Rescue teams leading the hunt for two young climbers missing on Britain’s highest peak for five days have described search attempts as “very frustrating” as bad weather continues to hamper the operation.
Rachel Slater, 24, and Tim Newton, 27, failed to return from an outing on Ben Nevis in Lochaber in the Scottish Highlands last weekend and treacherous conditions have hindered efforts to locate them.
Heavy snow, fog and high winds – as well as the risk of avalanche – have led the local mountain rescue team to suspend ground searches for most of the week until conditions improve.
Aerial sweeps by a Coastguard helicopter have been carried out but they have found no trace of the pair.
John Stevenson, leader of Lochaber Mountain Rescue Team, said the situation is “very frustrating” but he is hopeful teams can get out on the mountain over the weekend.
He told BBC Radio Scotland’s Good Morning Scotland programme: “We’re hoping to get a squad out tomorrow. We’re looking at getting localised searches of different areas.
“We’re going to go into the areas where the general public are not normally in during the week. It’s a bit dangerous in groups of twos or threes, so we’re really going to need to try and get a squad out tomorrow.
“We had the helicopter out yesterday with the team members doing some searches on board, but again weather conditions have kept us fairly limited as to what we could do.
“There are people out on the hills doing different things but we have seen nothing at the moment.
“It is very frustrating and we’re trying to get something for the families mainly and we’ve got nothing to go on. We don’t know where to look yet, so we’re just going to have to start basically at the beginning and just work our way around the hill.”
The avalanche risk in Lochaber remains high, according to the Scottish Avalanche Information Service, with new snow lying on top of frozen snow making the surface unstable.
A climber was killed following an avalanche on Wednesday just miles from Ben Nevis and his companion remains in a serious but stable condition in hospital.
Ms Slater’s family have flown from their home in Canada to be kept up to date with the search on Ben Nevis.
In a joint statement with Mr Newton’s family released on Thursday, they thanked search and rescue teams for their work.
They added: “The overwhelming response from members of the public and the climbing community has greatly assisted the search effort and we appreciate all the support and words of encouragement.
“As the search continues we remain hopeful Rachel and Tim will be found and reunited with their families and friends.”