TWO people have been taken to hospital following an avalanche in the Scottish Highlands.
The avalanche happened in the Creag Meagaidh area of north Lochaber, prompting a major search and rescue operation.
A coastguard helicopter, several mountain rescue teams and search and rescue dogs were all scrambled to the mountain range - around 19 miles north east of Ben Nevis - after being alerted to the incident at around 3.15pm on Wednesday.
The Scottish Ambulance Service confirmed it has taken two patients to hospital in Fort William. They are both in a serious condition.
A spokesman said: “We received an emergency call to attend reports of an avalanche and have taken two patients to the local Belford Hospital. Both are in a serious condition.”
Two ambulances picked the patients up from a landing site in Fort William after they were flown out of the avalanche area by the rescue helicopter.
It is not known whether the two injured people are male or female and their ages have not been revealed.
Creag Meagaidh is a mountain on the north side of Gl
en Spean and is an area known for ice climbing. It is also one of Scotland’s National Nature Reserves, which is rich with native woodland and is an important breeding ground birds.
The avalanche risk in the area was described as “considerable” on Wednesday.
Elsewhere, efforts to locate experienced climbers Rachel Slater, 24, and Tim Newton, 27, on nearby Ben Nevis were suspended on Tuesday after five hours of searches due to treacherous weather conditions.
The pair, from Bradford in West Yorkshire, went climbing over the weekend and were reported overdue on Monday.
No foot searches took place on Wednesday because of the awful conditions but the search and rescue helicopter was deployed during breaks in the weather.
However, that helicopter later had to be diverted to assist following the avalanche at Creag Meagaidh.
A police spokesman said: “At around 3.15pm, Police Scotland received a report of an avalanche on Creag Meagaidh, a mountain range approximately 19 miles north east of Ben Nevis.
“Due to initial reports of casualties involved in the avalanche, HM Coastguard helicopter Rescue 951 was diverted from its search for two missing climbers in the Ben Nevis region.
“As a result of search efforts, including assistance from Lochaber Mountain Rescue Team, Cairngorm Mountain Rescue Team and Search and Rescue Dog Association (SARDA) Scotland, two casualties have been rescued from the area and airlifted to Belford Hospital in Fort William.”
Earlier, Police Scotland said a hillwalker rescued by search teams after being missing overnight with two others in Dumfries and Galloway died.
Bobby Thomson, 64, George Crosbie, 73, and Jeffrey Stewart, 74, had not been seen since they headed off in the hills around Durisdeer in the Southern Lowlands on Tuesday afternoon.
The men were found 2.5 miles east of the village on Wednesday following a large-scale search involving police and mountain rescue teams and they were airlifted to hospital where one of the men was pronounced dead.
The dead man has not yet been named.