Hill walkers in the UK urged not to rely on smartphones walking | Daily News Byte


Walkers in the UK have been warned not to rely on smartphones to find their way over hills and mountains and instead learn to use a map and compass, amid an increase in calls to rescue services.

A walker fell ill on Christmas Day and later died after getting into trouble at Buckstones Jump near Rydal in the Lake District.

As of Boxing Day morning, rescue teams in the Lake District had attended 606 callouts in 2022, a figure expected to rise to 620 by the end of the year. The number has increased significantly over the last 10 years, from 432 incidents in 2012. Last year was their busiest year with 681 callouts.

As more people explore the outdoors – many for the first time – experts urge people to understand how to use a map and compass, as well as when heading out with a torch and mobile battery backup.

The Lake District Search and Mountain Rescue Association said one in four callouts were “inevitable rescues” due to people getting lost or delayed because they lacked the necessary navigational skills.

LDSMRA chairman Richard Warren said smartphones are a great resource for walkers and climbers but that variable phone signals and battery power, which drains quickly in cold weather, can cause problems if people rely entirely on them. “What we’re trying to avoid is people just relying on their mobile phones and teaching them to use maps and compasses.”

He said mountain rescue teams are made up of volunteers, unpaid and on call throughout the year, including Christmas.

Paul Donovan, co-project lead for AdventureSmart UK’s safety campaign, said that while it was “strange” that more people were walking and engaging with nature, there had been a national increase in incidents. “If they depend on their smartphone without any backup then something is likely to happen as a result.”

He added that there is nothing wrong with using Google Maps or OS Maps, but walkers and climbers are advised to keep battery backups and learn to use a map and compass.

“That’s something that’s become more apparent to us in the last 12 to 18 months as more people are venturing into the hills and Covid has changed the demographics of people venturing into the hills and outback,” Donovan said.

Before heading out, he urges people to ask themselves three questions: Do I have the right gear? Do I know what the weather will be like? Am I confident that I have the knowledge and skills of the day?

This month the Ogwen Valley Mountain Rescue Organisation, in Wales, reported 11 rescues and the Adel Mountain Rescue Team in the Peak District reported several incidents.


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