THE family of a British climber who plunged more than 300ft to his death in the Austrian mountains said he was “living his dream”.

Malcolm McDonald, 42, was found dead after falling from the famous “stairway to heaven” ladder in the Dachstein Mountains.

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Malcolm McDonald was found dead after the horror accident in AustriaCredit: Facebook
He fell while climbing the via ferrata Donnerkogel in the Dachstein mountains

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He fell while climbing the via ferrata Donnerkogel in the Dachstein mountainsCredit: Alamy
The passionate climber tackled the 'stairway to heaven' on the Via ferrata Donnerkogel

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The passionate climber tackled the ‘stairway to heaven’ on the Via ferrata Donnerkogel

The retail manager had travelled to the range near Salzburg to tackle the Via ferrata Donnerkogel hike.

The Via ferrata – meaning “iron way” – features an enormous metal ladder strung up between two mountain peaks.

Made up of a dizzyingly long 130ft stretch of rungs, the ladder sits at nearly 300ft above the ground.

Malcolm, from Northern Ireland, was climbing it alone when disaster struck on September 12.

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Emergency services rushed to the scene – including two helicopter crews – but were unable to save him.

His body was recovered from the deep gully underneath the ladder after the horror fall.

Malcom’s heartbroken family described him as “kind and caring” in an emotional tribute.

His sister Alison McDonald told Belfast Live: “We as a family are heartbroken by Malcolm’s death as the result of a tragic accident.

“But we are comforted by the fact that he was living his dream in the mountains and had completed the Spartan Trifecta two days earlier.

“Life won’t be the same without him. We wish to thank everyone who has sent their condolences and support at this heartbreaking time.

“He was loved by all who knew him and the world will be a darker place without him.”

His mountaineering group also paid tribute to him online.

They wrote: “It is with great sadness for all of us this morning to learn of the passing of our esteemed member, Malcolm McDonald.

“Malcolm was a very popular member and was always up for a challenge.

“There is little peace knowing that Malcolm achieved his Spartan goal in Austria and spent his last moments doing something he loved.

“He will be dearly missed. Our thoughts and prayers go out to his entire family circle and friends at this sad time.”

The passionate climber had been visiting Austria to compete in the Spartan Trifecta adventure race the weekend before his accident.

Local police stressed that the horror incident was an “accident” and ruled out any third-party negligence.

The Stairway to Heaven, run by Inter-sport, is a challenge popular with extreme thrill seekers.

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It’s also a revered beauty spot popular often featured by tourists on Instagram.

A Foreign Office spokesman said: “We are supporting the family of a British national who died in Austria and are in contact with the local authorities.”

Malcom's heartbroken family described him as 'kind and caring' in an emotional tribute

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Malcom’s heartbroken family described him as ‘kind and caring’ in an emotional tributeCredit: Facebook
His mountaineering group said he would be 'dearly missed'

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His mountaineering group said he would be ‘dearly missed’Credit: Facebook
The climber was visiting Austria to compete in the Spartan Trifecta adventure race two days before his accident

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The climber was visiting Austria to compete in the Spartan Trifecta adventure race two days before his accidentCredit: Alamy
Police stressed the horror incident was an 'accident' and ruled out any third-party involvement

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Police stressed the horror incident was an ‘accident’ and ruled out any third-party involvementCredit: Facebook

Ellie Doughty

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