Climber clings to icy cliff in 6-hour ordeal
A YOUNG climber clung to an ice-covered cliff by his fingertips for six hours before he was rescued at the weekend.
The 23-year-old was only saved after a mountain rescuer was lowered more than 300ft down the rockface to help him to safety.
The experienced climber was yesterday recovering from frostbite to his fingers after his overnight ordeal in temperatures as low as -8C on the cliff face.
Another person was stuck with him but was unhurt following the dramatic rescue on the 3,790ft Lochnagar near Balmoral Castle on Deeside.
The pair, who were from an un-named university climbing club in the south of England, raised the alarm by mobile phone on Saturday shortly before 4pm.
They had become stuck 300ft up a climb called the Giant's Head Chimney in the Shadow Buttress area of the mountain.
Both were well equipped and were described as relatively-experienced climbers who were tackling one of the lesser known routes on Lochnagar.
The lead climber found himself completely stuck, unable to move up or down and with no ledge or space to rest on.
Around 20 members of the Grampian Police and Braemar mountain rescue teams were scrambled to help.
A Sea King helicopter from RAF Lossiemouth airlifted eight rescuers to the top of the climbing route.
One of the men was then lowered by rope to help the pair down to the bottom.
Rescue co-ordinator Inspector Andrew Todd said: "The lead climber had just climbed himself into difficulty and couldn't go forwards or backwards. He was completely stuck.
"The conditions were absolutely freezing although the visibility was good and the helicopter was a big help.
"The bottom climber was fine and was quite warm but the lead climber was in quite a difficult position and had to hold that position for hours. He was literally just hanging on to the cliff face."
He added: "He was quite stiff by the time we got to him but was still able to assist us in his own rescue. They were hugely grateful for our help.
"The cliff was covered in ice and rock hard snow so it could have been a lot worse."
A Royal Navy helicopter from HMS Gannet at Prestwick flew the pair to hospital shortly before midnight on Saturday.
A spokeswoman for Grampian Police last night said he was treated in hospital but had no further information on the men.
No-one from Braemar mountain rescue was available for comment last night.
The Giant's Head Chimney climb is described as a "slightly easier" option at Lochnagar, starting up an enclosed chimney, then traversing underneath a steep buttress to gain the upper and typically very icy fault line.
In February 2008, a 61-year-old climber was trapped on Lochnagar with an injured leg after he was swept from near the top of a gully by an avalanche and left stranded miles from safety while a storm battered the mountainside.
Bill Church managed a four-hour agonising crawl for a kilometre to a metal box used by mountain rescue teams to store kit.
Discarding the ropes and other equipment from the desk-sized box, he clambered in, wrapped himself in the bivvy bag inside, closed the lid and waited for help.
In 2002, two climbers were pulled to safety from a rock face on Lochnagar after having been forced to spend the night, huddled together for warmth, on a nine inch ledge near the summit.
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