THE devastated family of a climber who plunged to his death at Glencoe have spoken of how he died “doing what he loved” - and saved the lives of his four companions through his “courage and skill”.
Shaun Bowden, 39, became the 12th tragic fatality on Scotland’s mountains this year when he fell 600 feet down a vertical ice slope on 3,773ft Bidean nam Bian – the same location four climbers were swept to their deaths two months ago
The family of sales executive Mr Bowden, of Ware, Hertfordshire, paid tribute to the dad-of-two in a statement released through Northern Constabulary.
It said: “Shaun’s family and friends were devastated to learn of his death on 8th March.
“He had spent many hours on the hills in Scotland. He was an experienced hiker.
“Although he was doing what he loved, it was tragic that his death was the result of an accident on a walk that he had been on many times.”
It added: “It is a testament to his courage and skill that when he fell, he instinctively avoided grabbing his walking companions which would surely have resulted in their deaths as well.
“Instead he attempted to arrest his fall with his ice axe but the quality of the snow made this impossible.”
The family said: “He was a talented cardiac physiologist but he had changed career some years ago and was a successful international sales and marketing executive.
“He will be sadly missed by his wife, two children and the rest of his family and many, many friends.
“They would like to express their gratitude to the Glencoe Mountain Rescue Team for their courage during the search for Shaun and to the Glencoe Police for their kindness and professionalism.”
Mr Bowden was part of a five-strong group which had just begun descending from the summit when the tragedy happened.
Police were alerted at around 3.20pm on Friday and a rescue operation was launched involving Glencoe Mountain Rescue Team and a Royal Navy helicopter from Prestwick.
His body was located by the team later on Friday, but because of the extreme winds battering the mountain they stood down the recovery until the following day.
John Grieve, Glencoe mountain rescue team leader, said: “We located the man on Friday, but it turned out to be a fatality.
“The conditions on the mountain were very windy and we were on steep ice. I worried about the safety of the team and called off the recovery. It was just too dangerous to continue.
“The walkers were only a few feet from the top. They were well equipped. They were part of a bigger group of 15 who had split themselves into smaller groups.
“They were pretty experienced but they were in mist and not where they thought they were.
“The man who fell tried to use his axe to hang on but the snow is like concrete at the moment and where he fell soon gets vertical.
“He had no chance of surviving that fall. He ended up very near to where the four climbers died in an avalanche in January.”
Mr Bowden’s body was carried 1,800ft down the mountain and was then airlifted by the Royal Navy helicopter.
Mr Grieve added: “He must have fallen 600-700ft and came to rest by a boulder. Our team did an exceptionally good job. It was dangerous, very steep slopes, and exceptionally difficult weather conditions.”
The death toll on Scotland’s mountains is now 12.
The tragedies on the hills began on 13 January when John Wooding, 29, of east London, died in Coire an t-Sneachda in the Cairngorms on 13 January in a fall on the Aladdin’s Mirror route.
Five days later an avalanche in Glencoe claimed four lives.
Doctor Rachel Majumdar, 29; PhD student Tom Chesters, 28; Christopher Bell, 24, also a PhD student; and 25-year-old junior doctor Una Finnegan died after they were caught up in an avalanche in Glencoe on 19 January.
On January 26, another climber, 22-year-old Ben St Joseph, from Essex, died after falling about 100 metres from Tower Ridge on Ben Nevis.
Graham Connell, 31, from Castleford, West Yorkshire, died in the Jacob’s Ladder area of the Cairngorms following a large-scale search for him and five other people who were reported overdue.
Another avalanche in the Cairngorms on Valentine’s Day killed RAF Squadron leader Rimon Than, 33, Flight Lieutenant Fran Capps, 32, - both members of the RAF Mountaineering Association – a and 18-year-old William Currie, 18, from Penzance, Cornwall, who was on a training exercise with Glenmore Lodge outdoor centre.