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Last Updated: Monday, 20 March 2006, 12:50 GMT
Tributes paid to Snowdon climber
Donal McGrath
Donal McGrath was a very experienced climber
Tributes have been paid to an experienced climber who died after a fall of nearly 700ft (213m) on Snowdon.

Donal McGrath, 61, of Butlerstown, County Waterford, Ireland, was walking on the Pyg track with his mountaineering club.

The death on Friday was the beginning of a busy weekend for the Llanberis Mountain Rescue team (LMR), which was called out five times in two days.

It said less experienced walkers were caught out by the spring-like weather.

Mr McGrath was described as a "popular and well-liked member" of the Comeragh mountaineering club in Waterford.

His club said he was experienced and well-equipped, and fell during a descent from Snowdon.

The party of 24, which had been over on a St Patrick's weekend, cut short their trip and were said to be "deeply shocked and traumatised".

Mr McGrath was found at 1100 GMT on Friday but mountain rescue teams waited until Saturday morning to recover his body because of the hazardous conditions

In the end there is only so much you can do then it comes down to common sense
Dr Gwyn Roberts, Llanberis Mountain Rescue

Mountain rescue team members met ill-prepared and poorly dressed walkers as they carried Mr McGrath's body down the mountain.

Dr Gwyn Roberts, of LMR, said the walkers refused to turn back even after team members told them of the hazards ahead.

"It's difficult to know what to do in that situation, it's incredible really, but what can we do.

"We produce leaflets on mountain safety, there are wardens at Pen y Pass who can offer advice. But in the end there is only so much you can do then it comes down to common sense," he added.

"People must remember that conditions at the top are very wintry despite the fact it is more spring-like in the valley below.

With years of experience with the mountain rescue team Dr Roberts said the situation is not getting worse, it was just that people kept on doing "silly things".

"The main thing I would say is that people should be aware of the change in weather conditions between the valley below, and the top of the mountain, crampons and an ice axe are essential," Dr Roberts added.

The mountain rescue team were called to a number of incidents:

  • A 44-year-old man fell hundreds of feet at almost the same spot as Mr McGrath on Saturday, breaking an arm and leg.
  • Also on Saturday, two inexperienced climbers were rescued after getting stranded on the ice.
  • On Sunday a party of eight from Turkey were rescued after one of them slipped and dislocated his shoulder, their equipment was "totally inappropriate".
  • Also on Sunday a woman from Kent broke her leg and injured her head and hip after falling while on Mynydd Mawr in the Nantlle Valley.

Conditions on Snowdon over the weekend included a wind chill of -10C at the halfway stage with wind speeds of 30mph.

Michael James Martin, 57, had travelled up from Cardiff to walk up Snowdon, but decided to turn back because of the high winds.

"Conditions at the bottom were perfect but by half way the change was so dramatic we took the decision to turn back, and I think that was the right decision," said Mr Martin.

"I do quite a lot of walking and I think the effect of the wind is a bigger factor than maybe people take into consideration," he added.

At 3,560ft (1,085m) Snowdon is the highest mountain in Wales and England. The Llanberis rescuers also believe that it is probably the busiest in Britain.

An inquest into Mr McGrath's death was was opened by coroner Dewi Pritchard Jones at Caernarfon on Monday.

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