Buachaille Etive Mòr. Photo: Christine McIntosh CC-BY-ND-2.0

Buachaille Etive Mòr. Photo: Christine McIntosh CC-BY-ND-2.0

A major rescue operation is underway in the Highlands after an avalanche hit a party of climbers.

Two mountaineers are feared missing after the incident on Curved Ridge, Buachaille Etive Mòr, in Glencoe. Police were alerted at about 4.45pm by others on the mountain who witnessed the avalanche.

Members of Glencoe Mountain Rescue Team are searching the area.

The RAF Lossiemouth Sea King helicopter was reported to be unavailable as it was transferring another climber to hospital in Glasgow after an earlier accident. The Royal Navy helicopter based at HMS Gannet, Prestwick, was on another medical mission.

No further details of the casualties are available at present.

Curved Ridge is a classic scrambling route to the 1,022m (3,353ft) summit of Stob Dearg, one of the Buachaille’s munros. It is classed as grade 3 in summer and in winter is a much harder prospect.

Curved Ridge is less than a kilometre from Coire na Tulaich, where three mountaineers perished 13 months ago in an avalanche.

Earlier today, a climber was airlifted from The Organ Pipes area of Coire na Ciste on Ben Nevis’s north face.

The avalanche forecast for Glencoe this afternoon for north-east-facing aspects such as Curved Ridge was for moderate risk above 800m, the second lowest grade, meaning natural avalanches were unlikely but human-triggered ones possible.

However, observers from the sportscotland Avalanche Information Service had recorded an unusual – for Scotland – snowpack, with a weak and well developed layer of surface hoar which, they said, will form a very easy sliding surface if or when buried by windslab.

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