The men were found on Ben Nevis's western flanks

The men were found on Ben Nevis's western flanks

A trio of badly equipped students rescued from Britain’s highest mountain are lucky to be alive, according to the team that went to their aid.

The three men from East Europe were airlifted from Ben Nevis in ‘awful’ weather conditions after they phoned for help at 10pm from a position near the top of the southern subsidiary peak Carn Dearg after losing their way.

Members of the Lochaber Mountain Rescue Team mounted a full-team callout for the incident on Tuesday night.

An ambulance sent to the incident turned on its blue lights at its position in Glen Nevis and the men, in their 20s, were able to report they could see the vehicle lights, which enabled rescuers to narrow their search area.

A Sea King helicopter from RAF Lossiemouth located the men, who were cold, wet and hungry, near the top of Surgeon’s Gully on the western flank of the 1,344m (4,409ft) mountain.

A spokesperson for the rescue team said they were very poorly equipped. Team leader John Stevenson said two of the men had only lightweight jackets, and were wearing tracksuit bottoms and trainers.

The group did not have any survival gear, extra food or drink and little gear to help them find their way off the mountain. They had set off for the summit from Glen Nevis at 1pm, with only three hours of daylight ahead of them.

When the RAF crew found the men using heat-sensitive cameras and night-vision goggles they were soaking wet and very cold. They were winched on board shortly after midnight and flown to the mountain rescue team’s base in Glen Nevis.

Mr Stevenson told the Lochaber News: “They are very fortunate to be alive. Who knows what we would have been dealing with if they had been on the mountain overnight.

“They could have died out there in the conditions.”

Rescuers said the trio was very apologetic.

They also issued a plea to anyone heading out to the Scottish mountains: “Get your winter boots out. Check your crampons fit.

“Don’t forget a headtorch and batteries, spare warm clothing, waterproofs, gloves, hat, food, warm drink, ice-axe, map and compass and know how to use them.”

The Mountain Weather Information Service is forecasting wind-chill feeling like –21C tomorrow for the western Highlands, in winds gusting at up to 80mph (130kph).

Hail and snow will fall on the hills, and the freezing point will be 600m.

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