Hill walkers have been warned not to use smartphone apps to navigate in the Scottish mountains after the police had to rescue 16 people who got lost in the Cairngorms.Now, I have to admit that, not owning a smartphone, I don't have much idea of their capabilities, but I can't imagine any circumstances in which I would be prepared to undertake a risky activity relying entirely on the say-so of a mobile phone, particularly given the difficulty of getting a signal in remote mountain areas.
There seems to be a lot of it about - the police say there have been four cases of this type since Friday, and, according to the deputy leader of Cairngorm Mountain Rescue Team:
"Last night alone, we were involved in two separate incidents, involving a total of 16 people, who had relied on smartphone apps to navigate on the high tops, were very poorly equipped for the conditions, and become lost."I've long despaired at teenagers who use their phone as a sort of external hard drive for their brains, a device to save them the trouble of ever having to commit anything to memory or, in some cases, bothering to think at all; though the ages aren't given (this being the Guardian), it seems that outsourcing intellectual function is even more widespread than I thought.
About the only thing the phones seem to have been useful for was calling in the emergency services when the walkers realised they were hopelessly lost - which is rather like Stephenson's new-fangled railway helpfully rushing William Huskisson to hospital after he was hit by the inaugural train.
One group of 14 walkers was eventually rescued in the early hours of Tuesday morning in an operation involving police, two mountain rescue teams and a Royal Navy helicopter. Fuel costs aside, that's an awful lot of people to be deprived of a night's sleep just because some twit thinks his smartphone's a better bet than a compass, a map and proper equipment.