Two hillwalkers who died in a horror plunge on a Scottish peak were highly experienced mountaineers, rescuers revealed today.
Andy Nisbet, 65, of Aberdeen and Steve Perry, from Inverness died in a huge fall from the 3041ft Ben Hope in Sutherland on Tuesday.
Both men were respected climbers and members of the Scottish Mountaineering Club.
Their deaths bring to at least six the number of people who have died on Scotland’s mountains this winter.
A two day operation involving nearly 50 members of mountain rescue teams and two Coastguard helicopters was brought to an end on Wednesday with the recovery of the men’s bodies.
Andy Nisbet (left), 65, of Aberdeen and Steve Perry (right), from Inverness died in a huge fall from the 3041ft Ben Hope in Sutherland on Tuesday. Their deaths bring to at least six the number of people who have died on Scotland’s mountains this winter
The pair were on 3041ft high Ben Hope, pictured, about six miles south west of Tongue. Ben Hope is the most northerly of the Munros – mountains over 3000 ft – and its fine isolated peak is a magnificent viewpoint and a magnet for hikers, especially in summer
No contact had been made with the pair after their initial call for help around 3.45pm on Tuesday.
The men had fallen up to nearly 1000 feet on Ben Hope, about six miles south west of Tongue.
Today Sue Agnew, leader of Assynt Mountain Rescue Team – which led the operation which also involved Dundonnell and Lossiemouth MRTs – praised searchers, many of whom knew the pair.
‘They were extremely experienced and well known to the mountaineering community. Many of those involved in the search knew them,’ she said.
‘It certainly has had an impact on those who knew them as friends and members of the mountain community.
‘Everybody who was searching were aware of who they were. They had taken quite a fall. Like all mountains they have their risks but these two were extremely experienced.’
Steve Perry (pictured) was known for his incredible 2005-2006 accomplishment of completing a solo, continuous winter round of all 284 – at the time, now 282 – Munros entirely on foot, with no other means of transport between mountain areas
Ms Agnew said she could not recall another fatality on the mountain.
‘Ben Hope is generally a hill that’s walked, but there is climbing on it. It is not a mountain we are called to very often, only occasionally for lost or overdue walkers,’ she said, adding she would not speculate on what may have gone wrong.
‘The weather on Tuesday was patchy with a lot of sleet and rain while on Wednesday the conditions had improved but it was still windy and cold. There is a lot of snow on the hills too.
‘I would like to say a huge thanks to all the mountain rescue teams – we are all volunteers – the police and the Coastguard helicopter crews from Stornoway and Inverness, who were really superb and did everything we asked of them. Everybody put themselves out there.’
Local Highland Councillor Hugh Morrison, who runs Smoo Cave Hotel in nearby Durness, said: ‘We get a lot of people stay with us just to climb Ben Hope – even in winter – because it’s the most northerly Munro.
‘The north westerly side they have been found on is very sheer – and they would not have stood much of a chance falling far on that side.
‘But I regard Ben Hope as a very safe mountain – in fact I can’t think of any previous fatality there in over 30 years. There are very few accidents.
‘My heartfelt condolences go out their families, friends and all involved. It is a terrible tragedy.’
Police Scotland confirmed that the bodies of the two men (Mr Nisbet is pictured left and Mr Perry is pictured right) were discovered on the north-west side of Ben Hope shortly after 2am on Wednesday
Mr Morrison, who represents the North, West and Central Sutherland Ward, added: ‘I would also like to praise the volunteers of Assynt Mountain Rescue Team, led by team leader Susan Agnew, for the tremendous and difficult job they have done – especially in such bad weather conditions.’
Mountaineering author Ken Crocket paid tribute, tweeting: ‘Terrible news from Ben Hope: Two SMC climbers killed… roped together, slipped.’
Mr Nisbet was hailed ‘as one the greatest Scottish winter climbers of all time’, while Steve once wrote of his passion for ‘new routing in winter Scotland’.
He put up almost 1000 new winter routes and his nicknames included ‘The Winter Lemming’ and ‘The Droid’, a reference to his ungainly rock climbing style.
A two day operation involving nearly 50 members of mountain rescue teams and two Coastguard helicopters was brought to an end after Mr Perry (pictured) and Mr Nisbet were found
It also emerged today that Mr Nisbet was previously honoured at the prestigious Fort William Mountain Festival and had written countless guidebooks.
