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Hikers warned to watch out for perilous snow drifts on Ben Nevis

IT may be the start of the summer season but hillwalkers have been warned to be on their guard for snow on the country's highest mountain.

The Mountaineering Council of Scotland (MCofS) has warned that while people may be enjoying slightly milder weather in the rest of the country, up on Ben Nevis it is a very different story.

The country experienced exceptionally high levels of snowfall on the mountains last winter and experts warn that a surprising amount of the white stuff still remains.

This means that anyone heading up Ben Nevis will be walking on snow-covered terrain, still more than a yard deep in some places.

Heather Morning, mountain safety adviser with MCofS, advised those heading out to be extremely cautious of the late-lying snow beds.

She said: "Walking on snow in summer can really add to your day out on the hill and be a lot of fun if the snow is relatively flat.

"However, be warned: if you take a slip and start to slide - is there a chance that slide could take you over the edge?

"There are still large cornices [ledges of snow hanging over the edge of the cliff face] on Ben Nevis and many other Scottish Munros. Care should be taken to avoid these and stay on the rocky terrain, particularly in misty conditions when it might be difficult to see the edge."

MCofS, which counts more than 12,000 hillwalkers, climbers and mountaineers as members, added that although the main tourist track up Ben Nevis from Glen Nevis is well defined, hillwalkers should always be prepared and carry a map and compass.

Marian Austin, managing director of the Nevis Range, said: "The ski slopes still have large patches of snow which is not particularly unusual for June. But this year they're much larger than they would normally be, due to the significant amounts of snowfall during this winter, the largest recorded since we opened in 1989.

"There are still a number of ski-mountaineering enthusiasts taking to the hills and the snow patches and we would reiterate the need for them to be properly experienced and equipped before heading out on their adventures."

Ben Nevis, in Lochaber by Fort William, is the highest mountain in the British Isles, reaching 4,409 feet. It is estimated around 125,000 complete ascents of the mountain and around 100,000 partial ascents are made every year. It is also regularly used for charity events, with one such event, organised by Action for Charity, due to take place on Saturday.

MCofS added that hillwalkers should check the weather forecast before heading out.

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