Teacher killed on Ben Nevis after accidentally triggering an avalanche

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Mark Bessell died after falling almost 2,000ft while climbing Ben Nevis (Image: Getty Images/iStockphoto)
Mark Bessell died after falling almost 2,000ft while climbing Ben Nevis (Image: Getty Images/iStockphoto)

A popular teacher and climber died after plunging nearly 2,000 feet in an avalanche on Ben Nevis.

It is believed Mark Bessell, 49, and a fellow climber, a 42-year-old man, accidently triggered the avalanche while they were close to the top of the mountain in the Scottish Highlands.

Both men fell and incredibly the other man survived, although badly hurt. Mark, however, was sadly killed by the fall, which happened on December 30.

Mark, an experienced climber, was a teacher at Ashton Park School in Bristol and led trips as the school's outdoor educational and external visits co-ordinator.

In March 2022 he headed up a trip taking 20 students to Iceland where they climbed volcanoes and glaciers.

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Headteacher at the school Richard Uffendell paid tribute to the teacher in a statement released to parents and said Mark will be ‘hugely missed’.

Teacher killed on Ben Nevis after accidentally triggering an avalancheIt's believed Mark and a fellow climber triggered an avalanche on the mountain (Getty Images/iStockphoto)

Mr Uffendell said: "I am sorry I could not ring you individually but I wanted all of you to find out with time to process the situation.

"It is with the deepest regret that I inform you that Mark Bessell has passed away following a tragic accident on Friday 30th December.

"Mark was climbing on Ben Nevis and was caught in an avalanche. Mark suffered a significant fall and despite the efforts of mountain rescue has sadly passed away.

“Mark was a huge part of Ashton Park and he will be hugely missed, but never forgotten.

“Our deepest sympathies go to the family and especially Charlie, during this very difficult and upsetting time.

“We are in contact with Charlie and are following her wishes and respecting her privacy.

"We are offering support to all students and staff, including the use of external agencies at this difficult time.

“Mr Bessell also led a number of outdoor educational trips and visits.

“When we have further information on the next steps with this, we will be in further contact with you.

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“I appreciate your patience and understanding,

"When the time is appropriate, we will work with Mr Bessell’s family on how we will remember the huge positive impact he had on the lives of all at Ashton Park School and Sixth Form, and all of South Bristol.

“I understand you may find this deeply distressing.

“I am truly sorry to share this news with you.

“My sympathies to you.”

Mountaineer Mark was in a party of four on Number Two Gully on the north side of the mountain when it is thought he and another man, aged 42, inadvertently triggered an avalanche.

Donald Paterson, the leader of the Lochaber Mountain Rescue Team said: "It appears they were near the top and their weight made a cornice [an overhanging ledge of snow] give way and that triggered the avalanche.

“The wind conditions meant that the helicopter couldn't get in so the teams found the pair on top of the snow and stretchered them off the mountain.

"They must have fallen 600 metres (1968ft) and the chap who survived was very lucky.

“Though badly injured, he dodged a bullet while his friend didn't.

“Sadly, so often, that is the luck of the draw.

“We wish to extend our condolences to the deceased's family and friends at this difficult time.”

A Police Scotland spokesperson said: "Around 3.25pm on Friday, December 30, 2022, we received a report of two people falling in an avalanche at Ben Nevis.

“The Lochaber Mountain Rescue Team were dispatched and a 49-year-old man was pronounced dead at the scene.

“A 42-year-old man was taken to Belford Hospital with non-life threatening injuries."

Sara Odeen-Isbister

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