Police have named the two winter climbers who died after being rescued on Cairn Gorm’s northern corries.

Geography undergraduate Richard Hardy, 18, was from Alton, Hampshire. His climbing partner Graeme Cooper, 23, a graduate in the same subject lived in Aberdeen. Both men died in Raigmore Hospital, Inverness, after being found on the open mountainside on Monday morning.

A minute’s silence was held at Aberdeen University, where Richard was a student and Graeme a graduate. University authorities are investigating the circumstances of the deaths. Both men were members of the institution’s Lairig Mountaineering Club.

A university spokesman said: “The university chaplain will be in touch with both families to offer help and support.

“Our thoughts and condolences are with both families.”

James Fairwood, vice-president of sport at Aberdeen University’s Student Association, said: “We are deeply shocked and saddened at the tragic loss of one of our students and a graduate.”

A spokesman for the Northern Constabulary said both families were trying to cope with their grief.

Members of the Cairngorm Mountain Rescue Team found the men in waist-deep snow, about 400m apart, about a mile from the Cairngorm Ski Centre. They were reported to have been climbing in Coire an t-Sneachda. The team found the climbers’ ropes about 4am in avalanche debris, indicating they had probably been swept down the corrie, but they were found well clear of the corrie, so either escaped the avalanche or survived it, only to succumb to hypothermia.

Earlier this year, an RAF search-and-rescue helicopter had to be abandoned in the northern corries after its rotor blades froze.

It’s easy to slip into thinking of the two young men as just another set of statistics, but for an inkling of the heartache a loss like this causes, read the UK Climbing forum thread which follows the roller-coaster views of fellow climbers, including friends of the two men and others who were on the corries that day. Fellow mountaineers out on the northern corries say conditions were atrocious to the point where it was difficult even to stand.  The forum posts plot the worry of the news of the disappearance, the relief of the discovery and airlifting out of the casualties and then the slow realisation of the seriousness of their condition. Graeme was a regular and witty contributor himself to the UKC forums and many knew him through the forum if not personally.

Joanne Hardy posted the following message: "My family and I have just read through the whole of this thread.

"We are overwhelmed by the sheer number of people who have offered their condolences. Richard was a wonderful brother and son and we are so proud of how much he achieved in his almost nineteen years. Although he had only just joined the university he loved climbing and hiking in the mountains. By all accounts he made quite an impression on everyone he met there."

The following tribute was paid to them both: "You couldn't spend a single minute with [Graeme] Cooper without him somehow making you laugh and Richard was one of the most driven people I have ever known. Both had an enthusiasm and love for the mountains which was so contageous. We'll miss you both so much. Thanks for the great times I got to spend with you both."

grough can only echo the climbing community’s condolences to the families, friends and colleagues of Richard and Graeme.