While Steve Perry was known for his incredible 2005-2006 accomplishment of completing a solo, continuous winter round of all 284 – at the time, now 282 – Munros entirely on foot, with no other means of transport between mountain areas.
BBC presenter and mountaineer Cameron McNeish also paid his own tributes to the pair.
He said on Twitter: ‘Utterly devastated this morning at the news of the loss of Andy Nisbet and Steve Perry on Ben Hope.
‘Both were gargantuan and inspiring figures in Scotland’s mountaineering scene.
‘A massive loss to us all.’
Police Scotland confirmed that the bodies of the two men were discovered on the north-west side of Ben Hope shortly after 2am on Wednesday.
Inspector Kevin Macleod said: ‘Our thoughts are with the family and friends of both of these men at this tragic time.
‘I would also like to pass on our gratitude to the volunteers of Assynt Mountain Rescue Team for their efforts in extremely challenging conditions.’
There have been six fatal falls from Scottish mountains already this year. Pictured: Ben Hope
A spokeswoman for the Maritime Coastguard Agency said the initial reports were that at least one of the hikers had fallen between 200 to 300 metres (656ft to 984ft) and that they had raised the alarm by mobile phone.
Ben Hope is the most northerly of the Munros – mountains over 3000 ft – and its fine isolated peak is a magnificent viewpoint and a magnet for hikers, especially in summer. Among those to have tackled it in recent years is TV comedian Ed Byrne.
There have now been at least six deaths this winter on Scotland’s peaks. While ten people died in Scotland’s hills in the first three months of last year.
Ben Nevis has already seen two deaths and near misses this winter. A woman climber died after falling from the mountain on New Year’s Day.
The 21-year-old from Germany was a student, who was studying at the University of Bristol.
She was climbing with three others on Ben Nevis when she plunged 500ft (152 metres) from the Carn Dearg Buttress.
The woman and her friends had been climbing what is known as the ‘ledge route.’
It was the second recent death of a student on Britain’s highest peak – Patrick Boothroyd, 21, from West Yorkshire, died in a fall on December 16.
Patrick Boothroyd, 21, pictured in the Dolomites in September, 21, from West Yorkshire, died in a fall from Ben Nevis on December 16
Cardiff University students Patrick Boothroyd and Leo Grabowski were scaling Tower Gully when a ledge of snow collapsed, causing them to fall 1,500ft.
Mr Boothroyd suffered a serious head injury while Mr Grabowski survived the fall with only broken bones.
Despite being dazed and disoriented, the 28-year-old immediately rang 999 and did his best to help his friend.
He covered him with a survival bag and huddled next to him, shielding him from the snow and wind. They were rescued after an hour but Mr Boothroyd could not be saved.
What were the deaths in Scottish mountains this winter?
November 25, 2018
A man fell to his death while climbing 3,143ft Buachaille Etive Beag – between Glen Coe and Glen Etive.
November 30, 2018
Rebekah Caroline Pettifer, 52, died in a hillwalking incident in Buachaille Etive Beag in Glen Coe. Her body was recovered from an area close to a path leading towards Buachaille Etive Beag. Her 23-year-old daughter – who has not been named – was seriously hurt.
December 16, 2018
Patrick Boothroyd, 21, from West Yorkshire, died in a fall on Ben Nevis. He fell 1,500ft down Britain’s biggest mountain with his friend Leo Grabowski, who miraculously survived the fall. They fell when an overhanging ledge of ice and snow is believed to have collapsed on top of them.
January 1, 2019
A female climber, aged 22 after a 500ft ‘horrific’ fall down Ben Nevis on New Year’s Day.
The Bristol University Student was on the Ridge Route between the summit of neighbouring Carn Dearg and Ben Nevis on a climb with three others.
When she reached 3300ft up she slipped on ice and fell down the mountain to her death
January 6, 2019
Andy Nisbet, 65, of Aberdeen and Steve Perry, from Inverness died in a huge fall from the 3041ft Ben Hope in Sutherland.
Concerns were raised for two men in difficulty on Ben Hope in Sutherland on Tuesday and a search operation was launched.
A coastguard helicopter crew discovered the bodies on the north-west side of the mountain shortly.