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Avalanches hit Scottish hills

Three climbers have been killed and two rescued following three separate avalanches in the Highlands. Two were swept away by an avalanche on Ben Nevis shortly before 11am. Another climber was rescued following an avalanche on Liathach which was reported just before midday but later died in hospital. The third avalanche, from which two were rescued, was on Beinn an Dothaidh near Bridge of Orchy.

According to the BBC, the Sportscotland Avalanche Information Service have been monitoring surface hoar, a rare phenomenon for Scotland which is increasing the avalanche risk. It is a slippery layer of snow crystals under ths surface and a common cause of avalanches in the Alps and North America. Mark Diggins (SAIS) said that surface hoar had been forming after the 10 days of very cold weather. Whilst the crystals are usually destroyed by high winds or temporary thaws, the current cold snap has allowed them to build up. “The crystals can be quite dangerous if buried by further falls of snow as they form a very, very weak layer,” Mark was reported as telling the BBC. “The crystals are a bit like soap flakes and create a very slippery layer.”

UPDATE 1418: It has now been reported that the man missing on Liathach has been found alive and conscious and has been airlifted to hospital.

UPDATE 1421: Police have reported that another avalanche has occurred, this time on Beinn an Dothaidh near Bridge of Orchy. The police have said there are possible casualties.

UPDATE 1504: The bodies of the two Ben Nevis climbers have been found in no.3 Gully on the North Face. The search near Bridge of Orchy continues.

UPDATE 1625: Two men, one with minor injuries, have been airlifted by RAF helicopter off Beinn an Dothaidh, near Bridge of Orchy, after they and a companion were struck by an avalanche.

UPDATE 2001: The BBC have reported that the climber rescued from Liathach later died in hospital.

UPDATE 31/12/09: The two climbers killed on the north face of Ben Nevis have been named as 37 year old Rupert Rosedale, an experienced climber and outdoor activities teacher, from Marlborough, Wiltshire, and William Wilkinson, 34, from Inverness. The person who died after a fall on Liathach on the same day has been named as Chris Astill, 54, from Derbyshire.

Liathach seen on the 27th. Photo: HighlandSC

Liathach seen on the 27th. Photo: HighlandSC

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Walking can be dangerous and is done entirely at your own risk. Information is provided free of charge; it is each walker's responsibility to check it and navigate using a map and compass.