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

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

Nine people were killed in the avalanche, which also claimed the life of Roger Payne, one of the UK's most respected climbers. The bodies of accountant Mr Barber and finance director Mr Taylor, who took the expedition to raise funds for York-based charity St Leonard's Hospice, have since been flown back to the UK.

During a brief hearing this afternoon, 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 had been carried out at York Hospital and the cause of death in both cases had been given as "mechanical asphyxiation"

The inquest was adjourned to allow the families of Mr Barber and Mr Taylor, who both lived in Pear Tree Avenue, to make funeral arrangements. A full inquest into both deaths 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.

Since the tragedy, donations to Mr Barber's fundraising page for St Leonard's Hospice - which stood at about £260 before his and Mr Taylor's deaths - have reached £6,741.