A survivor of an avalanche that killed four of his friends and left another in a critical condition said they were all experienced winter walkers who loved the mountains.

The man, who has asked for his name to be withheld, expressed his sadness and deep regret at the deaths in Glencoe, in the Scottish Highlands, on Saturday.

He said: "Yesterday, five of my friends and I were descending a mountain in Glencoe in an area known as Church Door Buttress when the party was swept away by a snow avalanche.

"It is with much sadness and deep regret that some of my friends have died as a result. All in the group loved the mountains and are experienced winter walkers.

"Can I ask that the deceased families and I are allowed to grieve in privacy at this difficult time.

"My sincere thanks go to members of the public, mountain rescue teams and other emergency services who assisted."

The two men and two women were found dead after the accident on Bidean Nam Bian, a mountain near Glencoe. The survivor is believed to have jumped clear of the collapsing snow and anchored an ice axe into firmer ground.

Northern Constabulary area commander Chief Inspector Derek Paterson said: "This is a tragic incident in which four people have sadly lost their lives, while another remains in critical condition in hospital. Our thoughts are with those affected and their families at this difficult time."

A 24-year-old woman from the Durham area is in a critical condition in hospital.

One member of the party is understood to have been living in Scotland prior to the incident, a police spokeswoman said.