A mountain climber from Preston survived a freezing night on a Scottish mountain – by sharing a survival bag with his pal.
Matthew Beals, 28, from Longton, near Preston, was stuck on the Cairngorms for a nightmare 16 hours with fellow climber Tom Riddelsdell, 27.
The pair had been on a technical rock climb but became disoriented when darkness fell.
They decided to dig a small snow cave to protect themselves from the freezing conditions, but disaster struck when the shelter collapsed on top of them.
The only way to survive was to share the single sleeping bag they had with them.
Today rescued workers said that without the waterproof bag, it is unlikely they would have survived.
Matthew, a financial analyst who now lives in London, said: “It was fine when we were digging the hole but when we got into it and into the bivvy bag, that was a bit scary.
“It was dripping wet and we could hear the wind howling.”
The drama unfolded last Wednesday night and the pair were rescued the following day.
Cairngorm Mountain rescue team leader Willie Anderson said: “They were soaked when the snowhole collapsed.
“They had just one ‘bivvy’ bag between them so they both had to get into it.
“It probably saved them from hypothermia. If they did not have a bivvy bag, it would have been a different story.”
The two were climbing on Stag Rocks at Loch Avon, deep in the mountains, which rescue teams said had been struck by a series of avalanches in recent days.
However, their ascent was slower than expected and they decided to abandon their climb without completing it.
A rope then became stuck during their descent, forcing Matthew to climb back up to dislodge it, which delayed them further.
By the time they reached the bottom, it was dark and it was then the two decided to stay put for the night.
Tom, a software developer from the Isle of Wight, added: “It was pitch black and we couldn’t see the gully.
“We didn’t want to get lost on the plateau so we decided to dig in.
“It was windy enough to knock you over. It was blowing very hard.
“We couldn’t believe the efforts of the rescuers. We massively appreciate it. They are heroes and legends.”
Rescue teams caught up with the exhausted pair the morning after when they had set off walking again.
The men’s companions, who had completed their trip earlier, raised the alarm on Wednesday evening when they did not return.
The Cairngorm Mountain Rescue Team was alerted at 7.30pm but postponed the search after receiving a text from the men saying they had taken shelter.