Many mountaineers must have shuddered when they heard the news of the accident on the Aonach Mor gondola which left a family from Totnes, Devon seriously injured.

They were in one of the cars which slid down the cable and struck the one below, before plunging from the wire carrying it on to the lower slopes of the Lochaber mountain. The occupants of the second gondola, a 52-year-old man and his 24-year-old son were also injured. The older man was thrown from the car by the force of the impact and his son jumped from the stricken car.

The gondola is a favourite with winter climbers and mountaineers Aonach Mor summitaccessing the slopes around the Nevis Range ski area. The accident happened about 500m below the top station.

Picture, right, shows walkers on the summit plateau of Aonach Mor in winter.

Accident investigators from the Health and Safety Executive are concentrating on the mechanism which enables the suspended cabins to grip the cable. The system will remain closed until further notice.

As well as skiers, climbers and walkers the gondola transports mountain bikers to the top station to use the Leanachan Forest downhill trails. This year, it held a round of the UCI mountain bike world cup in May.
The 12-year-old gondola system can transport up to 1 700 people an hour up the top station of the 1 221m mountain, the eighth highest in Britain.

The 52-year-old Devonian was originally on Glasgow's Southern General Hospital's critical list but is now described as serious but stable. Lochaber Mountain Rescue Team were involved in dealing with the incident, along with a Royal Navy  helicopter, an air ambulance and four ambulance crews, firefighters and officers from the Northern Constabulary.

Around 25 people were stranded in the cable cars following the accident and a further 50 marooned at the top station.