White Hell

in memory of Gray West and Mike Roberts.

On Sunday 20th. January 2013 around 50 climbers walked up Chew Valley to the Wilderness Gulley area to commemorate the tragedy 50 years ago. This was followed by a meal at the Cross Keys.

Images from 2013

from the front page of the

Oldham Evening Chronicle

Monday January 21, 1963

a powerful image which still has the same impact on me now as when it was first published in 1963!


Tom West, Gray's brother is one of the rescuers above.

My mother is on the right hand side just above the prominent shovel.

Bodies of Three Climbers Recovered

Searchers Dig Through Deep Snow

By our Own reporter

The bodies of three climbers who were buried in snow avalanches on Sunday were dug out yesterday. At Turn, near Ramsbottom, Lancashire, the body of Mr. David Levitt, 20, who had Alpine experience, was uncovered from a mound of snow 10ft. deep.
The bodies of Mr. Graham West, 29, of Staley Drive, Staleybridge, Cheshire and Mr. Michael Roberts, 27, of Cemetary Road, Dukinfield, Cheshire, were found under 10ft. of snow at the foot of a gully which climbs out of Chew Brook about four miles from Greenfield, just inside the Yorkshire border with Lancashire.
A team of nearly a 100 – including about 20 policemen, troops from the Royal Army Pay Corps at Ladysmith Barracks, Preston and civilian volunteers, searched for West and Roberts. The civilians included members of the Manchester Gritstone Climbing Club, Manchester, of which West was secretary and Roberts treasurer.
The search was called off shortly before midnight on Sunday, because of appalling weather conditions, when the two men swept down the gully by an avalanche had been missing for about eleven hours.
The two were in a party of four climbing the gully. The others were Mr. John Smith, 19, of Warlow Drive, Greenfield and Alan Wheeler, 16, of North Avenue, Greenfield. Smith said yesterday, as he walked down the Chew Reservoir road, by which the searchers reached the scene:
“ We were in pairs with Graham West and Mike Roberts in front. Everyone had ice axes except me, but we were not roped. The snow in the gully was deep, but it was packed hard and the footholds were good. We were well on the way up when I saw a block of snow coming down at us. There was no warning and the next moment the gully was full of snow rushing down. I got to one side of it, but Alan got caught. I couldn’t see anything at first, but then I saw Alan half buried and helped him out. There was no sign of the other two.”
An hours work
Police and Army vehicles could get no nearer than two miles to the scene of the avalanche yesterday, snowdrifts and ice covering the reservoir road. From there the searchers had an hour’s walk to the gully.
One of the diggers said afterwards, that the snow was frozen hard for several feet. West was found first, lying face down and Roberts was about 15 yards away.
Roberts was the father of five children and West was the father of two. West recently published a book on gritstone climbing and was one of the instructors in a climbing school for learners.


A WAVE of snow, swept by a blizzard from the sheer face of a cliff, crashed down on two climbers and sent them hurtling 200 – ft. into a moorland valley yesterday.
The men, both married with children, were buried under tons of ice and snow.
A third man who was climbing with them cheated death by inches as he dived sideways out of the path of the avalanche.
The drama happened on the bleak 1,500 – ft. Wilderness Crag above Chew Valley, Greenfield, nr. Oldham, Lancashire.


Late last night, Police, Ambulancemen and a thirty strong team of mountain rescuers temporarily called off their search in Artic conditions for the missing men.
GRAHAM WEST, 29, of Staley Drive, Staleybridge, Cheshire and his pal MICHAEL ROBERTS, 27, of Old Street, Dukingfield, Cheshire, who has five children.
The man who escaped, John Smith, 19, of Warlow Drive, Greenfield, said: “ I was behind Michael and Graham when there was a terrific rumbling above us. I looked up and shouted for them to dive to safety. I dived away. Michael and Graham were swept down the side of the mountain.”
Graham, a teacher at Middleton RC Grammar School, has two children and his wife is expecting another.