A ROYAL Navy helicopter lifted three walkers to safety just before the aircraft would have been grounded because of freezing rain.
The group sent out a distress call at about 5pm on Sunday after getting lost on Buachaille Etive Mor in Glencoe. They were airlifted from two ledges on the 3,353ft peak, with the pilots forced to hover close to the rock.
The walkers raised the alarm to police in Fort William at 5:03pm and the four-strong crew from HMS Gannet in Prestwick was airborne at 5:29pm. The Glencoe mountain rescue team was also alerted.
Operational weather safety restrictions had already been put on the helicopter because of a forecast of prolonged freezing rain, with the crew told the window for flying closed at 7pm.
Lieutenant Angela Lewis, the helicopter’s navigator, said: “We are used to flying in pretty much all conditions possible.
“But there are one or two types of weather which we just simply cannot operate in – and freezing rain is one of these.
“Our forecasters were aware of a prolonged threat of freezing rain last night and, as a routine course of action, we had determined a time past which it would no longer be safe to get airborne.”