A major search for two experienced climbers missing on Britain’s highest mountain has been suspended due to “treacherous” weather conditions.
Rachel Slater, 24, and Tim Newton, 27, from the Bradford area of West Yorkshire, were climbing on Ben Nevis, in the Lochaber area of the Scottish Highlands, over the weekend.
The alarm was raised on Monday afternoon when the couple were reported to be overdue in returning from the expedition.
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.
The hunt for the pair – involving police, mountain rescue teams and search dogs – entered its second day on Tuesday as fears for their safety grew.
But after five hours of searching, it was decided that conditions were too dangerous to continue for now.
Lochaber Mountain Rescue Team (MRT) said 80mph to 90mph winds had been making the temperature feel like minus 20C.
A Police Scotland spokesman said: “Whilst police inquiries remain ongoing, search efforts have been suspended on Ben Nevis due to treacherous weather conditions.”
It is not yet clear when the search effort will be able to resume.
In an updated post on Facebook, the mountain rescue team said conditions were “very challenging” during the search, which had been carried out on foot.
Rescuers said there had been 36 people out searching from Lochaber MRT and the RAF MRT, as well as three members of the Scottish Search and Rescue Dog Association.
The posting went on: “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.”
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 employed as an environmental consultant near Bradford.
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 praising the search teams and voicing hope that the couple will be found safe.
On Facebook, Jay Smith wrote: “Hoping for a good outcome on this. Stay safe all that are searching.”
Linda Howell said: “Hopefully they are safe and well and off the hill totally oblivious to all this worry and searching.”
Lochaber MRT warned about the conditions on the mountain just days ago.
In a social media message 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.