Three climbers killed on Ben Nevis after avalanche hits UK's highest mountain

Three climbers have died and another one has been injured after an avalanche on Ben Nevis, the UK's highest mountain.

Police Scotland were alerted to the incident shortly after 11.50am on Tuesday and began co-ordinating a mountain rescue response.

The avalanche occured at Number 5 Gully and police confirmed the casualties.

Initially, police said two climbers had died and two were injured but later on Tuesday confirmed one of the injured climbers had since died.

A spokesman said: "Police Scotland is currently co-ordinating a mountain rescue response following reports of an avalanche on Ben Nevis this morning."

An air ambulance was sent to assist. (File photo dated February 17, 2016) Credit: PA

The Scottish Ambulance Service were also alerted to the incident shortly after 12.20pm and sent an air ambulance, three ambulances and a trauma team to the peak.

First Minister Nicola Sturgeon said it was "absolutely tragic news".

She tweeted: "My thoughts are very much with the bereaved and injured. And my gratitude as always for the work of our emergency services, Mountain Rescue and Coastguard."

Skye, Lochaber and Badenoch MSP Kate Forbes said: "First and foremost my thoughts are with the families of the climbers. This is heart-breaking news.

"I'm sure that the hearts of everybody in the local area go out to those who are grieving. I sincerely hope that there are no further casualties.

"Sincere gratitude, as always, goes to the volunteers in Lochaber and Glencoe Mountain Rescue Teams. They are ready and willing to go out in all weathers whenever the call comes.

"We have fantastic terrain in Lochaber that attracts thousands of climbers and walkers every year, and it is desperately sad when people come to harm."

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.