A PhD student originally from Blackburn who died following the avalanche at Glencoe was one of Scotland’s foremost amateur mountain bikers, friends and teammates have said.

Christopher Bell, 24, was described as an ‘unassuming gentleman’ who competed at a top level in the nation’s toughest off-road challenges.

Ben Thompson, a friend and teammate of Mr Bell, who rode for the Highlands-based Nevis Cycles team, said: “He was one of the top amateurs in Scotland in off-road triathlon and mountain biking.

“He was certainly a competitive character but didn’t have an aggressive character. He believed we were all in it together. We weren’t so much a racing team as a bunch of pals.”

Mr Bell recently ranked within the top 15 at the Celtman Extreme Scottish Triathlon, a major endurance event that attracts entrants from throughout Britain and Europe. The event consists of a 2.5-mile swim in Loch Shieldaig, a 26-mile run over two munros and a 125.5-mile Highland cycle ride, all of which he completed in under 14 hours.

Celtman organisers paid tribute to Mr Bell on their website, saying: “Christopher competed in the 2012 Celtman and placed an impressive 14th with the help of his great support crew (his parents). Our thoughts go out to all who knew Chris and of course to the families and friends of the other climbers involved."

Mr Bell was studying for a PhD in ocean mapping in Oban.

Those close to him said he loved the Highlands and enjoyed being in Oban.

Friend Kevin Whitehead, who went on bike rides with Mr Bell, said he was an exceptional cyclist.

“He was just getting better and better," he said. "He was big on mountain biking and getting into road biking and won some of the local time-trials.”

The Northern Constabulary police force on Sunday confirmed Mr Bell was among the four people who died following an avalanche at Glencoe on Saturday.

A date is to be set for Mr Bell’s funeral.