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Brits killed in devastating Alps avalanche named

Steve Barber, 47, (left) and John Taylor, 48, were killed in an avalanche in the French Alps on Thursday Photo: North Yorkshire Police

Two Britons killed in a major avalanche in the French Alps were named by the Foreign Office as Steve Barber and John Taylor.

They died alongside Roger Payne, one of the UK's most respected climbers and former general secretary of the British Mountaineering Council (BMC).

Roger Payne, who was killed in an avalanche in the French Alps. Credit: rogerpayne.info

They were among nine people who lost their lives after being hit by a massive wall of snow on Thursday as they traversed Mont Maudit - translated as Cursed Mountain - in the Mont Blanc range near Chamonix.

Mr Payne, who was an avalanche instructor and well known across many branches of world climbing, was described as "one of the very best mountain guides" by fellow enthusiasts.

Mont Maudit in the French Alps following the avalanche which struck on Thursday. Credit: Mountain Tracks

The mountaineering world is shocked and saddened to learn of the tragic death of Roger Payne, former BMC General Secretary and former President of the British Mountain Guides.

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. Our thoughts are with Roger’s friends and family – in particular his wife Julie-Ann.

– Dave Turnbull, BMC Chief Executive

Mr Payne’s family paid tribute to a man who they said "died doing what he loved".

His brother Keith told The Daily Telegraph that Roger "would never take any chances" when it came to climbing:

Roger had been climbing for 25 years. He would never take any chances, he was a true professional.

All I know is there was and avalanche and it was not expected, a freak of nature and there were several bodies found.

Our mother is 92 and lives on her own. Everything time there is an accident on a mountain she thinks of Roger – she is devastated.

We will miss him greatly. He died doing what he loved doing. He will never be forgotten.

Kenton Cool, a leading Alpine climber who knew Mr Payne, told the BBC he was "one of the very best mountain guides" and said he was "stunned into a silence" after hearing the news.

Mountaineer Sir Chris Bonington has also paid tribute to Mr Payne:

Mr Payne had been a qualified mountain guide since 1983 and had taken part in more than 20 expeditions to high and difficult peaks across the Karakoram and Himalayan ranges, including K2.

He had also climbed in North and South America, BMC vice president Ed Douglas wrote on the council's website.

Wherever you were in the world - in an alpine hut, a film festival in the States or a committee meeting in Manchester - you were pleased to see him. He will be sorely missed.

– Ed Douglas, BMC vice president

Mr Payne first discovered climbing through the Scouts in Hammersmith, west London. He began climbing around the UK and, after taking an education degree, developed a career as a teacher and instructor.

Mr Payne undertook his first expedition with his wife, New Zealand-born guide Julie-Ann Clyma, in Peru in 1986.

During the next 25 years, Mr Payne and Ms Clyma embarked on some of the most significant British expeditions of the last two decades, notably to the north face of Changabang, in the Himalayas in 1996, according to Mr Douglas.

As well as Mr Payne and the two other Britons who are yet to be named, the avalanche claimed the lives of two Spaniards, three Germans and one Swiss, according to the Prefecture de la Haute-Savoie.

They all were part of a 28-strong group which left a climbing hut to attempt the route, described by local guides the second most popular to the top of Mont Blanc, following a 1am breakfast.

The group included independent climbers and others supervised by professional mountaineering guides.

At around 5.20am, French authorities received reports that a "slab" avalanche had hit several groups of mountaineers who were roped together on the northern face of Mont Maudit at 13,123ft (4,000m).

Mr Payne undertook his first expedition with his wife, New Zealand-born guide Julie-Ann Clyma, in Peru in 1986.

During the next 25 years, Mr Payne and Ms Clyma embarked on some of the most significant British expeditions of the last two decades, notably to the north face of Changabang, in the Himalayas in 1996, according to Mr Douglas.

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