Eyewitnesses said the three friends, who are thought to have been roped together, slipped and fell 300 metres from a path near the summit of the Langkofel mountain.
The men, whose deaths were the latest in a series of accidents in the Alps and Dolomites in recent days, came from Mönchengladbach near Düsseldorf, Bornheim near Cologne and Halver in Sauerland. According to the Italian news agency Ansa they were aged between 28 and 51.
The climbers had been nearing the top of the 3000-metre-high Langkofel summit in the South Tyrol region of the Italian Dolomite mountain range, when eyewitnesses saw all three slip and fall off the precipice. The witnesses alerted rescue services, and they later recovered the three bodies.
Early indications suggested the men had been roped together and that one of them lost his footing and fell, dragging the others with him down to their deaths. However as yet there is concrete indications as to what happened, said a spokesman for the mountain rescue service, who said that the climbers' ropes could have been incorrectly fastened or faulty.
The friends had been traversing the Pichl route on the north face of the Langkofel mountain – a path usually described as a medium-difficulty climb. The accident occurred on a part of the route not generally considered particularly tricky.