WALKERS, climbers and skiers have been urged to study weather and avalanche forecasts closely amid particularly dangerous conditions on Scotland’s mountains.

The warning came after five avalanches in 48 hours in the West Highlands this week, including the tragedy on Ben Nevis that left three people dead and another in hospital.

Mountaineering Scotland says winter has come back “with a vengeance after a mild February”.

The organisation warned: “The sudden and heavy snowfall, combined with lower temperatures and high winds, has produced snow conditions that can fluctuate rapidly, as well as rapid changes between hostile and benign weather. The Scottish Avalanche Information Service (SAIS) recorded five avalanches in the West Highlands in 48 hours this week, highlighting the unstable nature of the snowpack.”

Mountain safety adviser Heather Morning added: “When you’re heading up into the hills, whether it’s for walking, climbing or skiing, it’s absolutely essential not only that you check the avalanche forecast but also that you understand what it’s saying.

“Different slopes on the same hill may have completely different snow conditions.

“A careful study of the mountain weather forecast is also an essential part of your planning, and your planned route should be finalised with that forecast in mind. As conditions on the hill change, then so should your decision-making.”

Kev Mitchell, vice-chair of Scottish Mountain Rescue said: “We encourage people to make use of all available information. Ensure you are prepared to make safe decisions based on the weather and environment you are in and the group you are with.”

Avalanche forecasts and explanations of how to interpret them can be found at: www.sais.gov.uk

Mountain specific weather forecasts can be found at: www.mwis.org.uk