Couple found side-by-side on Ben Nevis 'killed by avalanche'
Rachel Slater, 24, and Tim Newton, 27, went climbing on the UK's tallest mountain.
A couple found side-by-side on Ben Nevis probably died after being hit by an avalanche, mountain rescuers say.
Rachel Slater, 24, and Tim Newton, 27, went climbing on the UK's tallest mountain on February 13 but did not return.
On Wednesday, a climber discovered Ms Slater's body at the base of the Observatory Gully, near the hut where the couple had been staying.
Twenty members of the Lochaber Mountain Rescue Team were sent to the area and found Mr Newton's body nearby.
Lochaber MRT spokesman Miller Harris said: "They had all their climbing equipment in their rucksacks and were found within two metres of each other.
"We don't know whether they were going up to the route or coming down but there was an avalanche on February 13 they appear to have been hit by.
"We searched the area but they had been carried quite a distance down the mountain and the avalanche was pretty big.
"Other people have been caught up in it but managed to get out."
In a joint statement, their families thanked Lochaber MRT and said they can "now move forward with their lives".
They said: "We would like to thank the mountain rescue teams, climbing community, police in Fort William and all concerned for finding Rachel and Tim, bringing the news we have been waiting for and for their sustained efforts over the last six weeks.
"These brave and generous men and women have worked incredibly hard to find Rachel and Tim in difficult and dangerous conditions. The Lochaber Mountain Rescue Team, police, climbers, friends, family and wider community near and far have been overwhelmingly supportive, generous and kind throughout this difficult time. We have received thoughts, prayers, and messages of kindness from all over the world.
"Although much-anticipated, it still comes as a shock but we are thankful that we can now move forward with our lives in the knowledge that Rachel and Tim were doing what they loved to do. Climbing was their passion, they loved the mountains, wilderness and outdoor spaces."
The couple were experienced climbers and Mr Newton, from Bradford, West Yorkshire, studied physics at Manchester and Leeds universities.
Efforts to find them were hampered by severe weather and a high risk of avalanches. One member of Lochaber MRT was caught in an avalanche during a search but was not seriously injured.
As well as major searches by police, mountain rescue teams and search and rescue dogs, climbers and walkers helped by sharing information about the area.
The climbing community rallied to the cause and a wealth of information was quickly established confirming the couple's movements in the days before they were last seen. Earlier this week, an ice axe was found in the area where mountain rescuers have been searching for the couple.
Ms Slater was a graduate of Manchester University and employed as an environmental consultant near Bradford.
Her parents travelled from their home in Canada shortly after the couple disappeared and praised the work of mountain rescuers.
Mr Newton, originally from Leicester, joined Hinckley Mountaineering Club in Leicestershire in 2010 before moving away to university.