A group of tourists stranded near the top of the UK’s highest mountain was saved thanks to a Scottish mountain rescue team and an app that helped track them down.
The tourists were stranded in a blizzard near the summit of Ben Nevis. They had gone off for a hike and appeared to get lost. To make matters worse, the group was hardly prepared for the weather – they wore sneakers and had no ice axes, crampons, or maps.
Luckily for the tourists, however, they had a mobile phone with service. And on that phone, was an app: What3words.
Rescue members with Scotland’s Lochaber Mountain Rescue Team used the app to find the group on Monday night. What3words works as a user friendly GPS – layering three simple words over just about any location on the planet.
The tourists are “extremely lucky” to have survived, somehow managing to endure a blizzard with a wind chill factor of -20 degrees without any of the necessary equipment gear or clothes, according to the rescue group.
“[They had] no winter kit - no ice axes, no crampons and as far as we are aware no maps,” the rescue team said on Facebook. “Three of the guys were in trainers! They were about 150 meters down into Coire Eoghainn on steep ice and if they had slipped or gone down any further, consequences could have been far more serious.”
The four men were transported by helicopter to the Belford Hospital after being rescued.
While the rescue team gave the tourist kudos to surviving in some of the “most challenging weather this year,” the situation could have easily ended differently.
Ben Nevis, a popular tourist destination, is the highest mountain in the British Isles, standing at 1,343 meters. In March 2019, two climbers died and another two were injured after an avalanche on Ben Nevis.
How it works
The What3words app was able to take rescuers to a location on the mountain just meters away from where the tourists were trapped.
The London startup works by dividing the world into 57 trillion squares and giving them each quirky, three-word addresses. It says can track down pretty much any place on the planet.
Times Square, for instance, is crops.cards.gifts.
Mount Everest’s base camp? grapple.crewmember.thunderstorm.
The app then lets users open up the address in another mapping provider, such as Google Maps or Apple Maps, which can direct them to the exact location.
The app, which started with only English as an option, has since expanded to include 36 languages, including Korean, Japanese and Mandarin.
CNN’s Michelle Toh contributed to this report.