Walkers relying on smartphone apps blamed for 50% hike in mountain rescure call outs


Mar 15, 2010
Most rescues involve walkers who have suffered an injury, who are usually always adequately dressed and equipped and have navigation equipment. Which rather scuppers the 'armchair experts' view of badly dressed grumble grumble shouldn't be there grumble grumble ...

I rarely have a compass or map and have never been rescued, however, if injured I would of course call the emergency services (using a mobile phone) and I would expect rescue, what would the Mail make of that I wonder?
the Westmorland gazette said that people use the internet as a way of engaging with the landscape.. wots wrong with going out on the fell and engaging with the landscape in person.. And string maker i to have seen some crazy stuff out on the fells and have helped a couple down helvellyn after the lady twisted her ankle she was wearing flats as they call them and her boyfriend was wearing nice shiny air max trainers

flats and nike air max trainers on striding edge

natural selection has a lot to answer for....


Sep 25, 2008
Gatwick, UK
I use to only use a GPS, but quickly worked out that I didn't have a clue on how to use it and it didn't work under trees. Finally got myself on to a course and learned how to read a map, but more importantly how to read the land. Feel a lot more confident in working out where I am on a map, but could still do with some more practice. Have now got a much better GPS with OS maps on it, but to be honest, I will always rely on a map and compass first, the GPS is there as a bit of back up and to show the route I was thinking of taking.


Bushcrafter (boy, I've got a lot to say!)
‘They’re great with technology, but they can’t walk up a hill without getting into trouble....‘It’s a generation that’s never experienced risk or inconvenience – they get lost and then can’t think beyond the fact they are wet and cold.’

these people will destroy the environment because their parents, the nanny state bureaucrats, will try and make the world a safe place for them


Jan 16, 2006
Still stuck in Nothingtown...
Get a map, get a compass; learn how to use them; no more worrying.

The thing people tend to forget is that a GPS/Sat-Nav etc is just a guide. They can, and frequently do, go wrong so you always need a back-up incase of problems. If you know how to read a map properly then the only thing that can go wrong is you.

These 'smartphones' are only as smart as the guy who programmed them.


Full Member
Sep 22, 2010
Hexham, Northumberland
the Westmorland gazette said that people use the internet as a way of engaging with the landscape.. wots wrong with going out on the fell and engaging with the landscape in person.. And string maker i to have seen some crazy stuff out on the fells and have helped a couple down helvellyn after the lady twisted her ankle she was wearing flats as they call them and her boyfriend was wearing nice shiny air max trainers

flats and nike air max trainers on striding edge

natural selection has a lot to answer for....
Helvellyn seems to attract the unprepared ones, I once met a bloke up there in the middle of winter who was wearing jeans and leather jacket with timberland boots with no winter equipment or food!!!!
Bloomin' numpties....


On a new journey
Dec 10, 2006
1/4 mile from Bramley End.
Just musing: If commercial aircraft use electronics to travel thousands of miles without getting lost shouldn't we be blaming the 'users' rather than the equipment? Also centuries ago when people followed trails without maps I can imagine tavern discussions about those new fangled maps and compasses ("they' re alright but I always take a pickled bat").

Retired Member southey

M.A.B (Mad About Bushcraft)
Jun 4, 2006
your house!
Of course your absolutely right Humpback, It is always the person who is lost who is at fault, there are many excuses but it is the individual who is at fault , even in a group.
Ok, this is written after a few pints of Black Dragon cider so bear with me, it might make sense but I'm not promising anything.

GPS Navigation is great as long as you realise the limitations of the system and use it in conjuction with a map and compass. DON'T RELY ON GPS ALONE! Your Gold Standard for navigation is your map and compass.

As an ex mountain rescue member our navigation skills were constantly practised and honed, we sometimes used gps to get precise fixes on location but these were always backed up with observation of what was around us. if the GPs says your 150m away from the bottom of a cliff face and you'r stood at the top of cliff face, then something is not right and other methods of fixing position is needed. This is where the map skills came in.

Map reading skills are probably one of the most important skills you can learn to go out into the mountains. when the weather closes in, your GPS stops working, you're cold, wet, miserable cos youve finished your last mars bar, you use your map to get yourself out of trouble.

