A B.C. search and rescue had to navigate through low light and cloud cover to rescue a hiker off a cliffside north of Vancouver late Saturday afternoon (Nov. 5), after the man appeared to have followed a non-existent Google Maps trail.
North Shore Search and Rescue says it was starting to grow dark by the time they got a call for help near Mount Fromme. The hiker had no light source with him and the tree canopy was thick, making it difficult for crews to pinpoint where he was. Making matters worse, thick cloud cover restricted where the helicopter pilot was able to fly.
In the end, crews were dropped about 100 metres below where they believed the hiker was stranded. They worked their way up the cliffside to the hiker, got him in a harness and lowered him back down to where the helicopter could retrieve him. North Shore SAR says they extracted the man just in time before the clouds became too thick to safely fly.
The group says Saturday was the third time they’ve been called in to the area near Mount Fromme for a hiker in danger. The group says it had been concerned people were following what was marked as a path on Google Maps between the mountain and the Kennedy Falls area. In fact, North Shore SAR says, there are no trails in the area, only steep, wooded terrain and cliff bands.
The groups says proof of the area’s danger was made evident in May 2021 when a hiker went missing and was later found dead.
North Shore SAR says it reached out to Google requesting that the non-existent trail be removed and heard back Monday morning that it had been. The search and rescue group has also placed signage in the area, warning hikers not to attempt the uncharted route.
North Shore SAR says people should never be relying on Google Maps for trail navigation. It says there are plenty of applications specifically designed for hikers that are far more reliable. The search and rescue says a paper map and compass are always the best option, but if people are using their phones they should make sure to pack a charged external battery.
Saturday’s rescue is also a reminder to plan ahead and bring the right equipment, North Shore SAR says.
Editor’s Note: This story has been updated to reflect the fact that Google removed the trail off its maps application on Nov. 6.