Their bodies were found by rescue services near Europe’s highest
peak, Mont Blanc, yesterday morning.

Mr Saunders, who is believed to be from Buckinghamshire, had
called for help at 2pm local time on Saturday after Charlie fell
down a cliff on a mountain trail in the Chamonix Valley. It is
thought he died trying to rescue his son.

A statement issued by their family last night said: “Peter and
Charlie Saunders had flown to the French Alps for a short weekend
of adventure in the Chamonix Valley. They were to have a half day
walking followed by a full day skiing.

“Charlie was always full of life, had a really happy temperament
and loved spending time with his father. Peter was fantastic at
making things happen, resourceful, with a positive approach to
life. They will both be sorely missed by friends and family
alike.”

The family also thanked the French rescue services and asked for
its privacy to be respected.

After flying into Geneva airport in Switzerland, the pair had
set out on a hike known as Le Couloir des Bossons on Saturday
morning. The trail, described by police as “very steep” with
slippery rocks, is not recommended to be climbed in winter.

They are thought to have fallen “several hundred metres” to
their deaths at an area of the valley known as “La Jonction”.

According to French media, the father and son took a chairlift
from Bossons village to the bottom of the Bossons Glacier at around
4,500ft.

They then began ascending La Jonction between the Bossons and
Taconnaz glaciers – the route taken by the first Frenchmen to climb
the 15,780ft Mount Blanc in 1786. The rescue centre at Annecy, in
South-eastern France, received a brief call from the father at
around 2pm on Saturday, saying that his son had fallen and
disappeared.

“We think the father tried to find his son after he called us
and asked for rescue. We believe he fell as he tried to find his
son,” Capt Patrice Ribes, the deputy commander of the mountain
rescue gendarmerie at Chamonix, said. Moments later, before the man
could give precise details of his location, the call was cut
off.

Initial reports suggest the father had fallen to his death while
on the telephone with rescue services. Both were said not to be
wearing climbing equipment on the snowy trail.

It took until yesterday to discover the bodies due to the huge
search area involved, Capt Ribes said.

The boy appeared to have fallen 300 metres while his father fell
around 200 metres, investigators said.

Capt Ribes said: “They had equipment for a day’s hiking with
trekking-type shoes but not suited to the winter mountains with
snow and ice.”

Mountain guides said the routes around Mont Blanc had been
covered in snow over the weekend.

“The footpaths usually don’t get that many people out at this
time of year because they are much more difficult to navigate,”
said Richard Mansfield, a guide who has worked at Chamonix.

British hiker falls to death while trying to save 12-year-old son in Alps – The Independent
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