We had, just before I left the MR, started using GPS radios which reported your position on a laptop at base as you used the radio to relay info. the tracks from this info was very interesting to see, sometimes the track was way out, sometimes it was spot on

As to expecting to be rescued when things go wrong, remember that ALL Mountain Rescue services are volunteers, they don't get paid, a lot of their kit has been paid for by the members themselves, each MR team is a registered charity. THEY ARE NOT OBLIGED TO TURN UP TO RESCUE YOU. More often than not they WILL turn up to rescue you, and sometimes put themselves at considerable risk doing so, and sometimes put themselves out of pocket in lost earnings, damaged equipment and so forth. A lot of people think that the RAF and their big yellow helicopters are there solely to rescue people when the fall off mountains, this is not so. The RAF Rescue service is solely for the rescuing of downed pilots. The fact that they go and rescue mountaineers and hikers is purely out of goodwill on their part, again, they are not obliged to turn out to rescue you when you fall over.

So, IMHO GPs is ok, but make sure you know how to read a map and use a compass. And at least have a orange plastic bivvy bag and survival blanket with you in case things go wrong, and a whistle too!

Another pint methinks, sorry about the rant.......


Full Member
Aug 8, 2008
south Wales
we go out for these numpties because someone has to. If we didn't then they may not come back at all. Too bad for them but what about their family? Also look at the cost of running the RAF and Police shoppers in a search. We're cheap, cheerful and for some it's just a love of learning, helping and being outdoors.

As SW says, anyone out in remote areas should be able to navigate reasonably well in poor conditions. Especially when the batteries have died and the weather is on the turn. If they can't then they should at least have left a route card with q responsible person and have enough basic kit to keep them (reasonably) warm, dry and fed until they can attract attention or be found by a hill party, chopper or search dog.

As for the GPS and laptops used by MR it's still in the trial phase for many teams. The GPS mics are a bit flakey, can be inaccurate, ruin the battery life and only work when the radio has comms with the control vehicle. We're also looking at SPOT gps tracker and have had some very good results to date. However, these aren't used as navigation tools for the hill teams. The gps coordinates aren't visible to the hill team carrying the kit. They still rely on map compass and local knowledge. The gps track is fed straight to the laptop in the control vehicle. The search manager can then view the track on screen and use it to refine his search plan and keep an eye on progress.


If anyone is interested in what we do, donating supporting or even joining up you can check out the Mountain Rescue England and Wales or Mountain Rescue Scotland websites for more info. Teams are almost always looking for new blood and will be more than happy to have a chat.

My own team (Western Beacons Mountain Search and Rescue Team) is based in Bridgend, south Wales, and is always on the lookout for new members.

And remember, we don't just do mountains! I think we cover the largest geographical extent in the UK. From just west of Cardiff through to Aberdare and all the way up to around New Quey on the coast. Lots of mountain and upland moors as well as the woodland areas many of the guys on here frequent! If you have an "oh sh*t!" Moment with a sharp, the weather is too crappy for the chopper to come in and your too far from the road for the ambulance to get to you, who do you think will leave their families, hump many kilos of gear miles into the woods, patch you up and then carry it all (and you!) back to the ambulance?

Come on guys, show some support!


Mar 30, 2011
Athens, Greece
Personally i think GPS and decent map reading compliment each other well, no way is a GPS a replacement for a map and the skills to read it though.

For me personally unless the weather and visibility is exceptionally bad i never really bother with step counting.
So although i know exactly which path i'm walking on unless i take time out to triangulate it's difficult to say exactly where i am on that path.
Obviously i will have a bracketed my walk and have something that stands out (like a river, road, pylon etc) that if i reach it i know i've gone to far.

But still the GPS is handy to see exactly where i am and how far to the nearest way point.

The thing you have to be aware of though is that the GPS may not always be THAT accurate or even get a signal at all (even if it works) so no matter what you still absolutely need to pre-plan your walk.

You also need to know the limits and limitations of GPS.
You should always have a good idea of where you are on a map, if the GPS is saying something different then you need to double check both your map and the GPS rather than blindly following what the screen says.

As an example of why i always take a GPS with me.
There are a few caves in the area we usually walk, they are marked on my maps, but to be honest the local maps are pretty poor, so whenever we set out to find these ancient caves we just couldn't find them.

We then came across a site that had them listed with GPS coordinates, i tried transferring these to the map, but even though i'm 100% sure i added them correctly we still couldn't find the cave.
I got out my GPS as i had added the caves coordinates in previous i just clicked on it and we walked straight to the entrance.

This really shows how poor the maps are over here more than anything else, but still it does show that GPS is a useful tool at times, if you accept it's limitations.


May 26, 2009
Being a scout leader i often teach map and compas myself. I also geocache using my smartphone alone. (But not in the middle of nowhere)

Both are useful tools?. But I would not rely on the phone to navigate in anything but towns and cities. The battery life is too bad

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