A 62-YEAR-OLD hillwalker who tackled a popular route on a Highland mountain range in sub-zero conditions is feared dead after a massive search over three days failed to find him.
A air and land operation to find Eric Cyl was launched when he failed to return from his expedition in Lochaber.
The walker, thought to be from England, has been described as having experience on the hills.
He was dropped off for his expedition by a friend on Saturday and last seen setting off towards an area known as Ring of Steall in the Mamore mountains in Lochaber. His failure to return sparked the search involving a Coastguard helicopter, and mountain rescue teams from Lochaber and Glencoe, as well as sniffer dogs.
It resumed yesterday morning but mountain rescuers now believe the search has turned into a recovery operation, given the length of time Mr Cyl has been missing and the harsh weather conditions.
They hope other hillwalkers will recognise a description of the walker and pinpoint a location where he may have been.
John Stevenson, leader of Lochaber mountain rescue team, said: “It is getting to the stage where we are looking at a recovery operation.
“No one really knows what route he took, so we have had over 30 people on the hills on Sunday and Monday searching areas where we believe he was most likely heading. But the conditions have been particularly bad, given the time of year, and we are battling against snow showers and high winds.”
Mr Stevenson added: “Unless he is very fortunate, the chances of him being found alive are very slim. We fear he is dead, but have no idea where he could be.
“We are relying on people who may have seen him on Saturday getting in touch and telling us his location. He is fairly distinctive, so hopefully his appearance will ring a few bells.”
Mr Stevenson said a friend of Mr Cyl had dropped him off in the Glen Wyvis area and he intended to complete a walk of just over six hours. However, he did not give exact details of his intended route.
Mountain rescuer Mr Stevenson said: “It is unfortunate he did not pass on details of where he was heading, but so many people do this thinking they will be fine.
“But the conditions are particularly poor and it is very unlikely he has survived. He has been out three days now.
“We urge anyone taking to the mountains and hills to inform someone of their intentions, which would make a rescue much easier.
“This is very sad, particularly for his family.”
The Ring of Steall is considered a classic mountain route combining the traverse of four Munros with scrambling along rocky aretes.
The route takes in An Gearanach and Stob Choire a Chai. A Police Scotland spokesman said Mr Cyl was last seen wearing a light grey jacket and dark trousers. He was walking alone and aided by two walking poles.
Police appealed for anyone who sighted Mr Cyl to contact them on 101.