Four men and one woman were killed on Ben Nevis yesterday afternoon.
They belonged to a party of 11 naval personnel – eight men and three girls – from a station at Lossiemouth.
The accident happened on the Corrie Leis, on the north east buttress near the summit. It is understood they were glissading (controlled sliding) when all five shot over the precipice and fell about 900 feet to the bottom of a gully.
A member of the other section of the party who saw the accident made his way to Fort William and told the police.
A Fort William police spokesman later said that those killed were not roped together.
At dawn today, a stretcher party will set out. It will consist of 25 members of the RAF search and rescue team from Kinloss, six policemen and 16 Navy men from Lossiemouth.
Five stretchers will be used, with 10 men to each. They will have full mountain rescue gear and a supply of food.
The journey from Fort William to the spot where the accident happened is very arduous and will be carried out under Arctic conditions. Snow and ice extend from the summit down to 1,500ft.
“It would be hopeless trying to do anything tonight,” a Fort William police sergeant said. “It is raining down here and it is probably snowing on the mountain.”
An official announcement giving details of the casualties may be made about noon today.
Ben Nevis, the highest mountain in the British Isles, is 4,400 feet high and has been described as the nearest approach in Britain to an Alpine peak.
It has been the scene of many fatalities and many dramatic rescues but there appears to be no record of such a large death toll in any previous accident.