A group of climbers were rescued in an “epic” 12-hour operation after getting stuck in a “steep and dangerous” area of Ben Nevis without equipment.
The seven hillwalkers had initially geared up for a traverse of the Carn Mor Dearg Arete in Lochaber – a hiking route considered as one of the relatively easy ways to climb Scotland’s highest mountain.
However, somewhat off route, the men, who are believed to have been in their 20s or early 30s, found themselves located on a dangerous ground in the area of Good Friday climb.
While attempting to reach the summit, the crag fast party ended up in a position where they could neither ascend nor descend from the steep winter line without risking their lives.
Although one member managed to climb up to safety, the rest of the group realised they were in trouble and raised the alarm to the Lochaber Mountain Rescue Team at around 3pm on Thursday.
Proper gear when climbing is key
Nineteen members of the team, along with a coastguard search and rescue helicopter from Inverness were sent to reach the hillwalkers and take them to safety.
With dangerous loose rock above the party, a decision was made for a small number of team members to access the group from below and move them over to a safer position where they could be accessed from above using a rope system.
Speaking to us about the rescue, leader of the Lochaber MRT John Stevenson used the example to remind people of the dangers of climbing without the proper equipment.
He said: “As soon as people start climbing, they look up and think they could get up to the top without any problems.
“And then all of a sudden it gets really steep and they look back below and just realise that they can neither go up nor get down anymore.
“What’s happened is that the group just took more than they could chew, because they had absolutely no climbing gear or ropes – nothing at all.
“They really shouldn’t have been in that area in the first place, but then attempting it without the proper equipment is just far too dangerous.
“The good thing is that they realised they were in trouble and called for help, because if they had carried on, there could have been serious consequences.
“The most important thing to remember when approaching a climb, is that they need to be equipped, they need to know what they’re doing and they need to let other people know where they are and what they’re going.”
Gratitude for 12 hours of ‘strong efforts’
After 12 hours of “strong efforts”, the group was safely pulled to the summit and the operation was deemed a success, with all crew members returning to base at 5am on Friday.
Mr Stevenson added: “Luckily last night, the weather was terrific, but it’s really time consuming.
“And it’s difficult for our guys as well, because they’ve got to try and get to these people and make them safe, and there’s a lot of thought and a lot of work presented.
“I always thank the guys profoundly for their efforts after a mission, because every job is hard and dangerous even when the weather is nice.
“And no matter how tired they are at the end, they always come down from the hill all laughing and joking, because it’s been a successful outcome.
“At the end of the day, that’s the most important thing and that’s what counts – to get people off all safe and well.”