Ben Nevis is, at 4,413 feet, the highest point on the island of Great Britain. But that diminutive height doesn’t mean it’s a simple hill. The name in Gaelic translates roughly as “malicious mountain.” There are sections of hundreds of feet of near vertical rock that give the mountain an imposing look, and it’s often hit with brutal weather. But there is a popular trail to the top that isn’t terribly difficult, and unless you’re blazing an off-trail route, or doing some serious ice climbing, a trip to the top of Ben Nevis shouldn’t really be a matter of life and death.
Unless you follow Google Maps, that is.
Hikers, and the John Muir Trust, which helps manage recreation on the mountain, have discovered recently that Google directs visitors to the mountain to park at the highest car parking zone, which makes sense, then directs hikers more or less straight to the peak. The problem is, the actual trail for hikers doesn’t lead from that parking area. The route Google suggests is straight up near vertical rock sections that are “potentially fatal” says Heather Morning of the group Mountaineering Scotland.
“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.”
The group has pointed out that injuries have occurred in recent years from Google Maps users following the poor directions from the app on other challenging mountains.
An Tallach, a mountain in northwest Scotland, for example, appears on Google Maps with hiking directions too. Problem is, those directions, if followed, lead right off a cliff.
The John Muir Trust has reached out to Google to have these maps corrected, but so far have been met with silence.
There is a lesson here. Something about paper maps and common sense.
Top photo: Migle Siauciulyte/Unsplash