A helicopter drafted in to help find two climbers missing on Ben Nevis since the weekend was forced to abandon the search to rescue two casualties injured in an avalanche on another mountain.
The crew was called to the incident on Creag Meagaidh on Wednesday afternoon while out searching for Bradford couple Rachel Slater, 24, and Tim Newton, 27, who have not been seen since setting out to climb the UK’s highest mountain five days ago.
Two people caught up in the avalanche were found and airlifted to hospital, one in a serious condition.
Efforts to find the couple missing on Ben Nevis have been hampered by treacherous weather.
Lochaber Mountain Rescue Team (LMRT), the RAF and the Search and Rescue Dog Association have all been involved in the, before another avalanche and high winds halted the mission.
Two rescuers were hit by that avalanche but survived unscathed.
LMRT had planned to resume the search at first light yesterday but heavy snow, fog and blustery winds caused further delays.
They said conditions on the mountain remained difficult, but had hoped an aerial search would cover more ground.
“It’s such a big area and the way the weather’s been, it’s our best chance of covering a lot of ground very quickly,” said LMRT’s John Stevenson.
He said the ground search would remain “on hold” until weather conditions improved.
“There has been a lot of fresh snow so the areas we want to look at are still very unstable.
“We wouldn’t like to put people in there until we get a bit of settlement in the snow conditions,” he added.
It is believed the pair, who had reportedly planned the trip to the Highlands as a Valentine’s celebration, had been camping behind the Charles Inglis Clark memorial hut on the mountain’s north side.
The search has prompted an outpouring of concern for their welfare.
An appeal was made by Chris Denham is the pastor at Hope City Church in Leeds, where Mr Newton’s brother Ed is assistant pastor.
He posted a picture of the couple on Instagram, writing: “Please pray today for the safe return of Tim & Rachel.
“Also pray for the weather to clear which is preventing rescue teams from searching at present and for all the family.”
Mr Stevenson added: “You always have hope but as time goes on that diminishes quite rapidly.”