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Three climbers dead following avalanche on Ben Nevis

A fourth climber has been airlifted to Queen Elizabeth University Hospital in Glasgow.

Ben Nevis: Rescue operation mounted on Tuesday morning (file pic).
Ben Nevis: Rescue operation mounted on Tuesday morning (file pic).

Three climbers have died and another has been injured after an avalanche on Ben Nevis.

Police Scotland were alerted to the incident shortly after 11.50am on Tuesday and began coordinating a mountain rescue response at Number 5 Gully.

Initially, police said two climbers had died and two were injured but later on Tuesday confirmed one of the injured climbers had since died.

The other climber was flown to Queen Elizabeth University Hospital in Glasgow.

Police Scotland's 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."

First Minister Nicola Sturgeon earlier said the deaths were "absolutely tragic news".

She tweeted: "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."

Mark Diggins, coordinator and senior forecaster for the Scottish Avalanche Information Service, told STV that rescuers faced "very, very challenging conditions" in the area.

He said: "Our hearts and condolences go out to the families, and to our teams.

"It's a traumatic event for them also - it's been a difficult day for everybody.

"Today we've had zero visibility, very, very challenging blizzard conditions and a high avalanche hazard.

"Just ten days ago we had no snow; we were walking around in T-shirts. These extreme changes are real challenges for us."

' This is heartbreaking news. I'm sure that the hearts of everybody in the local area go out to those who are grieving'
Kate Forbes, MSP for Skye, Lochaber and Badenoch

Skye, Lochaber and Badenoch MSP Kate Forbes said: "First and foremost my thoughts are with the families of the climbers. This is heartbreaking news.

"I'm sure that the hearts of everybody in the local area go out to those who are grieving. I sincerely hope that there are no further casualties.

"Sincere gratitude, as always, goes to the volunteers in Lochaber and Glencoe Mountain Rescue Teams. They are ready and willing to go out in all weathers whenever the call comes.

"We have fantastic terrain in Lochaber that attracts thousands of climbers and walkers every year, and it is desperately sad when people come to harm."

Police Scotland coordinated the mountain rescue response, with volunteers from Lochaber Mountain Rescue and Glencoe Mountain Rescue teams attending.

Support at the scene was also received from the Coastguard and Maritime Agency and Scottish Ambulance Service.

Ben Nevis, near Fort William in the western Highlands, is a popular destination for experienced climbers, attracting 125,000 visitors each year.

Tuesday's incident follows two recent fatal accidents on the mountain, which at 1345m 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.

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