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ALPS TRAGEDY: Families pay tribute - "We are all truly devastated"
THE grieving families of two climbers from York killed in the avalanche on an Alpine peak called the Cursed Mountain have told of their devastation.
John Taylor, 48, and Steve Barber, 47, both from Pear Tree Avenue in Poppleton, were among three Britons killed in the avalanche in the Mont Blanc massif on Thursday morning.
Mr Taylor had two daughters at Poppleton Ousebank Primary School – Emma, ten, and Louise, eight – and Mr Barber had one daughter at the school – Francesca, ten.
Mr Taylor’s wife, Karine, and Mr Barber’s long-term partner, Donna Rogers, both paid tribute yesterday and thanked everyone for their support following the disaster, the worst Alpine tragedy in France for 12 years.
Mr Barber had lived in Poppleton for most of his life, and his parents had run the village post office before retiring several years ago.
His partner, Donna, said she and the family were devastated at the loss of Steve and John.
She said: “Steve, like John, loved the outdoors and was a keen walker.
“He always wanted to climb Mont Blanc, an ambition that this trip was to fulfil. He had been training hard for the ascent and had successfully completed several challenging climbs in Europe and in the UK prior to this trip.
“In his personal life, Steve was a company finance accountant with a Leeds-based finance company.
“The family wish to express their sincere thanks to the men and women of the mountain rescue teams who tried so hard to save John and Steve.
“The family also wish to thank friends and close family who have been so supportive at this time.
“They would also like to thank the Foreign and Commonwealth Office for the assistance offered and provided.”
Mr Barber is also survived by his parents and his sister, Julie.
Mrs Taylor 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 Taylor was originally from Manchester but moved to Poppleton in 2003. He worked as a finance director in the public and private sectors.
Mrs Taylor said: “He will be sadly missed by his work colleagues.
“The family would like to pay tribute to the mountain rescue teams based in France and elsewhere that tried to save John and his good friend Steve.”
The third British man who died was Roger Payne, one of the UK’s most respected climbers and a former general secretary of the British Mountaineering Council.
The three men and seven other climbers were killed as they traversed Mont Maudit – translated as “cursed mountain” – in the Mont Blanc range near Chamonix.
Also among the victims were three Germans, two Spaniards and one Swiss climber.
They were in a 28-strong group which left a climbing hut to attempt the route, described by local guides as the second most popular to the top of Mont Blanc, in the early hours of Thursday morning.
A church service is to be held in Chamonix this afternoon in memory of the dead climbers, French Interior Minister Manuel Valls said.
All those believed to have been missing have been accounted for, but police are continuing to search the area. Two other Britons – including Dave Compton, 41, from Ellesmere Port – were reported missing but confirmed safe and well on Thursday evening.
The alarm was raised at 5.20am local time by one of the injured climbers. French authorities were told a “slab” avalanche had hit several groups of mountaineers roped together on the northern face of Mont Maudit.
It is believed some climbers crossed the path of the avalanche before it hit and others were able to turn back. A block of ice 16in (40cm) thick reportedly broke off and slid down the slope, creating a mass of snow that was 6ft (2m) deep and 328ft (100m) long. Regional authorities believe the avalanche may have been triggered by a climber accidentally snapping off a slab of ice on the mountain.
Several dozen gendarmes and other rescuers along with two helicopters were sent to the scene to pull the dead and injured from the mountain.
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