Conditions on Cairn Gorm were described as 'Arctic'. Photo: Cairngorm MRT

Conditions on Cairn Gorm were described as 'Arctic'. Photo: Cairngorm MRT

Rescuers said a couple lost overnight on New Year’s Day in Arctic conditions on the Cairn Gorm plateau were very lucky to survive.

The fact they had with them plastic emergency survival bags undoubtedly saved their lives as they hunkered down for a night on the mountain, Cairngorm Mountain Rescue Team said.

The man, 59, and the 56-year-old woman, from England, got lost in severe winter weather on the exposed upland plateau on New Year’s Day after heading out with their dog for a walk from the Glenmore area.

The pair were found 26 hours after setting off for a circular walk around the Cairngorm mountains. They survived a night close to the summit of the 1,244m (4,081ft). A rescue leader said they were very concerned for the couple.

The team was called out at 7.30pm on New Year’s Day when the couple and their dog failed to return from their walk.

Team leader Willie Anderson said: “We had no real idea where they were – just somewhere on the Cairngorms plateau.

“We got an account from someone who said they might have gone along Strathnethy to the back of Cairn Gorm and then were planning to come over the summit.

“The weather was fairly feisty. The wind picked up in the afternoon and there were some pretty evil wee snow showers. The cocktail of bad conditions would have coincided with the time they were due over the plateau. The road to the ski area closed at this point as a series of vicious squalls swept the area.”

The Cairngorm team was joined by the Inverness Coastguard search and rescue helicopter which flew over the area as part of the search. Mr Anderson said conditions underfoot varied from wind-scoured verglas to thigh-deep snowdrifts.

The rescue team found the couple south-east of the mountain summit. Photo: Cairngorm MRT

The rescue team found the couple south-east of the mountain summit. Photo: Cairngorm MRT

Mr Anderson said the team must have come fairly close to the couple at one point but no contact was made. He said there was some superb flying by the Bristow crew of the Coastguard helicopter, who spotted some footprints on the plateau at one point. “They must also have go very close to the folks,” he said.

The night search was suspended and a full callout began at first light, with an RAF Mountain Rescue Team joining the operation and members of Braemar MRT moving up to Faindouran bothy in Glen Avon.

The couple and their dog were found about noon on Monday, at a position to the south-east of the summit of Cairn Gorm. Mr Anderson said: “They had no real idea of where they were.

“They were very cold and had been through some quite nasty weather. They had with them plastic survival bags and those undoubtedly saved their lives. The trouble is, once you climb inside one of them, you don’t know what is going on outside.

“When we found them, they were uninjured.”

The team walked the walkers, Bob and Cathy Elmer from Leicestershire, and their dog up to the summit from where a tracked vehicle took them to the head of the funicular railway and a train then conveyed them to the ski resort. Cairngorm MRT then drove them to the team’s headquarters where they were checked over and were able to leave.

The rescue team thanked CairnGorm Mountain for their help in the use of the funicular.

Mr Anderson said: “They were very lucky; they were well and truly lost in very hostile weather conditions.

“On this occasion, as with previous cases, the casualties said they had experienced bad weather before, but nothing like this.”

The team said it does not issue safety advice, but its members carry a combination of Blizzard survival bags and lightweight group shelters when on the mountain.

The team has been called out four times since Boxing Day, including the Cairn Gorm incident. One person suffered a broken leg in a fall on Creag Dubh; there was a search with the Tayside team for a missing person and another overdue walker on New Year’s Day.

Some of the team’s footage from the rescue can be seen on the BBC website.

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