Public school master in 600ft death plunge as New Year brings little respite from Britain's big freeze

Enthusiast: Nicholas Rosedale from Marlborough, Wiltshire, who died with fellow teacher William Wilkinson in an avalanche on Ben Nevis

Enthusiast: Rupert Rosedale from Marlborough, Wiltshire, who died with fellow teacher William Wilkinson in an avalanche on Ben Nevis

Freezing weather ushered in the New Year after the coldest December for more than a decade claimed a number of lives.

Forecasters warned the big chill would continue to grip the country into the first weekend of 2010 with temperatures plummeting as low as minus 15C.

The big freeze led to hazardous driving conditions across the country and avalanches in the Scottish Highlands.

One of the victims of the bitterly cold weather was a teacher at one of the country's most prestigious public schools.

Rupert Rosedale, 37, head of outdoor activities at £21,000 a year Marlborough College, was swept 600ft to his death by an avalanche on Ben Nevis.

He and fellow teacher, William Wilkinson, 34, were close to the 4,409ft summit when they were hit by a huge tide of snow on Wednesday morning.

Another friend, who was part of the three-strong climbing team, survived unhurt and raised the alarm. But by then it was too late.

Mountain rescuers later found the bodies of the two teachers buried under 6ft of snow on the north face of Britain's highest peak.

A third climber, Chris Astill, 53, from Tideswell in Derbyshire, died in hospital after being caught in a separate avalanche on the same day at Torridon, Wester Ross.

Despite sub-zero temperatures in many places, hundreds of thousands of revellers braved the chill for New Year's Eve parties.

As Big Ben chimed midnight, it was around 3C in London but elsewhere it was far colder, with crowds at the huge outdoor Hogmanay party in Edinburgh celebrating in temperatures of minus 6C.

A major Hogmanay street party in Inverness was cancelled after heavy snow left routes in and around the Highland city treacherous.

Last night, the family of Mr Rosedale, an experienced climber who had taught at Marlborough College for ten years, said he died 'doing what he loved'.

His 72-year-old father, Barney Rosedale, a local GP, was the official doctor who accompanied the famous 1972 Everest climb team.

'We are shocked and devastated by the sudden loss of a faithful and devoted husband and father, a son to be proud of and an exemplar of a brother,' he said yesterday.

Bogged: A stranded car on Saddleworth Moor, near Oldham, Lancashire yesterday

Going nowhere: A stranded car on Saddleworth Moor, near Oldham, Lancashire yesterday

Farmer Peter Laidlaw from Craigannet Farm feeds his sheep on the snow covered hills of the Carron Valley, Central Scotland

Farmer Peter Laidlaw from Craigannet feeds his sheep on the snow-covered hills of the Carron Valley, Central Scotland

'He died well equipped, highly experienced and doing what he loved to do and did supremely well.

'As an outdoors instructor at Marlborough College he has inspired several generations of young climbers and adventurers.

'He was just in the wrong place at the wrong time - as the mountain rescue co-ordinator said.

'Avalanches can happen to any mountaineer at any time. It's part of the lifestyle that you live with that risk and if necessary die with it.

'This was the risk he was prepared to take because it was what he loved doing.'

Dr Rosedale, an experienced mountaineer himself, said the family were now trying to comfort his son's widow, Ulrika, and their two children, Ted, three, and one-year-old Svea.

He said his son had followed in his footsteps and begun climbing at the age of ten. By the time he was 13 the pair had already climbed together in the Himalayas.

But having spent the last decade working as a teacher he was now training to be a mountain guide and had already bought a house at Chamonix in the Swiss Alps.

His friend and fellow climber, Mr Wilkinson, who was originally from Nottinghamshire but lived with his partner Becky in Inverness, was a geography teacher at Culloden Academy.

A neighbour said: 'He was a lovely guy, who would do anything for you. He was a keen mountaineer who lived for his life on the hills.'

Stephen Dowds, headteacher at Culloden Academy, described Mr Wilkinson, who had been at the school for one year, as 'an excellent young teacher with a tremendous amount of promise'.

A full-scale search and rescue for the two men was launched by the Lochaber Mountain Rescue team at 10.50am on Wednesday after the last surviving member of their party, Mark Walker, from Wales, raised the alarm.

By mid-afternoon both bodies had been located. They were buried beneath the snow, six feet apart from one another.

Pictured: Jamie Oliver and family pose in the snow

Pictured: Jamie Oliver and family pose in the snow yesterday while out on a walk near their home in Saffron Walden, Essex

Ramblers enjoy a New Year's Eve walk on the Derbyshire Hills near Mamtor yesterday

Ramblers enjoy a New Year's Eve walk on the Derbyshire Hills near Mamtor yesterday

In a statement Marlborough College's Master, Nicholas Sampson, said: 'Rupert was, quite simply, a wonderful young man who set the healthiest of examples to young people.

'He was patient, skilful, committed and utterly professional: above all, he was generous of spirit. He revealed new horizons to many pupils.

'His loss will be keenly felt throughout our community and our heartfelt sympathies go to his family.'

In a separate incident a woman died after her Renault Clio car careered off a single-track road in Horton, Gloucestershire, and ploughed into a 3ft deep pond.

Witnesses said it appeared as though the 47 year old woman, believed to be from Bristol, had tried to escape through the sunroof before drowning.

It took the total death toll in the last three days to seven. In addition to the three dead climbers, three men were killed in a car crash on the M62 on Tuesday evening.

Met Office forecaster Sarah Holland said the wintry weather would remain well into next week.

Part of Wales, north-west England and western Scotland could see temperatures fall as low as -6C.

'It's going to remain very cold,' she said. In southern parts we are going to see some nice bright sunshine but in the north it's going to be a little more unsettled with some sleet and snow.'

Pond where woman died

Crash scene: The pond where a woman died after her Renault Clio smashed through a fence in icy conditions

Crash scene

Deadly trail: The tyre tracks of the car before it hit the fence are clearly visible leading down to the pond

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