A search and rescue group in British Columbia advised hikers to use a paper map and compass instead of road map programs after it said two hikers had been rescued by helicopter after possibly following a trail that didn’t exist but appeared on Google Maps.
This was reported by the North Shore Rescue group on Facebook that on November 6, Google Maps had removed the non-existent trail, which was in a very steep area with cliffs north of Mount Fromme, overlooking Vancouver.
The group said it had deployed a helicopter and a rope rescue team on November 4th on the backside of the mountain, which is 3,888 feet high and covered in temperate rain forest, to help a stranded hiker who didn’t have a light and couldn’t be seen under the thick tree canopy.
“The team was able to locate the subject, put him in a harness and get him safely to a location where he and the team could be extracted by helicopter, just before the clouds closed in and would otherwise have prevented the helicopter access,” the group said.
The group said it recently posted warning signs “Dangerous cliffs the wrong way” to highlight how dangerous the area was.
In the month of September, the group rescued a hiker who called and said he was on a cliff and wasn’t sure how long he could hold out. Two years earlier, a hiker had fell and died from the same point, the group said.
North Shore Rescue said hikers in the September and November rescues “may have been trying to follow a route on Google Maps that doesn’t exist.”
People can send suggestions changes to Google Maps for incorrect or missing data. Google does not provide a timeline for how long it will take to process these suggestions. It was unclear how the non-existent trail appeared on Google Maps.
“We use a variety of sources to update Google Maps, including third-party information, images, and feedback from our community,” the company said in an emailed statement Sunday.
This isn’t the first time hikers have been misled by misleading or ghostly trails on Google Maps.
In July 2021, climbers warned that Google Maps could direct visitors to “potentially fatal” trails on Ben Nevis, Britain’s highest peak.
The warning was issued by Mountaineering Scotland, a climbing organisation, and the John Muir Trust, a charity dedicated to protecting natural areas in Britain.
After the warning, the two groups said that Google Maps had updated directions to Ben Nevis and that they had discussed other wilderness safety issues with Google Maps representatives.
Maggie Peikon, a representative for the American Hiking Society, said people should always research a trail so they know what to expect regarding terrain, elevation gain and distance.
This can be done by searching for information on apps and websites specifically designed for hikers and on social media sites.
Ms. Peikon said the company also recommends hikers of all experience levels pack their bags 10 essential elementsincluding water, a first aid kit and appropriate footwear.
“If you go off the trail or happen to get lost, at least you have the things you need to stay safe and feel comfortable until you get help or get off the trail,” he said.
Sandy Colhoun, president of the National Outdoor Leadership School, a global nonprofit wilderness school, said the school’s courses relied entirely on map and compass skills, even though digital technology could be “amazing when it works.” .
“In the wilderness, situations change dramatically and quickly, and having the confidence to know you can find a way out starts with having those skills,” Colhoun said.
This is especially important because technology can fail, he said. A device’s battery may run low and satellite signals may be interrupted by natural obstacles, such as dense forests, deep canyons, and adverse weather conditions.
“When you’re in the wilderness, in austere environments, you don’t really have a second chance if your technology fails and you don’t have a backup system,” Colhoun said.