A rescuer during the operation in Coire na Ciste. Photo: Lochaber MRT

A rescuer during the operation in Coire na Ciste. Photo: Lochaber MRT

A search for two climbers missing on Ben Nevis has been suspended after two rescuers were caught in an avalanche.

A major operation to find Bradford couple Rachel Slater and Tim Newton was launched after concerns for their safety were raised on Monday.

A total of 36 rescuers from Lochaber Mountain Rescue Team and RAF MRT, along with Search and Rescue Dogs Scotland handlers and animals have been on the mountain in winds up to 90mph and a windchill of -20C.

A Lochaber MRT spokesperson said the search focused on the Coire na Ciste and South Trident Buttress area following a possible sighting of two people fitting their description climbing in the area early on Sunday afternoon.

But the spokesperson said two rescue team members were avalanched today while traversing below Number Three Gully Buttress. “After five hours of searching, it was decided that conditions were too dangerous to continue the search,” the spokesperson said.

“If you were on South Trident Buttress on Sunday could you call Police Scotland on 101 and ask for Fort William Police.”

The climbers' tent was pitched directly behind the CIC Hut. Photo: Lochaber MRT

The climbers' tent was pitched directly behind the CIC Hut. Photo: Lochaber MRT

The team released pictures of the couple’s tent, pitched directly behind the Charles Inglis Clark Memorial Hut, known to outdoor enthusiasts as the CIC Hut, at the foot of some of Ben Nevis’s best known winter climbing routes on the North Face. Ms Slater and Mr Newton are experienced climbers.

The Lochaber MRT spokesperson said: “If anyone saw anyone around this tent late morning on Sunday or anywhere on the Ben we would much appreciate any information.”

The forecast avalanche risk in Lochaber for today was considerable on aspects from the North-West through to the North-East above 800m, according to the Scottish Avalanche Information Service. Blizzard conditions with wind speeds up to 100mph are forecast by the Met Office.

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