Bidean Nam Bian
Three climbers are missing on Bidean Nam Bian after an avalanche (Wiki Commons) Wiki Commons

Three climbers are feared dead after a "serious" avalanche on Bidean nam Bian in Glencoe, Scotland.

Police are coordinating a major search operation for the three missing people, who were caught in an avalanche at around 2pm on Saturday 19 January.

A statement said: "Glencoe Mountain Rescue Team is currently searching for three members of a party of climbers, assisted by Lochaber Mountain Rescue Team members and Police Search and Rescue dogs.

"One male climber is safe and well and a female climber with serious injuries has been located and taken to Belford Hospital in Fort William."

However, three more people are missing. Speaking from Spain, John Grieve, leader of Glencoe Mountain Rescue, told the BBC he believes there have been fatalities.

The Scotland Avalanche Information Service issued a warning today about the risk of an avalanche: "Areas of poorly bonded windslab are present mainly on West through North to East aspects above 800 metres. These deposits are mainly of hard windslab but this often overlies a weak softer layer beneath.

"Soft windslab is also present in places. Wind scoured areas are generally stable. The avalanche hazard is considerable."

This assessment suggests that natural avalanches are possible and human-triggered avalanches are likely.

Bidean nam Bian is the highest mountain in the old county of Argyll. Its terrain is steep, rocky and complex. warns of the dangers of climbing the mountain during the winter: "Please note that hillwalking in winter conditions - which is whenever there is snow lying - requires an ice-axe, crampons and the knowledge, experience and skill to use them correctly, and to judge which routes are safe for the conditions and your party in winter."