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Friends of dead climbers to help rescue teams

FRIENDS of some of the four climbers killed in an avalanche in Glen Coe are to take part in a 24-hour cycle race in an attempt to raise up to £20,000 for mountain rescue teams.

Tomorrow's event will begin just a week after Dr Rachel Majumdar, Chris Bell, Una Finnegan and Tom Chesters were killed when their party was swept more than 1000ft down Bidean nam Bian.

Luke Bradley, 24, who was a friend of Mr Bell's from St Andrews University and knew fellow victims Tom Chesters and his girlfriend Rachel Majumdar, will compete with friends Oli Young, Huw Oliver and Pete Devlin in the Strathpuffer mountain bike race.

It will run from 10am until 10am on Sunday, at Strathpeffer near Dingwall, Ross-shire.

The money is to be divided between the mountain rescue teams who went up the mountain and tried to save the stricken party.

A 24-year-old woman remains critical in Glasgow's Southern General Hospital and a sixth member of the group, a man, survived by getting out of the way of the avalanche.

Mr Bradley, a geologist working in Leeds, kept in touch with Mr Bell, from Blackburn, Lancashire.

He had also met Mr Chesters, from Sidmouth, Devon, and his girlfriend Ms Majumdar, 29, originally from Merseyside.

He said: "It's been really devastating. Sunday and Monday were very tough, emotional days. As time has gone on I have just this big weight pressing down on me. It's very unpleasant."

He added: "Chris was meant to race this with me four years ago but was unable to make it. But in 2008 we entered the Puffer Lite, the summer equivalent, and won it.

"Neither of us had won a race before. Then the next month we won a race in Manchester."

US-based Bike Magazine voted the Strathpeffer route as one of the top 10 hardest mountain bike events in the world. Participants race over 200 miles over several inches of ice and snow.

Luke's Just Giving webpage had a total of around £13,500 and rising, which when the tax relief is included would bring it to well over £16,000.

He said: "I have been completely overwhelmed by the response. The outdoor community really has been exceptionally good.

"I really thought it would be a token few quid we could raise for Glencoe Mountain Rescue Team.

"They have been in touch to say they thought it would be a good idea to share the money with the Lochaber team who were also involved."

Mr Bell had been in his third year of a doctorate in ocean mapping at the Scottish Association For Marine Science (SAMS) research centre at Dunstaffnage, north of Oban, part of the University of the Highlands and Islands.

However, Luke met him when he joined St Andrews University cycle club.

He said: "There were only about six of us. Then Chris became captain and there were about 30 of us.

"To be honest at that time he didn't do much hillwalking. I think moving to Oban opened up so many opportunities for him with the mountains on his doorstep that he couldn't resist. "

He said Mr Bell was classed as an elite level rider, the highest classification in the national rankings in Britain in mountain biking.

He said: "He had also started doing some road racing and had won a few time trials. He also entered the Celtman Extreme Scottish Triathlon last year and came 14th."

That was out of the 125 who completed the 2.4-mile sea loch swim in Loch Shieldaig, a 125-mile bike ride with 2000 metres of climb and a 26-mile run, mostly off-road and over two Munros.

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