported by RAF MRT, located the surviving climber and lowered him to the base of Observatory gully and walked out to a point where R951 could bring him back to Fort William.

“The second climber unfortunately had died from his injuries and another team had to climb up from base to locate the casualty and then lower him down route and down to where he could be recovered to Fort William by R951.”

Police Scotland said the climber who died came from outside the Lochaber area. A spokesperson said: “Members of the mountain rescue teams are thanked for their courageous efforts during the rescue, carried out in dark and difficult conditions.

“Officers are liaising with next of kin and a further update will be issued in due course.”

The Lochaber MRT spokesperson said: “We would like to especially thank the RAF MRT, who without their assistance and support we would have taken considerably longer to effect the evacuations.

“We would also like to thank R951 who stayed most of the night to assist with getting people on and off the mountain in very difficult flying conditions for this air-frame.

“Finally, a very big public thank you to all the team members and who took part on the rescue at considerable risk to themselves to save a life.”

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