Skift Take

In this travel app let down, mobile supporters can focus on the fact that the climbers used their smartphones to call for help, while cartographers have a new anecdote for why maps are still relevant.

Hill walkers have been warned not to use smartphone apps to navigate in the Scottish mountains after the police had to rescue 16 people who got lost in the Cairngorms.

Northern constabulary said the 16 climbers, including one party of 14 people who became lost in fog on Ben Macdui on Monday, had to be taken down by rescuers because they had relied solely on smartphone apps to plot their routes.

The group of 14 were finally taken off the mountain in the early hours of Tuesday morning, after officers from Grampian police, volunteers from the Braemar and Aberdeen mountain rescue teams and search and rescue helicopter from HMS Gannet were also called into action.

The emergency services were alerted when the climbers used their mobile phones to call for help. Grampian police said they were aware of four cases of this type since last Friday.

Kevin MacLeod, an acting inspector with Northern based at the Aviemore mountaineering resort, said: “When you consider the dangers of getting lost in the mountains or of taking a false turn, it would be difficult to over-state the importance of being able to navigate accurately.

“Smartphone apps are a great innovation but, on their own, they are not reliable enough for navigation in the mountains. In addition to being suitably experienced and equipped, walkers should have, and know how to use, a map and compass or other suitable navigational device.”

Simon Steer, the deputy leader of Cairngorm mountain rescue team, said: “It’s great that more people are venturing into the hills, but we need to be very aware of the limitations of new technologies and avoid relying solely on them. Apps don’t give you a risk-free passport to the mountains – if nothing else, the batteries don’t last indefinitely.”

Steer continued: “Last night alone, we were involved in two separate incidents, involving a total of 16 people, who had relied on smartphone apps to navigate on the high tops, were very poorly equipped for the conditions, and become lost in the Cairngorms.

“Whilst these advances in technology are a great addition to the range of navigational aids, they do not remove the two key requirements to travel safely in the mountains which are the ability to navigate using traditional map and compass, even when supported by other technologies, and the need to go to the hills properly equipped for Scottish mountain weather.”

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Tags: apps, maps, navigation, smartphones

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