Mathieu Biselx, pictured, has described the horrific moment his three climbing friends were engulfed by snow on Ben Nevis
A climber who survived the Ben Nevis disaster in which three people were killed has described the horrific moment his friends were engulfed by snow after one of them shouted: ‘Avalanche!’
Mathieu Biselx, 30, was seriously wounded in the avalanche on Britain’s tallest peak which ‘wiped out’ the rest of his climbing party.
He was airlifted to Queen Elizabeth University Hospital in Glasgow, where he remains in a stable condition in intensive care.
Speaking from his hospital bed, the father-of-one said it was a ‘miracle I am still alive’ but said: ‘My three closest friends are dead’.
One of the dead climbers, aged 43, was also Swiss and the others, aged 41 and 32, were French. Their next of kin have been informed.
The group were caught by the river of snow and ice in a gully on Ben Nevis as Storm Gareth blew in with strong winds on Tuesday morning, triggering a huge search and recovery operation in ‘brutal conditions’, a rescuer said.
Mr Biselx, father of a little girl, said the group arrived in Scotland on Sunday evening and the climb on Tuesday was their first excursion on the mountain.
Mathieu Biselx, who is currently in intensive care after barely surviving the avalanche on Ben Nevis, pictured with his family
Talking to Swiss newspapers Le Nouvelliste and Tribune De Geneve, he said: ‘We were not very high and all of a sudden we heard a noise. One of us yelled: ‘Avalanche’.
‘We got into a safe position but in two seconds we were swept away by heavy, compact snow. I felt myself fly through the rocks.’
Describing how he freed his head from the mass of snow, he said: ‘I called my friends, I shouted. No response. Then I realised the magnitude of the drama.’
The friends, who lived near each other in the canton of Valais in Switzerland and were members of the same mountain club, were on a climbing holiday in Scotland.
Mr Biselx, President of the Club Alpin Suisse (CAS), in Sion, said: ‘This trip was not organized by the CAS.
‘My three friends proposed this trip because I have been going through a difficult time on a personal level. I finally agreed and we organized this trip around Christmas time.
Donald Paterson, deputy team leader of Lochaber Mountain Rescue Team (MRT) points to gully five on the north ridge of Ben Nevis where an avalanche took place
A diagram showing Number 5 Gully on Ben Nevis, where the avalanche struck on Tuesday
Mathieu Biselx, left, said the group’s climb on Tuesday was their first excursion on the mountain. Pictured right: a climber on Ben Nevis prior to the avalanche
‘We had dreamed of this trip for weeks. My three closest friends are dead…It’s horrible. ‘We arrived Sunday evening in Scotland. Our first trip into the mountains was on Tuesday.
‘We knew the dangers. We consulted guides but it wasn’t sufficient. We clearly had the misfortune to be in the wrong place at the wrong time. It’s a miracle I am still alive.
‘I think of my friends and their families. It goes round and round in my head.’
Mr Biselx, who has a young daughter, said: ‘It’s a terrible drama. Two died instantly, the third soon after. They were great people.
A Police vehicle at the Nevis Range Mountain Resort, with Britain’s highest peak in the background, following the three deaths on the mountain
A climber walking on Ben Nevis on Tuesday prior to the avalanche which killed three people
He continued: ‘Both my legs are seriously injured. ‘My back, one shoulder and one arm are affected, but I’ll get through it. While my friends… It’s a terrible drama. ‘It’s terrible, they are no longer here. They will not see their family again.’
Ben Nevis, near Fort William in the western Highlands, is a popular destination for experienced climbers, attracting 125,000 visitors each year.
Tuesday’s incident follows two recent fatal accidents on the mountain, which at 1,345m is the UK’s highest.
On New Year’s Day, a 21-year-old German woman, who was a student at Bristol University, died after she fell from a ridge she had been climbing with three other people.
She had been hiking on what is known as the ‘ledge route’ when she fell around 500ft.
In December, Patrick Boothroyd, 21, from West Yorkshire, died after falling in the Tower Gully area.