After the rescue of more than 100 German students and teachers from mountain distress in Austria, the German Alpine Association (DAV) and the Bavarian mountain rescue service warn against using tour descriptions from the Internet without checking them. “Unfortunately, there are also tour descriptions that are inaccurate and do not accurately reflect the demands or difficulty of a route and the potential for danger,” said Stefan Winter, who is responsible for popular sports, sports development and safety research at the DAV, the German Press Agency.
“There are two major challenges,” said mountain rescue spokesman Roland Ampenberger: “Verifying the information and transferring this information to your own project and adapting your own skills.”
The 99 young people aged 12 to 14 and eight teachers from the Ludwigshafen area were rescued by helicopter from mountain distress on Tuesday in Kleinwalsertal, Austria. According to police, they were traveling on a route that was too difficult for their equipment and skills. The teachers chose the route based on misleading information from the Internet, where it was described as a “classic after-work tour”. In fact, the narrow Heuberggrat is a path that is partially interrupted by climbing passages, “which requires a head for heights, sure-footedness and experience in alpine terrain,” according to the police.
Often nothing is known about the experience of the authors on the Internet
There are more and more “extremely irresponsible Internet entries that lead to life-threatening situations,” said Mittelberg Mayor Andi Haid. “The difficult thing about descriptions on the Internet is that it is not known how experienced and powerful the authors are,” said Winter from the DAV. “A professional mountaineer will describe a moderately difficult tour as easy, while a beginner is already at their personal limit.” He therefore recommends always looking at the imprint and also checking who the author of the route description is. Ampenberger from the mountain rescue service recommends the platforms of the alpine and tourism associations for preparation.
In March, the death of three hikers in the Bavarian Alps triggered a discussion about hiking apps. The four-person hiking group took this as a guide and changed the route. A couple from the Regensburg district aged 35 and 44 and a 35-year-old man from the Straubing area slipped down an extremely steep and grassy gully on the Maiwand and fell to their deaths. “Many are used to public transport apps today and then expect an app to work just as reliably in nature, but that cannot be transferred one-to-one to the mountains,” said Ampenberger. However, it is important to check the reality on site: “Instead of looking out at what the clouds really are like, you look at the weather app.”
Influencers who show pictures of a fantastic mountain panorama on Instagram or TikTok are also a problem – but not how difficult it is sometimes to get there. “It’s only about beautiful pictures and not about serious background information,” said Winter, citing the example of a “fantastic beautiful pool in the Berchtesgaden National Park”, which triggered such a hype and rush of selfie tourists that the park imposed a ban on entry. It is important, emphasizes Winter, “that detailed tour planning is required and that you don’t just rush after social media posts”.
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