Glencoe avalanche victims ‘spent all their free time in the mountains’

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A CLOSE friend of two of the mountaineers killed in the avalanche said they lived for the great outdoors and died doing what they loved.

Sam Morris, 35, said he was mortified to hear of the deaths of Christopher Bell and Tom Chesters, whom he described as exceptionally competent, experienced mountaineers.

Speaking from France, where the pair used to work with him as mountain bike guides in the Alps, Mr Morris said both were elite outdoor pursuits competitors who spent most of their free time on the mountains.

“They were always up for an adventure and always up for a laugh and there are not many people in this world like that,” he said.

“It was so few years lived, but I know there’s not much either one of them would have done differently. They seized every opportunity.

“They’d do things that people who spend their whole lives sitting behind a desk wish they could have done.

“When they died they were with the people they loved, doing what they loved.

“We’re just thinking of all their mums and dads and brothers and sisters.”

He said both men were “very knowledgeable about the mountains”, but were in the wrong place at the wrong time.

“They were as trained up and as cautious as you can be,” he said. “With the best will in the world, these things are a game of odds.”

Mr Morris said Mr Chesters was one of Britain’s leading competitive orienteers.

“He was a top orienteer who got flown to Scandinavia to train,” he said. “His brother was one of the coaches in the national team.”

He said Mr Bell competed in triathlons at an elite level and ranked highly in major national events, including exceptionally tough races in Scotland.

“The reason Chris was doing his PhD in Oban is because it put him nearer the Highlands. It’s what he loved.”

Mr Morris said all three became “very good friends” after Mr Chesters worked for his mountain bike holiday com­pany for four years and Mr Bell for a couple of years.

Mr Chesters did a lot of ski touring while living in France, he said.

“Tom made great judgment calls and they were very cautious. There are only three people I trust to go ski touring with – Tom was one of them.”

Meanwhile, the deputy leader of the Glencoe Mountain Rescue Team paid tribute to the brave volunteer team who risked their lives in “dangerous and difficult” conditions to respond to the emergency call reporting the fatal avalanche.

Andy Nelson said 25 members were assisted by 25 others from the Lochaber team in the six-hour call-out on Saturday.

Mr Nelson, 45, said: “It was a tragic accident.

He said mountain rescue teams did a “fantastic job” in difficult conditions.