AN inquest has been opened into the deaths of two York climbers killed in an avalanche in the French Alps while raising money for charity.

Steve Barber, 47, and John Taylor, 48, who both lived in the same Upper Poppleton street, died in the early hours of last Thursday on Mont Maudit, which translates as “Cursed Mountain”.

Seven other people were also killed in the avalanche, including Roger Payne, one of the UK’s most respected climbers. The bodies of accountant Mr Barber and finance director Mr Taylor, whose expedition was raising funds for York-based St Leonard’s Hospice, have since been flown back to the UK.

At a brief hearing yesterday, which was not attended by either of the men’s families, York coroner Donald Coverdale said: “The two men were part of an organised climbing expedition and they started their ascent in the early hours of July 12.

“There were 28 people in the group. The alarm was raised at 5.20am local time, saying an avalanche had hit this group. The bodies of Mr Barber and Mr Taylor were found at 6.30am at a height of 4,275m on Mont Maudit.”

Mr Coverdale said Paul Johnson, a neighbour and friend of both men “for many years”, had identified their bodies. A post mortem examination at York Hospital had stated the cause of death in both cases was “mechanical asphyxiation”

The inquest was adjourned to allow the families of Mr Barber and Mr Taylor, both of Pear Tree Avenue, to make funeral arrangements. A full inquest will be held at a date which has yet to be fixed.

Both men had children at Poppleton Ousebank Primary School . Following the tragedy, Mr Taylor’s wife Karine and Mr Barber’s long-term partner Donna Rogers, spoke of their devastation at their deaths and thanked everybody for their support in the wake of the disaster.

Donations to Mr Barber’s fundraising page for St Leonard’s Hospice – which stood at about £260 before the tragedy – had reached £6,741 yesterday.