The search is centred on Loch Muick. Photo: Stu Smith CC-BY-ND-2.0

The search is centred on Loch Muick. Photo: Stu Smith CC-BY-ND-2.0

A major search is underway for five walkers missing after setting out for the hills.

A Royal Navy Sea King helicopter from HMS Gannet has joined the operation in the Loch Muick area of the Highlands after the group failed to turn up as expected.

Three mountain rescue teams and three animals and handlers from the Search and Rescue Dogs Association have joined the hunt for the men, who are all from the Aberdeen area.

The five, aged between 29 and 40, left the Spittal of Glenshee area about lunchtime on Wednesday. Police said, although the men are well equipped, there is concern for their safety.

A joint Braemar and Grampian Police Mountain Rescue Team has been joined in the search by Tayside MRT and Tayside Police MRT.

Grampian Police’s Inspector Andrew Todd, who co-ordinates mountain rescue, said: “The men were expected to return on Thursday evening and, although we believe the men were all well equipped and experienced walkers, given the atrocious weather conditions in the area yesterday, we have a serious level of concern for their wellbeing.

“We searched areas during the night, and we have now deployed a full-scale mountain rescue team which involves around 30 people at present.

“The search is focused on the area to the south of Loch Muick and Glen Clova.

“At present the search involves the joint Grampian Police and Braemar Mountain Rescue Team, as well as the Tayside Police and volunteer mountain rescue.

“The search is also being supported by a Royal Navy search and rescue helicopter and three dogs from the Search and Rescue Dogs Association.”

Hurricane-force winds and snow, which had been forecast, caused major disruption across Scotland yesterday, and the sportscotland Avalanche Information Service was forecasting high risk of avalanche in the northern Cairngorms.

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