POLICE were last night trying to contact the family of a young French walker who apparently died of hypothermia on the Ben Nevis tourist path.
The man, who was in his early 20s, was with a friend, attempting to reach the summit of Britain's highest mountain on Sunday.
Shortly after 7:30pm police in Fort William were alerted that the walker was in difficulties after becoming ill.
At the time he and his friend were at 2,800ft on the 4,409ft mountain, at Carn Mor Dearg, above Lochan Meall an t-Suidhe, also known as Half Way Lochan.
Two mountain rescue teams from Lochaber and RAF Kinloss were scrambled, as was a helicopter from Stornoway Coastguard.
The man was found suffering from hypothermia. Rescuers had to carry him by stretcher more than 200ft below the cloud base so he could be airlifted off the mountain by the helicopter.
He was flown to Belford Hospital in Fort William, where medical staff fought to stabilise him, but he was declared dead at 11:15pm.
The alarm had been raised by the man's friend, who climbed back down the mountain to a hut where he used an emergency radio to call police.
John Stevenson, leader of the Lochaber Mountain Rescue Team, said the friend spoke very little English, which made it difficult to find his companion.
Mr Stevenson said that the injured man was very cold. "There is still a lot of snow about, and it was very windy. We do not know if there were any underlying medical conditions."
Northern Constabulary said yesterday that officers were still trying to contact the man's family.
A spokeswoman said: "No details of the deceased will be released until next of kin have been informed.
"A full report on the circumstances will be submitted to the procurator-fiscal at Fort William."
It is believed the two men had been walking on the "tourist path" up Ben Nevis, which starts in Glen Nevis and zig-zags up the mountain past Half Way Lochan.
In January, engineering student Hyder Ali Manir, 20, fell to his death on the peak after losing his footing in a blizzard.
An inquest later heard that a video camera found near his body showed him reaching the summit, with mist and fog cutting visibility to a few feet.
Mr Manir, from Worcester, who was with his cousin Sabrina Hussain on the trek up the mountain, was poorly equipped, being dressed only in jeans, a T-shirt and jacket.
A major rescue effort was launched after Mr Manir failed to return from the summit, and he was found dead on the south side of the mountain.He died from head injuries and hypothermia.
In December, Daniel Rafferty, 19, from Alness, died after falling about 800ft from Tower Ridge on Ben Nevis.
In March, two French climbers had a lucky escape after being caught up in an avalanche on the same peak.
Two out of the three men who were climbing were swept up to 500ft down the mountain at Garadh Gully.
The men, aged 39 and 61, were found to be suffering from leg fractures and both were taken to Belford Hospital.