Temperatures will plummet to below freezing as the first major snowfall of the winter hits the Highlands and north-east this weekend.
The mercury will drop to 0C – and possibly lower – overnight tonight in Braemar and Aviemore as winter sweeps into the Cairngorms.
The Arctic blast alert was issued as the Braemar Mountain Rescue Team warned walkers to take care on the hills after capturing images of the snow-capped peak of Beinn Mheadhoin yesterday during a training exercise.
As much as eight inches of snow will land on Cairngorms this weekend, with the Met Office warning the highest roads in the Highlands and north-east could also be affected.
Temperatures are predicted to hover around 3C on mountaintops from today until Sunday.
Heavy snow and whiteouts are likely at the highest levels throughout the weekend, with the worst of the snowfall as far east as Lochnagar, between Ballater and Braemar.
Daytime temperatures across the weekend will be between 5C and 6C in most inland areas.
The worst of the wintry weather is coming to the Cairngorms tomorrow and Sunday, although there may also be snow on the mountains of the north-west Highlands.
Last night, Braemar MRT operations manager, Donald MacLeod, said there had been a wind chill of between -10C and -15C at the Beinn Mheadhoin summit yesterday.
He added: “The forecast over the weekend is for more snow coming in. So bring extra layers, torches, spare batteries and have the skills.
“It was a training day, we were out to get a look at conditions. At that height there is ice on the rocks, so an ice axe wouldn’t go amiss either.
“It is obviously challenging now, people just need to take a bit more care. Winter is now with us at mountain level.
“The simple message is be prepared, have the skills and if you are going out leave a message with somebody else to say where you are going.
“The mountains take a whole new change, it is a challenging environment at this time of year.”
Met Office meteorologist, Robin Steel, said: “The snow showers will come to the Cairngorms on Friday and mainly over the weekend.
“There will definitely be some heavy snow and definitely the first significant snowfall on the mountains for the season. It will be a reasonable amount of snow for this time of year.
“There will maybe be between 10 centimetres and 20 centimetres (3.9in – 7.8in), but it is difficult to say with any great certainty. It will go into drifts maybe a few a few feet deep.
“There is no real low level snow at all, but some of the higher roads have the potential to get a wee bit of snow over the weekend.
He also warned of “strong to gale force winds” at summits.