Dangerous conditions on Ben Nevis today have forced mountain rescuers to suspend their search for two missing climbers.
A total of 36 people from Lochaber Mountain Rescue Team, the RAF, and the Search and Rescue Dog Association were involved in a five-hour search for 24-year-old Rachel Slater and Tim Newton, 27.
The pair, who are from the Bradford area, were climbing on Ben Nevis at the weekend, but the alarm was raised on Monday afternoon when the couple failed to return.
It is believed they had been camping in a green tent behind the Charles Inglis Clark (CIC) memorial hut on the north side of the mountain.
In a post on the Lochaber MRT’s social media page this afternoon, the rescue team said: “Very challenging conditions during search for Rachel and Tim. 80/90mph winds with windchill giving temperature which feels like -20c.
“Two of the rescue team men avalanched traversing below No 3 Gully Buttress.
“Today there were 36 people out from Lochaber MRT, RAF MRT and three members of SARDA Scotland.
“After five hours of searching, it was decided that conditions were too dangerous to continue search which was focused on Coire na Ciste and South Trident Buttress area following a possible sighting of two people fitting their description climbing in this area early Sunday afternoon.
“If you were on South Trident Buttress on Sunday could you call Police Scotland on 101 and ask for Fort William Police.”
Ms Slater is an experienced climber who is well-travelled.
In a blog, she wrote: “I’ve been around rocks my whole life as my parents are very keen climbers – most of my childhood was spent scrambling around at the bottom of the cliff with the occasional easy top rope.
“In 2005 my family moved to Calgary, Canada, and in 2007 I joined a youth climbing team at my local wall and in 2008 progressed to the competitive youth team.
“We trained three times a week at 6am and competed locally and nationally throughout the winter. In the summer and school holidays I sport climbed with my family in the Rockies and Western States of America.”
She left Canada in 2009 to study at the University of Manchester, from where she graduated with a BSc (Hons) in environmental science.
In September 2013, she completed a six-month contract with an environmental consultancy in Glasgow before embarking on a three-month sport climbing trip to France and Spain.
After returning again to Spain on her own to climb in Catalonia, she “joined the grown up world of 9-5” at the start of last year, according to her online posts.
She is currently employed as a mineral, waste and environmental consultant near Bradford. Her firm, the Mineral Planning Group, has not commented on the search.
Mr Newton, originally from Leicester, also lives in Bradford and has studied physics at the universities of Manchester and Leeds, according to his Facebook profile.
Logbook entries for Ms Slater on UKClimbing.com suggest she has conducted a number of climbs with Mr Newton.
Meanwhile, numerous messages have been posted on social media from people sharing information and voicing hope that the couple will be found safe.
The Lochaber MRT has posted a request for information on its Facebook page.
Responding to the message, Tony Walker wrote: “The missing persons are Rachel Slater (my niece) and her partner Tim Newton.
“Both very experienced climbers. Most likely they are wearing the same clothing as in the photo. Any info greatly appreciated.”
On a climbing forum, Patrick Roman said he saw the pair at the weekend.
Writing on the forum, he said: “I was outside the CIC on Saturday morning. There were two people matching the image in the photo. He was wearing a red jacket and she a green and turquoise jacket.”
The search is being carried out days after Lochaber MRT warned about the conditions on the mountain.
In a Facebook posting on Friday, the team wrote: “Stunningly beautiful today on the Ben, however extremely challenging snow conditions.”
Anyone who was climbing or walking in the Ben Nevis area over the weekend and saw the couple is being urged to contact police on 101.