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Google Maps’ Ben Nevis Routes Potentially Fatal

Mountaineering experts have urged people against using Google Maps to find routes on Ben Nevis, the UK’s highest mountain, and other popular Munros.


BBC News reports that the John Muir Trust, which looks after the upper reaches of Ben Nevis, has concerns over a rising number of visitors to Ben Nevis using Google Maps to find a route to the summit.


Depending on how someone searches for the route, Google Maps may direct them to the car park nearest the summit as the crow flies, indicating a route described by experts as ‘highly dangerous, even for experienced climbers’.


John Muir Trust Nevis conservation officer Nathan Berrie said: “The problem is that Google Maps directs some visitors to the Upper Falls car park, presumably because it is the closest car park to the summit.


“But this is not the correct route and we often come across groups of inexperienced walkers heading towards Steall Falls or up the south slopes of Ben Nevis believing it is the route to the summit.”


Heather Morning, Mountaineering Scotland’s mountain safety adviser, said that for anyone new to hillwalking, it might seem perfectly logical to refer to Google Maps for information on how to ascend a mountain.


However, she added, when users input Ben Nevis, it directs drivers to a car park at the head of Glen Nevis, then a dotted line indicating a route to the summit.


Even the most experienced mountaineer would have difficulty following this route. The line goes through very steep, rocky and pathless terrain where even in good visibility it would be challenging to find a safe line,” she said.


“Add in low cloud and rain and the suggested Google line is potentially fatal.”


The trust claims that many other popular Munros suffer the same, computer-generated plots, which can lure unwary walkers into potentially life-threatening terrain.


For An Teallach in the northwest, a ‘walking’ route was input into the search engine and the line offered would take people over a cliff.


Heather added that it is all too easy to assume that information on the internet is up-to-date and safe, but this is not the case and there have been several incidents recently where walkers following routes download from the internet have resulted in injury or worse.


She said that modern technology can provide some amazing advantages for hillwalkers, but finding routes is not one of them.


“Walkers and climbers with even a little experience will know to read information from a map, whether digital or paper and if they are looking for downloadable routes know to use reputable sources and check several sources to ensure the information they are accessing is the right route for their level of experience and ability.”


Mountaineering Scotland and the John Muir Trust are appealing to Google to consult with them to remove the routes and advise anyone thinking of walking Ben Nevis, or any other mountain or hill, to cross-check information on a map or consult a local guide.


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