Glencoe avalanche
Glencoe avalanche kills four climbers - Wiki Commons

The avalanche on Bidean nam Bian in Glencoe, Scotland, has killed four climbers in Britain's worst cold weather incident so far this year.

Two men and two women belonging to a group of six people have died while climbing the Scottish Highlands.

One of the two survivors, a female, is in a serious condition in a Fort William hospital.

"Our immediate thoughts and prayers are with the families of those who have been lost. To lose four people from a party of six is truly devastating. The Scottish government will provide any support that we can and I would like to thank the police and mountain rescue team for their efforts in these difficult circumstances," said Scotland's First Minister Alex Salmond.

Two climbers from a separate party had raised the alarm after finding one of the victims lying in the snow, said authorities.

The rescue team quickly established contact with the male survivor and launched a search operation.

Bidean nam Bian is the highest mountain in the old county of Argyll. Its terrain is steep, rocky and complex.

"This was a significant tragedy. The thoughts of the MCoS [Mountain Council of Scotland] are with all of those involved and the rescue services up there doing the job they do. It is always difficult in these circumstances, but I think the advice we would give to people is to check the weather and avalanche forecasts before setting off, and to assess the risks," said MCoS chief officer, David Gibson.

The climbers were believed to have been descending from a peak when the slope broke away and was engulfed by ice and snow.

Special prayers have been arranged at St Munda's Church in the Highlands for the victims.