Written on 21/01/23 by Paul Oldham

Challenging Paths

There was an incident recently where Keswick MRT had to be called out after walkers got cragfast on a path on Barf and it made the news as they were using a hiking app that took them down the path.

There's two issues here. The first is that there is a path at that location ... but it's a "scramble". A scramble is a defined term and it's a route that requires some skills. It's not full on mountaineering, you shouldn't need a rope, but you do have to be confident of your abilities on this sort of terrain.

The second is that it seems that the app the walkers were using took them down the scramble without any warning of the technical difficulties of this route.

So where does this leave us at WalkLakes? Well, on the first issue we source all the paths on our WayMaps map tiles from OpenStreetMap and their view is that one should map all paths which exist and the scramble on Barf is a good example of this. Well meaning mappers removed it after this incident but it was quickly re-added.

However in OpenStreetMap there is a method of tagging technically difficult paths. This is done using an internationally recognised standard called the SAC Scale and this path is classified, quite rightly as "T4 alpine hiking".

We've now updating our map rendering so that all paths with a SAC scale of 4 or higher are shown with red dashes, as you can see here on Barf:

Path up Barf, now show in red

This approach gives walkers planning their own route a hint that a path is challenging while not hiding the fact that the path exists.

On the second issue although we don't tend to take you up (and especially down, as it's harder) scrambles sometimes it's necessary so where we need to we always warn you if a route is technically challenging.

Striding Edge from Helvellyn
Striding Edge

So take our walk Helvellyn, The Classic Ridges of Striding and Swirral Edge which is a classic Lake District walk but is dangerous in that it takes you along Striding Edge where there have been fatalities over the years. You'll see our discussion of this in the introduction to the walk and in addition, like all of our walks, at the top we have a "Terrain" rating and for this one we note "5 - very steep/exposed/knife edge" and, if you click on the text, you'll see the popup which appears that explains grade 5.

So if you're an inexperienced walker do make sure you always read our introduction and note the Terrain rating.

Tagged: maps, safety, walks

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WalkLakes recognises that hill walking, or walking in the mountains, is an activity with a danger of personal injury or death.
Participants in these activities should be aware of and accept these risks and be responsible for their own actions.