Tragic climber saved brother's life in Italian fall
A MAN who died after plummeting 200 metres on Mont Blanc had previously saved his brother's life during another perilous climb.
Peter Britton (55), from Clonmel, Co Tipperary, and Colm Ennis (37), from Waterford city, fell to their deaths while climbing the Dent du Geant, or Giant's Tooth, section of western Europe's highest mountain range on Sunday afternoon.
Mountain police in the Mont Blanc region reported that the men got into difficulty in their climb when they "slipped" and "broke loose" from their ropes.
The men had travelled to the mountain range with the Rathgormack Climbing Club, which Mr Britton founded.
Father-of-three Mr Britton lived in Clonmel, Co Tipperary.
Mr Britton's family described him and Mr Ennis as "firm friends" and described their deaths as "an unspeakable tragedy".
"The family and friends of Peter Britton are shocked and saddened by the tragic accident that occurred on the descent from the summit of Mont Blanc in the French Alps," they said in a statement.
Mr Britton worked as a senior civil engineer with Tipperary County Council. A colleague described him as "salt of the earth material".
"He was very outgoing. He loved the outdoors," they said.
Mr Ennis, from Lismore in Co Waterford, worked at Amazon's Customer Service operations in Cork and was as a scout leader.
Mr Ennis received a Gold Merit medal for bravery from Scouting Ireland after saving the life of his brother Aidan, also a scout leader and climber, in the Dolomites in Italy three years ago.
Fellow scout leader David Collins said Mr Ennis climbed back up the mountain after a horrendous 60-metre fall in order to get coverage for his mobile.
He said that Mr Ennis did so with a broken arm and several other serious injuries.
"He kept Aidan alive as he was unconscious throughout the whole thing," Mr Collins said.
"I've been ringing around telling people that he has died and everyone was very upset. He was very well liked. He was a fantastic friend to everyone."
Mr Britton had enthusiastically posted about the trip on the climbing club's Facebook page last week.
He wrote: "We will be away for the next while, climbing an Alp or two."
It is believed that the two stayed in a small hotel on the Italian side of the Alps the night before their fall, before crossing into French territory.
The two men were seen falling by other climbers some distance away.
A team of emergency personnel reached the pair by helicopter within 15 minutes and found their bodies close to one another at the bottom of the slope.
A spokesperson for PGHM High Mountain Rescue said all indications were that the men were experienced and well-equipped.
Mountaineering Ireland chief executive Karl Boyle described both men as "very experienced climbers" who had made a "huge contribution" to the sport at both a local and national level.
He said: "They've been to the Alps many times, would have been well prepared and they would have been very aware of the risks of that environment."