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Monday, 18 September, 2000, 13:01 GMT 14:01 UK
Climbers die in Swiss Alps plunge
The Eiger
The Eiger is considered the toughest climb in Europe
Two members of a British expedition to climb a notorious mountain in the Swiss Alps have fallen to their deaths.

Matthew Hayes, 31, from Hampshire, and New Zealand born Phillip O'Sullivan, 26, who lived in West Sussex, were killed when a storm hit the north face of the 13,000ft Eiger.

The pair had reached the upper ice field of the mountain when the top climber lost his grip and pulled down the second, who was tied to him by a rope. They fell nearly 2,000 ft.


I am just very sad, it was a pretty grim experience

British climber Joe Simpson
The accident happened on Tuesday and the bodies were recovered on Wednesday. Details were released by police over the weekend.

Also on the climb was celebrated British climber Joe Simpson, 40, and his climbing partner Ray Delaney, 42.

The pair had taken shelter from the storm on a ledge further down the mountain.

The accident was filmed by a Channel 4 television crew who had been making a documentary about the region.

Police said the camera team had given them a copy of their tape and it would be used in the investigation into the accident.

A spokesman for Channel 4 said it did not intend to broadcast the footage.

Sadness

Mr Simpson reportedly told The Times the accident had been a grim experience.

"A Swiss guide saw them fall through his binoculars," he is quoted as saying.

"He said they were not hit by rocks but that the leader slipped and had no protection, so he took the other man with him.

"The first we knew of the accident was when we saw helicopters and gave them the thumbs up to show we were ok.

"We looked down the mountain and we could see they had found some bodies, so we retreated from the face and descended by nightfall.

The Eiger
First Briton to climb the north face was Sir Chris Bonnington in 1962
Name means ogre
Best climbing month are July, August and September
"I am just very sad. It was a pretty grim experience for us as you can imagine."

The two dead climbers were colleagues in Mr Hayes's family forestry and tree-surgery firm, Sussex police said.

Mr Denton had been living in West Sussex with his French fiancée.

He was due to meet her tomorrow in Paris where they planned to fly to New Zealand to join his family.

Mr Denton's body will be taken back to New Zealand where family will arrange his funeral.

"His family are extremely upset about what has happened. They want to be left alone now to grieve in peace," said a police spokesman.

Missing

A solo climber, of unknown nationality, who was attempting the climb, is also missing. His tent at the bottom of the face was found empty on Friday.

The daunting wall of crumbling limestone in the Bernese Alps is considered Europe's greatest challenge to mountaineers.

More than 700 climbers have reached the peak since the first successful ascent of the north face in 1938, but over 50 others have been killed.

Three have already died this summer.

Tuesday's deaths bring the total number of people killed in accidents in the Swiss Alps this summer to 38.

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