Be careful with Google Maps if you go to the mountain

It seems incredible that 16 years have already passed since the launch of Google Maps. At that time we were used to maps and road guides in printed format and, those that were digital, on a CD that was updated every year with the latest changes in the national road network, both public and private (tolls). And yes, I said national, I don’t remember there being any global compilation. The biggest thing I remember seeing about it was a European level guide, but that was the cap. Google Maps was, and still is, global.

What’s more, over the years, new and interesting functions were arriving, such as Street View, additional adjustments in the routes, layers with additional information, real-time traffic status … it is evident, without a doubt, that Google Maps is one of the star services of the search engine company and, consequently, they work constantly to improve. The closest example of this we have in the announcement, just a few months ago, of the implementation of up to 100 improvements in the service. Even the strongest critics of the company and its services must recognize that the level of development of Google Maps is exceptional.

Now this doesn’t mean it’s perfect, and the problem is that there are many people who are not aware of it. Worse, the blind confidence that some people develop can have life-threatening consequences. The latest example of this is the ad from the non-governmental organization John Muir Trust, a community-focused entity dedicated to experiencing, protecting and repairing wild places across the UK.

With the more than descriptive title of “Online routes could put walkers at risk”, lThe organization alerts to the growing number of visitors using services such as Google Maps to ascend to Ben Nevis, the highest mountain in the United Kingdom (1,344 meters above sea level) located in the Grampian Mountains of Scotland. A uniquely picturesque place that deserves to be visited by any nature lover.

The problem, according to the organization, is that the route suggested by Google Maps is not recommended at all: “Even the most experienced mountaineer would have difficulty following this route. The line runs through very steep, rocky and trackless terrain where, even with good visibility, it would be difficult to find a safe line. Add low cloud and rain and Google’s suggested path is potentially fatal»Says Heather Morning, Mountain Safety Advisor for Mountaineering Scotland

This is not something new, anyone who has been using services like Google Maps for a long time will have encountered some errors (I still remember when I wanted to make a 180 degree turn in the middle of a road that did not allow it. On that occasion I was not driving, but I was guiding a bus driver who did not know that route either). Google Maps maps are very good, but we must never forget that they are not perfect.

The company has acknowledged receipt and claims to be working to fix the problem with the Ben Nevis route, although what they could do, until this failure, as well as others especially related to off-road routes, is to redirect users to interpretation centers, tourist offices and other services, which to Today they are the most reliable for information on how to perform these activities safely.

On the other hand, and for those who want to do hiking, mountain biking and similar activities, Google Maps is not the best option. Instead, there are some specialized services, and in which the routes are not automatically generated from a map, but rather the users themselves document and add them to the service. An example of this is the popular Wikiloc, also global in scope, but which exchanges asphalt for land, rock and even water.

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