A "VERY lucky" climber has been airlifted off Ben Nevis after being swept more than 1300 feet by an avalanche down Britain's highest mountain.

Massive quantities of snow in the Scottish mountains have already caused more than twice the number of avalanches than the whole of last winter.

Yesterday's avalanche was reported to police shortly after 11.30am in the vicinity of Number 4 Gully - one of the major climbing routes on the mountain.

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Fifteen members of Lochaber Mountain Rescue Team, a RAF search and rescue helicopter from Lossiemouth and RAF Mountain Rescue Team members all helped with the search.

One man, believed to be French, was airlifted from the Charles Inglis Clark (CIC) Hut on the 4409-foot mountain and taken to Belford Hospital in Fort William. It is believed he escaped with relatively minor injuries.

"He was a very lucky boy," said John Stevenson, leader of Lochaber Mountain Rescue Team. "We think he must have been on top of the avalanche because if he had not I doubt he would have escaped like he did.

"The size of the ice and debris in the avalanche was incredible. Huge pieces. All the gullies on the Ben are full of snow and suffering big avalanches.

"We think he may have been on a big overhanging cornice at the top of the Number 4 Gully and it just gave way.

"This lad managed to walk to the CIC Hut and was airlifted from there. He is very, very lucky to have escaped so lightly."

Police said the three other members of the injured climber's group were traced and uninjured.