Rescued hillwalkers ‘caught out by weather’

Alex Kirby, 22, and Luke Copeland, 25, got into difficulty close to the north summit of Ben Macdui. Picture: TSPL
Alex Kirby, 22, and Luke Copeland, 25, got into difficulty close to the north summit of Ben Macdui. Picture: TSPL
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TWO hillwalkers rescued in blizzard conditions near the summit of Britain’s second highest mountain admitted they were caught out by the weather.

Alex Kirby, 22, and Luke Copeland, 25, got into difficulty close to the north summit of Ben Macdui on Wednesday night.

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Four members of Cairngorm Mountain Rescue Team found the pair.

The Royal Navy’s 177 search and rescue helicopter was dispatched and carried the hikers off the mountain at around 10pm on Wednesday.

The hillwalkers were left unscathed, despite freezing conditions.

Mr Copeland said: “We set off on Tuesday when it was still light. Conditions weren’t too bad when we set off and the first day was fine.

“On the second day we left at about 9.30am and when we realised we hadn’t got to Ben Macdui by midday we found we were getting pushed for time.

“The wind and snow was pushing us back and it was hard going. We didn’t want to trust the GPS in case it was wrong and we had no signal on our phones so we couldn’t call for help.

“The cold was starting to close in when we found the trail again.

“As soon as we got signal we texted my friend and asked them to raise the alarm if they didn’t hear from us in a few hours. We contacted the police at about 5pm and checked in every hour or so while rescuers were on their way.

“I don’t regret going but obviously we weren’t prepared enough for really bad conditions. You have to swallow your pride a bit to call mountain rescue but the helicopter crew were really commendable.”

Mr Kirby said they were caught out after the weather deteriorated quicker than they had anticipated.

He said: “We’d camped the night before after a perfectly nice day and we knew the conditions were going to get worse.

“We thought we’d be off by the time it got that bad.”

Mr Kirby added: “We got a bit lost because we couldn’t see so we decided to settle in and call for help.”

Cairngorm MRT leader Willie Anderson said forecasts for worse weather on Thursday meant it was crucial the hillwalkers were found quickly.

He said: “We were really concerned for these folk as the chances of survival on a night like this were very slim.”

“The weather had completely overwhelmed them. It completely soaked and trashed their gear.

“We don’t like to criticise people unnecessarily, but I was surprised to find anyone up there given the weather conditions.”

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