Google Maps updates Ben Nevis route after complaints about ‘potentially fatal’ path

·3-min read
Ben Nevis summit - the highest mountain in the United Kingdom
Ben Nevis summit - the highest mountain in the United Kingdom. (Getty)

Google has updated a Ben Nevis route in its mapping service after complaints it had suggested a “potentially fatal” path for walkers.

The tech giant denied its map offered dangerous directions for people on foot but did admit driving routes could be misinterpreted at the mountain in Scotland.

Google said from now on drivers would be directed to a visitor centre rather than a car park where dotted distance lines to the peak may have been misunderstood.

Scottish mountaineering charities had criticised Google for suggesting routes up Ben Nevis and other mountains they say are “potentially fatal” and direct people over a cliff.

Read more: Body found after Ben Nevis walker reported missing

Scottish mountaineering charities said the suggested route up Ben Nevis is dangerous (Mountaineering Scotland/PA)
Scottish mountaineering charities said the suggested route up Ben Nevis is dangerous (Mountaineering Scotland/PA)

The John Muir Trust, which looks after the upper reaches of the UK’s highest mountain, said attempts to contact the company over the issue have been met with silence.

The charity said certain searches for routes up Ben Nevis on Google Maps direct users to the car park nearest the summit as the crow flies, and then indicate a walking route that is “highly dangerous, even for experienced climbers”.

Nathan Berrie, Nevis conservation officer for the trust, 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 even experienced climbers would have trouble with the suggested route.

The charity said Google also directs users into “life-threatening terrain” for other mountains.

It said for An Teallach in the north-west Highlands, a walking route suggested by the search engine would take people over a cliff.

Ms Morning added: “It’s all too easy these days to assume that information on the internet is all good stuff, correct, up to date and safe.

“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.”

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The route up An Teallach goes over a cliff, the charities said (Mountaineering Scotland/PA)
The route up An Teallach goes over a cliff, the charities said (Mountaineering Scotland/PA)

A Google spokeswoman said: "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 centre, where they'll be able to speak with staff about the best trail to take."

Google said it was reviewing other routes in the area and welcomed feedback from mountaineering groups.

Mountaineering Scotland and The John Muir Trust recommended climbers cross-check information on a map or consult a local guide.

Update:

A Google spokesperson added: ''We’ve investigated the issue at Ben Nevis, and have confirmed that our walking directions do not lead people through dangerous routes. 

"Our driving directions currently route people to the Nevis Gorge trailhead car park - 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 centre, where they’ll be able to speak with staff about the best trail to take.'' 

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