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Fundraisers among avalanche victims
Gendarmes use blankets to hide victims of an avalanche at Chamonix rescue base in the French Alps (AP)
Two Britons killed in an avalanche in the French Alps were fathers of young children and had been raising funds for a local hospice, it has emerged.
Steve Barber, 47, and John Taylor, 48, lived in the same street in Upper Poppleton, a village to the north-west of York. They both had children at Poppleton Ousebank School.
The third British man who lost his life after being hit by a massive wall of snow was Roger Payne, one of the UK's most respected climbers and former general secretary of the British Mountaineering Council (BMC).
A total of nine climbers were killed as they traversed Mont Maudit - translated as Cursed Mountain - in the Mont Blanc range near Chamonix. Among the other victims were three Germans, two Spaniards and one Swiss climber. They were part of a 28-strong group which left a climbing hut to attempt the route, described by local guides as the second most popular to the top of Mont Blanc.
A church service is to be held in Chamonix on Saturday afternoon in memory of the dead climbers, said French Interior Minister Manuel Valls.
Daniel Rossetto, a 63-year-old mountain guide who survived the avalanche, said the experience was like being "in a washing machine". Mr Rossetto was leading two Danish climbers up the mountain and believes the trio survived because they were at the edge of the falling slab of snow.
He told France's Le Parisien newspaper: "We were on the edge of the avalanche - that was our fortune - while the other climbers were held under by masses of snow." He described being tied up "like a sausage" in his rope and added that when the avalanche hit, it was "without sound, just a gust".
Parents at Poppleton Ousebank School were told in a letter from headteacher Estelle O'Hara: "It is with great sadness that I write to inform you that two of the climbers killed in yesterday's avalanche in the French Alps were parents from Poppleton Ousebank - Steve Barber, father of Frankie in Year 5 and John Taylor, father of Emma in Year 5 and Louise in Year 3. Our thoughts and prayers go out to both Donna Rogers and Karine Taylor who have both lost their life-long partners."
The mountaineering world has paid tribute to Mr Payne. Dave Turnbull, the current chief executive of the BMC, said he was "shocked and saddened" by the tragic death of the avalanche instructor and mountain guide, saying: "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."
Janet Morley, director of fundraising at St Leonard's Hospice in York, said: "In May, St Leonard's heard from his partner Donna that Steve Barber intended to do an ice-climb on Mont Blanc and had chosen to raise funds for St Leonard's Hospice in York as an important local charity. We are devastated to hear of Steve's death and the deaths of John Barber and Roger Payne, as well as of the other victims."