|An undated photograph of Rachel Majumdar
London, Jan. 22: A 29-year-old Bengali-origin doctor, Rachel Majumdar, was named yesterday as one of four friends who died in a climbing accident last Saturday in Glencoe in the Scottish Highlands.
Coming down a mountain is the most dangerous part of mountaineering, it is said, and so it proved for the four climbers even though they were reasonably experienced and well kitted out.
They were coming down from a 3,773ft slope peak known as Bidean Nam Bian when they stepped on an ice slab which broke loose, triggering an avalanche and plunging the climbers 1000ft.
Glencoe draws climbers and tourists because of its beauty but the mountains in the area have proved very treacherous over the years.
The four were in an area known as Church Door Buttress when the avalanche struck.The bodies were recovered from under many tons of snow by Glencoe Mountain Rescue, who said the avalanche would have taken just a “split second” to engulf the group.
Police withheld Rachel’s name until yesterday to allow her extended family to be informed. She was a keen member of Deeside Orienteering Club, which paid tribute on its website and Twitter.
“We are very sorry to have to report that Rachel died in the avalanche in Glencoe on Saturday 19 January (at 2pm),” it stated. “The club sends its deepest sympathy to Barbara, Buddha, Amy, Lisa and Grace in their loss.”
Rachel was the daughter of former Mersey Docks and Harbour Company chief executive Buddha Majumdar. Now a Mersey Maritime ports and terminals consultant, he emigrated to Britain from India. The family were too upset to speak at their home in Hoylake in the Wirrals in Merseyside.
Rachel died with her boyfriend, Tom Chesters, 28, from Sidmouth in Devon who was a PhD student in medical engineering at Hull University. The two others were Una Finnegan, 25, a junior doctor originally from County Londonderry and living in Edinburgh, and Christopher Bell, 24, from Lancashire who was studying for a PhD in ocean mapping.
There were two others in the party, a man and a woman. The man survived by leaping from the collapsing snow and hammering an ice axe into the ground. The search and rescue teams were first alerted by two climbers who were not part of the group when they saw one of the casualties in the snow.The unnamed survivor also contacted them to say more people were missing. The woman survived but is in a serious condition. in Belford hospital in Fort William.
Sam Morris, a friend, said Tom Chesters and Rachel Majumdar met at university in Leeds. “They were in love since they met in their first year of university,” he said. “They were just so soft and sweet with each other, two people so at ease together. They were having fun making plans.”“They had dreams of doing voluntary work oversees together,” he added. “Some of the comfort we have drawn is that they had been together to the end. At least they were doing what they liked doing.”
Rachel worked at Harrogate District Hospital in Yorkshire where a colleague, Rebecca Leigh, said: “A very promising medical career has been cut tragically short. She was one of the finest doctors I have ever worked with. All the staff and patients who knew Rachel will remember her for her caring nature, with a smile and a friendly word for everyone.”Among those paying tributes has been Scotland's First Minister Alex Salmond: “This is an appalling tragedy.... To lose four people from a party of six is truly devastating. The Scottish government will provide any support that we can and I would like to thank the police and mountain rescue team for their efforts in these difficult circumstances.”
Reverend Moira Herkes, who led a prayer for those involved in the tragedy during her Sunday service at St Munda’s Church, which serves the communities of Glencoe and Ballachulish, commented: “This is the worst accident to happen here for many years. It is very distressing, because people come here for pleasure and when something like this happens it hurts everyone involved. This is a very beautiful place but at times it can be very dangerous.”
Last Saturday’s tragedy is the latest in a series of deadly snowslides in the Glencoe area in recent years. Two climbers were swept away by an avalanche in February 2010.
Christopher Walker, 29, a mountain instructor from Cumbria, and Robert Pritchard, 37, from Surrey, fell 1500ft to their deaths after an avalanche knocked them off their feet.
In 2009, award-winning painter Eamonn Murphy, 61, and his brother John, 63, both from County Antrim, and Brian Murray, 46, from Monifieth, Angus, died on the same mountain when a huge slab of snow came away in blizzard conditions.