TRIBUTES have been paid to two mountaineers who died in the Highlands at the weekend.
Simon Davidson, 34, from Edinburgh, described as “an absolute legend” in the Scottish climbing community, died alongside his friend Joe Smith, 23, from Kinlochleven. They fell to their deaths, possibly after being hit by an avalanche.
Their bodies were found roped together by two other climbers on 3,632ft Stob Coire nam Beith around 4:30pm on Saturday, and were recovered by a team involving Glencoe Mountain Rescue (GMR) and the police.
Glencoe mountain rescue team, of which Mr Smith was a member, led the recovery operation.
Mr Davidson, who was based at Garbh Mountain Adventures travel agency in Fort William, and Mr Smith, originally from Ribchester, Lancashire, were said to have been carrying adequate equipment.
The weather in the area was described as “a typical winter day – snowing with wind on top” and the Scottish Avalanche Information Service labelled the risk in Glencoe on Saturday as “considerable”. The warning remains in place.
Andy Nelson, GMR team leader, said: “The guys were roped together, so it is possible they were still on the climb but they have clearly fallen some distance.
“My information is that they have been killed instantly by the fall. They had all the relevant equipment and there is nothing to suggest that they were ill-equipped or inexperienced.”
Tim Hamlet, a fellow mountaineer who knew both men, paid tribute to them and said their deaths came as a shock to the climbing community.
“Simon was an absolute legend. He was an incredible guy with a real passion for the outdoors. I also knew Joe.
“It is the nature of climbing that everyone knows everyone else.”
John Grieve, who has been involved with GMR for 52 years, said the tragedy was the team’s first climbing death in its own patch.
He said: “It has always been something I’ve dread – carrying one of our own of the hill.”
Mr Grieve said Mr Smith had proved himself to be a skilful team member last year when he searched difficult terrain for a missing hillwalker.
“Both men were really experienced – fit and fast and at the top of their game.” Mr Grieve added: “My seven-year-old grandson could not wait to get home from school each day to help his new friend Joe who would give him a job taking nails out with a hammer.”
The deaths are thought to be the first on the Scottish mountains this year.
A report is being sent to the procurator-fiscal.