FIVE climbers were being treated in hospital last night after a mountain "domino" accident in central Scotland.

The incident on Ben Lui, nearTyndrum, happened when a Frenchwoman, who was climbing without ropes, fell off the mountain's central gully and collided with four other male climbers below her.

Because the men were roped together in pairs, all four of them were knocked off the snowface.

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The woman slipped and hit the first pair of climbers, dislodging them from the mountainside. In a tangle of ropes and climbing gear, all three then hit the second pair, who were also dislodged from the snow face. It is estimated the five slid a total distance of 500ft.

All of them were said to be suffering from multiple fractures, but were in a stable condition in the Southern General Hospital in Glasgow. They are yet to be named.

The alarm was raised as the injured lay among boulders at the bottom of the climb by a walker who saw the accident.

The man reported that one of the casualties appeared to be unconscious.

Three helicopters attended the scene, including a Royal Navy Sea King from Prestwick, which was first to arrive.

Killin mountain rescue team, which was also involved in the three-hour rescue operation, said the climbers were fortunate to be alive.

John Morris, search manager of the Killin team, said it was unusual to have so many people involved in one accident.

He said: "All the climbers were in pretty good condition considering how far they had slid. It wasn't a vertical fall, if it had been they would have been dead, but it was still a very steep slide.

"They were all well equipped and experienced and the conditions were excellent, the snow cushioned their fall. In a way the number of people involved actually helped to save them. It was a good ending, " he said.

Mr Morris said he thought the female climber would have died if she had not been cushioned by the snow and men.

He said: "It is a popular Munro for climbers and hill walkers but even experienced climbers can have bad days.

Fortunately the conditions were good. If it hadn't been snowing the outcome would have been much more dramatic."