A Police vehicle at the Nevis Range Mountain Resort with Ben Nevis behind where two climbers have died and another two have been injured after an avalanche on the mountain
The climbers died following an avalanche on the UK’s highest mountain were French and Swiss, Police Scotland have confirmed.
Two of the men who died on Ben Nevis were French and aged 41 and 32, while the third man was Swiss national aged 43.
A 30-year-old Swiss man who was injured remains at Glasgow’s Queen Elizabeth University Hospital in a stable condition.
The avalanche, in the Number 5 Gully area of Ben Nevis was reported to police at around 11:50am on Tuesday.
Fort William Inspector, Isla Campbell said: “Our thoughts are with the family and friends of those involved in the avalanche on Ben Nevis yesterday.
“Formal identification will take place in due course and the next of kin of those involved have now all been informed.
“I would again like to thank the volunteers from Lochaber and Glencoe mountain rescue teams and the members of the public who assisted with this incident, in what was extremely challenging conditions.”
Brian Tregaskis, secretary of the Lochaber Mountain Rescue team said "The members of the Lochaber and Glencoe Mountain Rescue teams did an incredible job in very difficult conditions. We’d like to extend our deepest sympathies to the loved ones of those who lost their lives and we hope the surviving casualty makes a full and speedy recovery."
Swiss media reported that the group were members of the Club Alpin Suisse de Sion (Swiss Alpine Club, Sion).
Survivor Matheiu Biselx, President of the Swiss Alpine Club of Sion, was airlifted to Glasgow’s Queen Elizabeth Hospital and has spoken from intensive care.
The 30-year-old told Le Nouvelliste: "We were not very high and all of a sudden we heard a noise. We turned around and two seconds later, we were swept away by heavy, compact snow. I lost consciousness and when I woke up, only my head and one arm came out of the snow mass.
"I am seriously injured both legs. My back, one shoulder and one arm are affected, but I’ll get out of it. While my friends, fathers. This is a terrible drama."
A former member of the club said: "This is the worst day of my life. Our sadness is boundless. It’s horrible. It should not happen to them.
"They were seasoned mountaineers. Really exemplary people. They had been doing the mountain for 20 years. They spent all their weekends there. They were almost professionals."
The three dead climbers were aged 33, 42 and 43. One of the dead climbers is understood to be Swiss and the others are thought to be French.
The group were caught by the river of snow and ice in a gully on Ben Nevis as Storm Gareth blew in with strong winds on Tuesday morning, triggering a huge search and recovery operation in "brutal conditions", a rescuer said.
One of the climbers, who are said to have all been young men, died "pretty instantaneously", while another could not be saved despite receiving CPR for half an hour, Donald Paterson, deputy team leader of Lochaber Mountain Rescue Team (MRT), said.
A third climber died while being taken down the mountain, while the fourth was flown to Queen Elizabeth University Hospital in Glasgow.
Hill walkers make their way along the Ben Nevis mountain path in Scotland. A young climber is being treated for serious injuries after an avalanche on the UK's highest mountain "wiped out" a climbing party, killing three of them
Switzerland’s Federal Department of Foreign Affairs (FDFA) said: "The FDFA confirms the death of a Swiss national during an avalanche in Scotland.
"Another Swiss national was injured. The Swiss representation in Great Britain is in contact with local authorities.
"The FDFA, in Central Office, is in contact with the victims’ relatives."
Mr Paterson told the Telegraph: "We did all we possibly could – we had every available person we could get hold of. There were four stretcher parties.
"We carried the bodies all the way down. It is a terrible tragedy. They just got wiped out by the avalanche.
"It was brutal conditions."
Lochaber MRT said it received a call out from the Scottish Avalanche Information Service, which recorded a "large" avalanche at No 5 Gully at 11.45am.
The team, along with Glencoe MRT and around 29 volunteer mountain rescuers who happened to be training in the area, raced to the scene.
"Conditions were very difficult with very high winds, snow and thunder and lightning, which restricted the support the Maritime and Coastguard Agency helicopters could provide despite some excellent flying," Lochaber MRT said.
Handout photo dated 11/03/12 taken with permission from the Twitter feed of Ambre Boucher who climbed Ben Nevis this week
Police Scotland were also called to the incident and helped co-ordinate the rescue effort.
Fort William Inspector Isla Campbell said it had been a "challenging operation".
"I want to pass on my thanks to the mountain rescue teams, colleagues at the Maritime & Coastguard Agency and Scottish Ambulance Service for their assistance in extremely difficult conditions.
"I would also like to praise members of the public and staff from the Scottish Avalanche Information Service who were on-scene at the time and provided immediate assistance."
First Minister Nicola Sturgeon said news of the fatalities was "absolutely tragic", while Skye, Lochaber and Badenoch MSP Kate Forbes said it was "heartbreaking".
Ben Nevis, near Fort William in the western Highlands, is a popular destination for experienced climbers, attracting 125,000 visitors each year.
Tuesday’s incident follows two recent fatal accidents on the mountain, which at 1,345m is the UK’s highest.
On New Year’s Day, a 21-year-old German woman, who was a student at Bristol University, died after she fell from a ridge she had been climbing with three other people.
She had been hiking on what is known as the "ledge route" when she fell around 500ft.
In December, Patrick Boothroyd, 21, from West Yorkshire, died after falling in the Tower Gully area.