Ben MacDui. Photo: Graham Ellis CC-BY-SA-2.0

Ben MacDui. Photo: Graham Ellis CC-BY-SA-2.0

Ill prepared hillwalkers relying on smartphones to navigate on Highland mountains are putting lives at risk, police said.

The head of mountain rescue for Grampian Police criticised groups of walkers who went on to the hills without the skills and knowledge to find their way.

Chief Inspector Andrew Todd’s comments follow the rescue of 14 people last night on Britain’s second-highest mountain, Ben MacDui.

The Grampian force said: “Over the past four nights, Friday to Monday, both Cairngorm Mountain Rescue Team and the joint Grampian Police-Braemar Mountain Rescue Team, supported by colleagues from the Search and Rescue Dog Association, Aberdeen Mountain Rescue and Royal Navy Search and Rescue helicopter from Prestwick have collectively responded to four separate incidents within the Cairngorms.

“The 18 individuals involved all appear to have been attempting to navigate within the Cairngorms using smartphone-type technology.

“Whilst all were traced safe and well, it is disappointing to both the police and the mountain rescue teams that there appeared to be a complete reliance on a navigation technology which we would consider unsuitable for the terrain these groups are traversing.

“Grampian Police wish to take this opportunity to bring to hillwalkers’ attention the need for parties to have the correct level of skill and equipment, particularly with regards to navigation.”

Ch Insp Todd, co-ordinator of mountain rescue in Grampian, said: “I have been involved in mountain rescue for nearly 20 years and, while technology can and does play an important part in raising the alarm or assisting navigation, it appears we may be about to witness a marked increase in the complete reliance of smartphone apps to navigate some of the UK’s highest mountains.

“What is particularly concerning is that the individuals who are relying on this apparently inappropriate technology often do not possess even rudimentary mountain navigation skills.

“This is putting their lives at risk, and while Scotland’s mountains are there for all to enjoy, there is a personal responsibility on those who venture into the mountains to do so only when properly equipped and skilled.”

The group of 14 people was walked to safety from 1,309m (4,295ft) Ben MacDui last night after getting lost in fog at around 7pm. Police said no-one was injured as a result.

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