A young climber died after plunging 1,000ft on Ben Nevis as 17 others were rescued – including ’12 soldiers who were trying to save him’.
The man fell amid ‘ferocious conditions’ at Red Burn, on the west side of Scotland’s highest mountain.
An eight-hour rescue mission was sparked when a dozen Army members – and five other people – also became stuck.
Forty rescuers and two coastguard helicopters raced to the scene overall.
The man, 28, whose group had been descending after reaching the summit, was pronounced dead on the mountain. Two others, 29 and 27, were taken to hospital.
The climber who died was not a member of the Army, although one soldier is said to have broken his ankle and another suffered mild abrasions.
Donald Paterson, from the Lochaber Mountain Rescue Team, said: ‘The conditions were classic Alpine conditions – springlike in the glen but above the snow line everything is solid and an ice axe and crampons are essential and knowing how to use them.
‘But this chap had fallen conservatively about 300 metres (984ft). Then others went to help him and they too ended up in trouble. One had a broken ankle and another multiple abrasions.
‘As the night wore the conditions got worse. Members of the party could have been better prepared for the conditions. We would like to express our condolences to the deceased’s family and friends.’
Brian Bathurst, deputy team leader of Glencoe MRT, has warned the snow-covered fields ‘are glazed over with ice and are quite lethal’.
‘One slip and you will go a long way’, he said. ‘The conditions last night were very difficult – as well as the ice there were very strong winds and rain. The helicopters did an amazing job.’
Three people have died in mountain rescues since Saturday amid ‘alpine’ conditions, the Lochaber Mountain Rescue Team, which mainly works on Ben Nevis, has revealed.
A Facebook post said: ‘The past five days has been especially busy for the team. Since Saturday we’ve had 12 callouts and recovered 26 casualties.
‘Unfortunately three of these shouts resulted in fatalities and we’d like to extend our heartfelt condolence to the friends and family of those involved at this difficult time.
‘It would be remiss if we didn’t stress just how important it is to be adequately prepared for winter in the hills.
‘Having the ability to competently navigate with map and compass as well as having and being able to use crampons and axe are vital skills to have if you’re venturing into the hills.’
There are no suspicious circumstances surrounding the death and a full report will be submitted to the Procurator Fiscal, a Police Scotland spokesperson said.
A spokesperson for the Maritime and Coastguard Agency added: ‘At approx. 2.30pm today and at the request of Police Scotland, HM Coastguard sent the search and rescue helicopter from Inverness to assist Police Scotland following a report of an incident involving a casualty requiring medical attention at Ben Nevis, Scotland.
‘While on scene, the Inverness helicopter requested further support, leading to the coastguard helicopter from Prestwick also being sent to assist along with Mountain Rescue Teams who are helping in this ongoing multi-agency response.’
The Ministry of Defence said: ‘A small number of soldiers provided support to stranded walkers on Ben Nevis on Tuesday.
‘They assisted the party until emergency and mountain rescue services were able to reach them.’