12/07/2012 16:52 BST | Updated 12/07/2012 16:54 BST

Chamonix Avalanche: Mountain Guide Roger Payne Named As One Of Three Britons Killed

A respected climber was one of three Britons killed in a major avalanche in the French Alps.

Roger Payne was a mountain guide and former general secretary of the British Mountaineering Council.

Dave Turnbull, the current chief executive of the BMC, said: "The mountaineering world is shocked and saddened to learn of the tragic death of Roger Payne, former BMC general secretary and former president of the British Mountain Guides.

"Roger was one of the UK's most enthusiastic and respected climbers, with a track record of Alpine and Himalayan mountaineering stretching back to the 1980s.

"Our thoughts are with Roger's friends and family - in particular his wife, Julie-Ann."

The avalanche happened at around 13,123ft (4,000m) on Mont Maudit in the Mont Blanc range near Chamonix, according to the BMC's website.

There were at least 28 people on the route, who left just after a 1am breakfast. The avalanche came down from the Mont Maudit slope at about 5.30am.

Two British climbers and two Spaniards who were reported missing after the avalanche were confirmed by local police as being alive and well when they presented themselves at the police station in Chamonix this evening.

The four survivors had changed their climbing route on Mont Maudit, police said.

All those believed to have been missing have now been accounted for but police said they would continue searching the area in the morning.

The avalanche on Mont Maudit, which translates as Cursed Mountain, claimed the lives of three Britons, two Spaniards, three Germans and one Swiss, according to the Prefecture de la Haute-Savoie.

The search for the four survivors was called off at 4pm UK time due to poor weather, with local authorities determined to resume again in the morning.

It is not clear whether the two British men and two Spaniards turned around, or simply changed their routes, but they are healthy, police said.

The authorities said they would continue searching tomorrow to see if anyone else was caught up in the avalanche.


Three Britons killed in Chamonix avalanche

Dramatic pictures of rescue mission

A spokeswoman for the prefecture said the local gendarmerie were alerted at 5.25am that two groups of climbers were in trouble on the northern face of Mont Maudit at 13,123ft (4,000m).

She said that at 5.45am the emergency services were told it was a "slab" avalanche which had hit several groups of mountaineers who were roped together.

Some of those caught in the avalanche were supervised by professional mountaineering guides but others were climbing independently.

Several dozen gendarmes and other rescuers along with two helicopters were sent to the scene to pull the dead and injured from the mountain.

The spokeswoman said nine people were taken to hospital in Sallanches with minor injuries and a chapel had been established in the hospital in Chamonix to help families involved in the tragedy.

A total of 28 people left a climbing hut to attempt the route.

The spokeswoman said some had crossed the path of the avalanche before it hit and others were able to turn back.

Foreign Secretary William Hague said: "I am very saddened by today's tragedy in Chamonix, and I send my deepest condolences to the friends and families of those affected."

Chamonix-based mountain guide Richard Mansfield said the route where the accident happened was the second most popular to the top of Mont Blanc.

He said: "It's a very beautiful area and a common route, but it can have very serious consequences, particularly due to avalanches."