French Alps avalanche: Friends who died side by side in the snow

A rescue crew flies to the Mont Maudit, where an avalanche killed nine people. Picture: AFP/Getty
A rescue crew flies to the Mont Maudit, where an avalanche killed nine people. Picture: AFP/Getty
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TWO climbers killed in an avalanche in the French Alps lived in the same village street and were raising money for a local hospice when they died.

Steve Barber, 47, and John Taylor, 48, were neighbours in Upper Poppleton, north-west of York, and both had children at Poppleton Ousebank School.

They had been making their climb in aid of St Leonard’s

hospice in York.

Mr Barber and Mr Taylor were good friends who shared a love of climbing, their partners said.

A third British man who lost his life after being hit by a massive wall of snow on Thursday was Roger Payne – one of the UK’s most respected climbers and a former general secretary of the British Mountaineering Council (BMC).

Nine climbers were killed as they traversed Mont Maudit – translated as Cursed Mountain – in the Mont Blanc range near Chamonix in the early hours of Thursday. The other victims were three Germans, two Spaniards and a Swiss climber.

Mr Taylor, 48, leaves a wife,

Karine, and two daughters, aged ten and eight.

Mrs Taylor said her husband had climbed Mont Blanc twice previously.

She said: “We are all truly devastated about this loss. John always had a keen interest in outdoor activities, taking up mountaineering in 1998, and was a highly regarded and very active member of mountain

rescue teams himself.

“John had climbed several challenging mountains across the world, including Mont Blanc on two previous occasions. He was a highly respected climber and this event represents a significant loss to the UK climbing community.”

Mr Barber, 47, was attempting to climb Mont Blanc for the first time. His long-term partner, Donna Rogers, said: “As might be expected, the family and I are all devastated at the loss of Steve and his close friend, John.

“Steve has lived in Poppleton most of his life.

“His parents ran the village post office. Steve, like John, loved the outdoors and was a keen walker. He always wanted to climb Mont Blanc.”

He leaves behind his parents, now retired, sister Julie and a ten-year-old daughter.

Poppleton Ousebank School is to collect money for St Leonard’s Hospice in memory of the climbers.

Leader of the City of York Council’s Conservative group, Ian Gillies, who represents Upper Poppleton, said: “Devastated doesn’t cover it, really.”

The three Britons were part of a 28-strong group which left a climbing hut to attempt the route, which was described by local guides as the second most popular to the top of Mont Blanc.

French authorities were told that a “slab” avalanche had hit several groups of mountaineers who were roped together on the northern face of Mont Maudit at 13,123ft (4,000m).

The avalanche was caused by heavy snow and is thought to have been triggered by strong winds.