MAPPING app AllTrails has updated some of its routes after two call-outs in 24-hours for Keswick Mountain Rescue Team highlighted ‘serious limitations’.
On Monday, five MRT volunteers were involved in a rescue when a man became disorientated as darkness fell over Causey Pike. He was following a suggested path on AllTrails, but ended up being guided down after rescuers informed him the path he was looking for didn’t exist.
The following day, the Keswick team were called out again when three women and their dog became stuck in crags near the steep face of Barf on a circular route to Lord’s Seat. Again, the party had been following AllTrails.
“There is no path via this route, only a scramble of loose scree, which also requires the walker to negotiate the rocky outcrop of Slape Crag (the scene of previous callouts),” said Keswick MRT.
“The three woman were descending their route from the top of Barf and had negotiated the difficult down climb of Slape Crag, but with fading light and poor visibility they became crag-fast and wisely dialled 999 to request Mountain Rescue help.”
The group were quickly discovered and given harnesses and helmets before being tied-in to short ropes to back-up the remainder of their descent to the parking area where they were able to return home in their own vehicle.
In the previous day’s incident, the man was following a recommended walk around the tops above Braithwaite using AllTrails. As darkness fell, he decided to take a short cut back to his start point by following a path on the app, northwards to Stonycroft Beck.
“With increasing darkness he became confused and subsequently lost as he could not find the path even with his head torch,” rescuers said.
“He therefore called 999 and mountain rescue for help. After he messaged a screenshot of his map showing his position the cause of his confusion became apparent. There is no path in this location, the mapping software was incorrect.
“He was guided over the phone to the correct path and he made his way down to be met by a small Keswick team to ensure he made his way to safety.”
Both incidents were described by the Keswick team as stark reminders of the limitations of mapping apps.
AllTrails make safety improvement vow
Meanwhile, AllTrails has vowed to improve trail safety, and has already contacted Keswick MRT.
“AllTrails takes trail safety very seriously and users can help us maintain accurate and up-to-date trail pages by suggesting edits or leaving reviews,” a spokesperson told Ever Wild Outdoors.
“We strive to work directly with parks and land managers to ensure the public receives the best possible information. We have contacted the Keswick Mountain Rescue Team to see how we can partner to improve trail safety.”
AllTrails added its UK Data Integrity Team had conducted a review of its trails and that the maps have now been updated to reflect feedback from Keswick.
“The AllTrails Data Integrity team curates, updates, and maintains trail guides and we have a team assigned to the UK to ensure trail information is frequently updated on an ongoing basis,” said the spokesperson.
“The Data Integrity managers utilise information from many sources including user feedback, land managers and park information, Open Street Maps data, and community insights for maintaining the digital trail guides.
“While we are regularly updating our maps to reflect real-time conditions, in this instance, our team’s updates aligned with the feedback from the Keswick Mountain Rescue Team and we immediately modified the route to the recommended footpath.”
The company also stressed the app was only one part of the important preparation that everyone should follow to have a safe and positive experience on the trail.
It urged users to identify a hike that fitted their ability and goals by using the app’s filters, but also look for routes with recent reviews and photos for the most up-to-date trail information.
Commenting on AllTrails’, Craig Dring of Keswick Mountain Rescue Team, said the volunteers weren’t anti mapping apps, but they did have concerns over safety.
“We’re not experts in digital mapping and the two incidents we reported have raised some questions which we fed back to AllTrails,” he said.
“We’re not against digital maps such as AllTrails (and others) and see they can be useful in conjunction with other information sources such as OS Maps, and guidebooks etc.
“The questions we fed back relate to the source of digital paths and how their accuracy and danger level can be verified and users informed. Also if an error, or a new path results in an accident black spot, how can a change be made.”