Cairngorm Mountain Rescue Team 2017
A middle-aged couple from England had to be rescued by the Cairngorm Mountain Rescue Team after being trapped overnight on a mountain in freezing conditions Cairngorm Mountain Rescue Team

A middle-aged couple from England and their dog are lucky to be alive after getting stranded overnight in the Scottish Cairngorms in temperatures that plummeted as low as -20C (-4F). The couple - a man aged 60 and a 57-year-old woman - were walking their black Collie on New Year's Day morning but misjudged the distance and got stuck as snow fell.

Rescuers said the couple probably survived because they had taken a bivouac, or "bivvy" bag, with them, and were able to sleep in it overnight as temperatures in the national park fell. Despite the hazardous conditions, a major search took place overnight involving six members of the Cairngorm Mountain Rescue Team (MRT).

The next morning (2 January) around 50 more people joined the search, including a coastguard helicopter, the RAF mountain rescue team, the Braemar mountain rescue team and Police Scotland specialists.

The couple were eventually located on the plateau at lunchtime and helped to a vehicle and then to the national park's funicular railway.

"They misjudged how long their walk would take them yesterday and then the cloud closed in and it started snowing." said MRT leader Willie Anderson. "They were a bit disorientated but at least they had a bivvy bag to shelter them. That probably saved their lives."

Anderson said the weather in the Cairngorms can change extremely rapidly. "It was blizzard conditions at times," he told The Guardian. "It was pretty horrendous weather. We are just very pleased to have had a successful outcome. You can be an experienced walker but you may have never experienced Cairngorm weather before – and that can catch anybody out."

The couple have not been named but were staying at a campsite in the Glenmore area. They will be checked by medics but are said to be safe and well.