A young woman has died after plummeting 500 feet while climbing a mountain on a hiking trip with a group of friends on New Year’s Day.
The 22-year-old was on a New Year trip to the Highlands in Scotland with a group of other students from the University of Bristol when she fell to her death from Ben Nevis.
The climber was with three friends on the Ridge Route between Ben Nevis and the neighbouring summit of Carn Dearg when the tragedy happened.
She is believed to have slipped on ice and fallen 500ft down the mountain to her death.
Mountain Rescue teams were alerted and managed to rescue her three friends who were stuck on a ridge and a helicopter airlifted them to safety.
The University of Bristol has confirmed the fatality and says it will be supporting all those affected by the tragedy.
A University of Bristol spokesperson said: “It is with great sadness that we can confirm that on January 1, 2019, one of our students died in an accident whilst on a hiking trip to Ben Nevis in Scotland.
“The student was part of a larger group of students who had organised this new year trip to the Highlands.
“Our hearts go out to the family and friends of this student. This tragic accident will be deeply felt across our university community and we will make sure we have support available to all those affected.”
Lochaber Mountain Rescue stated on their Facebook page: “The team had to recover young climber who unfortunately lost her life following an accident on Carn Dearg on Ben Nevis.
“We pass on our sincere condolences to her family and friends. A very sad start to 2019.”
John Stevenson, leader of Lochaber Mountain Rescue, said the group were climbing what is known as the ‘ledge route’, and said the rocks are currently very icy and cold and the area where the young woman slipped had an almost vertical drop of 500ft.
Inverness coastguard search and rescue helicopter airlifted the mountain rescue team to help the other climbers and recovered the woman’s body.
Lochaber Mountain Rescue said: “We witnessed another example of exceptional flying getting the team into location to evacuate the casualty and in recovering her colleagues from a very difficult location.”
People took to social media to pay tributes and express their condolences to the family of the victim, and to thank rescue teams for their dedicated work.
One woman revealed she believes she and her partner sat with the group a short time before the tragedy. She said: “We believe it was the four students my partner and I sat with in the shelter at the summit of the Ben sharing a hot chocolate together getting ready for their next leg of their adventure.
“My heart goes out to all involved and to the family of the young lady who has lost her life.
“Thank you mountain rescue for all you do.”
Another person wrote: “Awful. You go winter climbing on the first day of the year and it turns out to be the last day of your life.”
He added he had himself attempted to do the ledge route last year but decided to retreat when things got ‘scary’ - even though he had made an 800 mile round trip.
The young woman’s death is the second recent death on Britain’s highest peak.
Patrick Boothroyd, 21, from West Yorkshire, died while climbing Ben Nevis on December 16.
The Cardiff University student fell 1,500ft when a ledge of snow collapsed, but his friend Leo Grabowski miraculously survived. He battled to save his friend and 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 Boothroyd could not be saved.
The British Mountaineering Council says that while such tragedies are extremely sad, they are rare and they would not want to deter people from climbing mountains.
However, they are urging people to be aware of the greater risks when climbing in winter weather and to make sure they only undertake challenges within their capabilities.
Jon Garside, a British Mountaineering Council training officer, told HuffPost UK: “Accidents are more likely in winter when there is snow and ice as if you slip, there is less friction and it is more likely you could slide quickly and for quite a distance if you are unprepared.
“The outcome of a slip in winter can be more serious than in the summer.
“If people are heading out into the hills and mountains, it is about being suitably prepared for the walk or mountaineering they are undertaking, whether it is winter or summer.”
He added: “That is not to suggest that people who have accidents are underprepared.
“It is important to choose objectives within your capabilities.”
Garside said that they would never want to discourage people from climbing mountains during the winter.
He explained: “Winter mountains are beautiful and we would never wish to discourage people from climbing them. They just need to take care and precautions.
“Accidents and deaths on mountains are rare compared to the number of people who do the activity - more people go hill walking than play football in England.
“Fatal accidents are extremely rare but it is very sad when they happen.”