THE body of an East Lancashire walker has been found six months after he went missing on a Scottish mountain.

Grant Cunliffe, 49, from Blacko, had been walking alone in the Cairngorm mountains in the Scottish Highlands when he disappeared on January 19.

The former hairdresser was training to become a winter outdoor activities assessor for the Duke of Edinburgh Award scheme.

Despite two major searches, the use of search dogs and weekly smaller searches, mountain rescue teams were unable to find his body because of the severe snow and icy conditions, police said.

His body was eventually discovered by a RAF search and rescue helicopter on a training exercise.

Mr Cunliffe, a dad-of-two, had owned David Grant Hair Design in Barnoldswick for 25 years.

The former head boy of Edge End High School, in Nelson, is thought to have died from injuries sustained during a ‘major’ fall after stepping on to a frozen waterfall which had been disguised as part of the cliff face by the ‘severe’ blizzard like conditions.

Mr Cunliffe’s body was hidden by the snow before any rescue efforts were launched.

His wife Linda said his family were ‘relieved’ that he had been found.

Mrs Cunliffe, of Long Meadow West End, Long Preston, said: “The whole family is very relieved but in the same breath very, very sad.

“It was a shock to hear they had found Grant because we weren’t expecting any news until the end of the month.

“Conditions on the mountain have been so severe that Cairngorm Mountain Rescue Team decided to hold off performing another major search until the snow started to thaw at the end of June.

“But, the recent warmer weather caused the snow to thaw quicker than anyone imagined.

“We are now in the process of planning the funeral and preparing a proper family goodbye.”

He was due to contact his family on Saturday, January 21 but failed to do so and the alarm was raised.

A three-day search was stood down by police around 4pm on Tuesday, January 24, after finding no trace of him.

He is believed to have headed south from Aviemore on a 23-mile walk into Corrour Bothy, a mountain refuge in the Lairig Ghru pass.

The last contact he made to his family was when he phoned from the refuge to say he would probably be out of range for a couple of days.

Around 180 rescue personnel were involved in the initial search which was hampered by foggy weather.

Mr Cunliffe, who had walked in the Cairngorms several times before, had gone up to Scotland to complete part of his training as a Duke of Edinburgh Award assessor.

He needed to sleep in a snow hole for two days as part of his training, but had gone off trekking when he realised there hadn’t been enough snow to complete the challenge.

Mr Cunliffe ran the very successful David Grant Hair Design after training in the profession at Nelson and Colne College.

However, being an experienced walker and climber and having a passion for the great outdoors. he decided to change his career to become an independent outdoor activities organiser, working as a group leader on specialist trips to destinations such as Kenya, Namibia and Peru.

Mrs Cunliffe, who was head girl at Edge End High School, Nelson, when she met her husband of 29 years, said: “Grant was a very determined, very caring and very happy person.

"He had always had a passion for the outdoors and after 25 years of running a very successful salon he decided to take a step back and relax.

“He is in our hearts and is sadly missed by everyone who knew him.”

Northern Constabulary said his body was discovered in the Braeriach area around 3.30pm on Thursday.

As well as his clothing, police discovered other personal items that helped identify him.

His death is not being treated as suspicious and an inquest will not be held as it is discretionary under Scottish law.

Mr Cunliffe’s eldest daughter Jessica, 21, postponed her wedding on April 29, to join her sister Olivia, 16, to complete a sponsored Three Peaks walk in his memory.

His funeral will be held at St Mary’s Parish Church, Long Preston, on June 18.