Google Maps is directing hikers to a ‘potentially fatal’ trail in Scotland, experts

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A stark warning has been issued to hikers attempting to scale Scotland’s highest mountain: A trail to the summit marked out on Google Maps is “potentially fatal.”

The John Muir Trust — the organization named after the Scottish-born conservationist and man who saved Yosemite from development — issued the warning this week. 

The specific route in question is suggested on the Google Maps app when pulling up directions via car, then by foot to the peak of Ben Nevis, the U.K.’s tallest mountain.

“The problem is that Google Maps directs some visitors to the Upper Falls carpark, presumably because it is the closest carpark 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,” conservation officer Nathan Berrie told Mountaineering Scotland.


That route is described as “highly dangerous, even for experienced climbers.”


At 4,413 feet, Ben Nevis, in the Scottish Highlands, is the highest mountain in Great Britain. Dense fog and snow can appear there suddenly, impairing visibility and causing frequent falls and other accidents over the years. The peak is covered in mist for about 300 days a year. Only last month, 24-year-old Sarah Buick’s body was found on the mountain, shortly after she posted selfies from the summit. There are typically two or three deaths a year at the site, through accidents, falls and avalanches.

As of Friday morning, the dangerous section of the trail from the parking lot to the summit was still shown on Google Maps. 

Screenshot taken on Friday, July 16, 2021, showing Google Maps' route to the Ben Nevis summit. The final walking segment is the section experts have warned is

Screenshot taken on Friday, July 16, 2021, showing Google Maps’ route to the Ben Nevis summit. The final walking segment is the section experts have warned is “potentially fatal.”

Google Maps

Similarly, at another mountain in Scotland, An Teallach, a “walking” route offered by the search engine showed a route that would guide people over a cliff, Mountaineering Scotland reports.

“It’s all too easy these days to assume that information on the internet is all good stuff, correct, up to date and safe,” Heather Morning, Mountaineering Scotland’s mountain safety adviser, wrote. “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.”

Mountaineering Scotland and the John Muir Trust are appealing to Google to consult with them in the hopes that this life-threatening route is removed from the app. The trust says that these appeals have so far been met with silence.

In a statement Friday morning, a Google spokesperson told SFGATE that the company has “investigated the issue at Ben Nevis, and have confirmed that our walking directions do not lead people through dangerous routes.”

They added, “Our driving directions currently route people to the Nevis Gorge trailhead parking lot — the lot closest to the summit — which has prominent signs indicating that the trail is highly dangerous and for advanced hikers only. To help both novice and experienced hikers more easily find trails that suit their level of expertise, we’re now updating our driving routes to take people directly to the visitor center, where they’ll be able to speak with staff about the best trail to take.”



Read More:Google Maps is directing hikers to a ‘potentially fatal’ trail in Scotland, experts

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