Three people have died and one other has been injured after an avalanche on Ben Nevis, the UK’s highest mountain, Police Scotland has said.
Police Scotland were alerted to the incident at Number 5 Gully shortly after 11.50am on Tuesday and began co-ordinating a mountain rescue response.
Fort William Inspector Isla Campbell said: “This has been a challenging operation and I want to pass on my thanks to the mountain rescue teams, colleagues at the Maritime & Coastguard Agency and Scottish Ambulance Service for their assistance in extremely difficult conditions.
“I would also like to praise members of the public and staff from the Scottish Avalanche Information Service who were on scene at the time and provided immediate assistance.”
Volunteers from Lochaber and Glencoe mountain rescue teams remain at the scene and are being assisted by the Maritime and Coastguard Agency and Scottish Ambulance Service.
The Scottish first minister, Nicola Sturgeon, tweeted her condolences: “This is absolutely tragic news. My thoughts are very much with the bereaved and injured. And my gratitude as always for the work of our emergency services, mountain rescue and coastguard.”
A hiker who reached the summit of Ben Nevis on Friday said they were “very lucky” to complete the expedition.
Ambre Boucher and a group of friends set off from a local youth hostel, taking the mountain track to hike to and from the summit between 9am and 5pm.
“It was cold, heavy winds, snow flurries,” the 41-year-old nurse from South Wales told the Press Association.
“There was a whiteout at the top which got a bit scary, our footprints were being covered, but we managed to find our way down with another climber.
“There was an announcement over the weekend, I believe.We saw the risks yesterday. We still went and we were very lucky.”
After hearing the news of the deaths on their way back to Wales, she said the group are “thanking our lucky stars” and “hope (the missing climbers) are all accounted for now”.
The Scottish Ambulance Service sent three ambulances and a trauma team to the peak on Tuesday. A spokesman said: “We received a call at 12:22 hours today to attend an incident in Ben Nevis.
“We dispatched three ambulances, a Helimed resource and our trauma team to the scene.”
Tuesday’s incident follows two recent fatal accidents on the mountain which at 1,345m is the UK’s highest.
On New Year’s Day a 21-year-old German woman, who was a student at Bristol University, died after she fell from a ridge she had been climbing with three other people.
She had been hiking on what is known as the “ledge route” when she fell around 500ft.
In December Patrick Boothroyd, 21, from West Yorkshire, died after falling in the Tower Gully area.