Page last updated at 15:27 GMT, Saturday, 27 February 2010

Skiers swept 2,000ft by avalanche

Glencoe [Pic: Undiscovered Scotland]
Two men died in a separate avalanche in Glencoe earlier this week

Two skiers from the Edinburgh area have survived being swept 2,000ft (610m) down a mountain by an avalanche.

Police, the local mountain rescue team and a Royal Navy rescue helicopter were called to Glencoe at 0945 GMT after receiving an emergency call.

The two men, who were aged 26 and 23, were found in the Cam Ghleann area of Glencoe and airlifted to safety.

They were taken to Belford Hospital in Fort William where they were treated for leg injuries.

It is understood the skiers managed to dig themselves out of the snow before rescuers arrived.

They had been almost at the top of the 3,600ft (1,097m) summit of the ski area on the peak when a huge slab of snow gave way under their feet.

It took them 2,000ft down the hill and they virtually rode down on top of it most of the way down. That saved their lives
John Grieve
Glencoe Mountain Rescue

John Grieve, leader of Glencoe Mountain Rescue Team, said: "They were near the summit at Cam Ghleann, on Meall a' Bhuiridh, when the avalanche happened.

"They had skied to the edge of the ridge and had gone about 2ft to 3ft (0.6-0.9m) when the whole slope just went.

"It was a big, big avalanche from which they are lucky to have survived. It took them 2,000ft (610m) down the hill and they virtually rode down on top of it most of the way down. That saved their lives.

"When they came to a halt they were partially buried, but amazingly dug each other out despite serious injuries."

The alarm was raised when the men managed to call 999 from a mobile phone.

Mr Grieve said: "We did not know exactly where they were at first and were out looking for them with telescopes.

"Because it was a massive and very dangerous avalanche, I called in the Royal Navy rescue helicopter from Prestwick and they located the pair and airlifted them off the mountain to safety.

"The helicopter received another call and dropped the pair off at a nearby road where they were picked up by ambulance and taken to Belford Hospital in Fort William."

Hazard assessment

The mountain rescue team leader added: "These guys are very fortunate to have survived. This was a huge avalanche, about 200m (650ft) wide and consisting of hundreds of tonnes of snow.

"If they had been buried we would only have had a matter of minutes in which to save them.

"It is extraordinary how they rode on top of the snow, but they are two experienced skiers."

Northern Constabulary said the rescue had been complicated by the unstable snow conditions in the area.

The force reminded anyone planning on going onto the mountains to use the Scottish Avalanche Information Service before setting off.

The service warned on Saturday that the avalanche hazard assessment in the Lochaber area generally, and in particular Glencoe and Creag Meagaidh, was high.

A total of six people have been killed on Scottish mountains this winter, including two men whose bodies were recovered by a mountain rescue team after an avalanche in the Buchaille Etive Mor area of Glencoe on Wednesday.

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