Four men who were rescued from Ben Nevis amid blizzard conditions have thanked the team that saved them with whisky, wine and chocolates.

The group called 999 on Monday after getting lost on Scotland's highest mountain in the severe conditions.

The group were ill-equipped for the ascent, with three of them wearing trainers.

Lochaber Mountain Rescue Team said the men had no ice axes, crampons and apparently no map, and were not dressed for winter mountaineering.

Temperatures at the top of the mountain have been around -6C (21.2F) for the past few days, with wind chill making it feel significantly colder.

The mountain rescue team posted images on Facebook of the rescue operation. Credit: Lochaber Mountain Rescue Team / Facebook

The group were airlifted to safety after it was discovered they were all beginning to suffer from the effects of hypothermia.

They were taken to Belford Hospital in Fort William and all have since been released.

In a statement, Lochaber Mountain Rescue Team said the men, who were visiting Scotland from overseas, had admitted a "significant error of judgement and are extremely sorry for the results of their actions".

Posting on its Facebook page, the rescue team included an image showing gifts from those rescued, which included a £200 donation.

The mountain rescue group said "These were very young guys who without any prompting made a very generous gesture which is very much appreciated.

"Not everyone rescued appreciates that we are not full-time or not paid to be at their beck and call."

Ben Nevis is Scotland's highest mountain and can experience severe weather. Credit: PA

They also called for the public to "cut the guys a little bit of slack" as the incident had not resulted in any serious casualties and had helped raise the profile of the work the team does and mountaineering safety.

It used the opportunity to dash calls for a professionally funded mountain rescue service, stating forcing people to have insurance before heading uphill could have a ripple effect across other outdoor sports.

It said: "For those who call for charging and insurance for mountaineers/hill walkers, be careful for what ask for, as where do you stop, insurance for fishing, rugby, football all of which have more incidents and injuries than mountaineering."

Last year, three mountaineers were killed on the mountain after they were caught in an avalanche.

It comes after a climber lost her life during a New Year's Day hike up the mountain, at the start of last year.