Despite their seeming technical superiority, mapping apps are a crude way to get around in the mountains. They’re fine for getting you from A to B or planning a day hike. Typically, you won’t cliff out.
But a wrinkle in Google Maps is leading hikers on Scotland’s Ben Nevis to do just that. Troublingly, a recent slew of confused visitors has ended up “injured or worse.” The situation has prompted the John Muir Trust (JMT) and Mountaineering Scotland to warn about the dangers of relying on technology to navigate in the alpine.
Heather Morning, Mountaineering Scotland’s Mountain Safety Adviser, said: “[It’s] easy these days to assume that information on the internet is all good stuff, correct, up-to-date, and safe. Sadly, experience shows this is not the case, and there have been a number of incidents recently where following routes downloaded off the internet have resulted in injury or worse.”
Reportedly, the issue for Google Maps-oriented hikers on Ben Nevis starts with tapping the “car” icon. The app then directs people to the Steall Falls car park. To be fair, that’s the closest parking lot to the summit as the crow flies — the keyword being “flies”. From there, it indicates a dotted line that leads straight to the summit of Ben Nevis.