Liathach, scene of the incident that led to the third death. Photo: Silvain de Munck CC-BY-2.0

Liathach, scene of the incident that led to the third death. Photo: Silvain de Munck [CC-2.0]

A third man has died after avalanches hit the Scottish Highlands with lethal force today.

The 54-year-old died after being airlifted from Liathach in Torridon. He was with another man on the 1,055m (3,461ft) peak and was taken to Raigmore Hospital, Inverness, after the incident by the Stornoway Coastguard helicopter but died of his injuries. It is believed he came from Derbyshire.

The two men were caught in the avalanche at about 11.45 this morning. Initially, police said he was ‘conscious, cold and [with] an arm injury’. Torridon Mountain Rescue Team was helped in the operation by members of the Search and Rescue Dogs Association.

An hour earlier, two climbers were buried by a major avalanche in Number Three Gully on Ben Nevis. Their bodies were uncovered by members of Lochaber Mountain Rescue Team and RAF Leuchars Mountain Rescue Team who had stationed themselves at a bothy near Newtonmore during the Christmas and New Year period.

Unofficial reports say the men who died on Ben Nevis were from Wiltshire and Wales.

Police said no further details of the deceased would be released until next of kin had been informed.

The climbers on Ben Nevis were described as well equipped and experienced, with European qualifications. Chief Inspector John Chisholm of Northern Constabulary said: “It appears they were in the wrong place at the wrong time.”

The sportscotland Avalanche Information Service blog reported an unusual phenomenon recently on Lochaber’s mountains. It said: “Surface hoar is forming in the cold, settled conditions.

“These sparkly little crystals are the cause of many avalanches in the Alps and north America, where they get buried by subsequent snow falls, and become a weak layer/sliding surface.

“They are less common in Scotland’s maritime climate, but now they have formed in some locations they could easily become significant if we get a large snowfall before they are destroyed by either high winds or a thaw.”

Two men who were rescued from an avalanche on Beinn an Dothaidh near Bridge of Orchy, Argyll, were airlifted by Coastguard helicopter for treatment at Belford Hospital, Fort William.

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