London - Hikers in the Lake District have been warned not to rely on mobile phones to plot their route on the fells, as mountain rescuers in the national park voice concern about the current spike in callouts.
Volunteers with the Coniston Mountain Rescue Team in the Lake District have already been sent into action 44 times this year - more than in the whole of 2014.
They say inexperienced walkers are relying too heavily on electronic maps, which often prove to be useless compared with traditional paper maps as they quickly drain mobile phone batteries.
The team, which covers peaks including the 2 634ft Old Man of Coniston, is urging novice walkers to always carry a paper Ordnance Survey map and a compass, and to ensure that they know how to use them.
It comes as the Llanberis Mountain Rescue Team in North Wales also reported last month as the busiest ever, and warned that half the callouts could have been easily avoided.
Before mobile phones were invented, the only way for most hikers to summon help was to wait while a friend or passerby headed down to the nearest farm or a phone box. But mistakenly some now also see their phones as navigation tools.
In January last year, a lone walker who got lost in the hills between Langdale and Grassmere was found to have been navigating using a photograph of a map from a book stored on his phone.
Jeff Carroll, Coniston Mountain Rescue Team's deputy leader, said: “We've had 44 incidents so far this year. Last year, we had 43 incidents for the whole year.
“There does seem to be a trend of people relying on their mobile phones to get out of trouble. Those electronic maps are battery hungry and people shouldn't be relying on them.
“If they find themselves in trouble, they are likely to have no battery left to call for help. It really isn't the safest strategy.”
He added: “At the end of the day, we're all volunteers and this is what we do. We will assist anyone who needs our help. But getting lost in the hills can cause people an awful lot of anxiety. We don't want their holiday to be ruined because they are poorly equipped and ill-prepared.”
Wasdale Mountain Rescue Team covers an area of the Lake District including Scafell Pike, England's highest mountain.
Its volunteers have had 86 incidents so far this year, the same as last year, but have been rushed off their feet with a spate of callouts in the past two weeks.
Over the past 10 years, the number of incidents handled by the team has doubled.
Paul Cook, one of the Wasdale team's four leaders, said: “The big area of growth has been in people phoning up on a mobile from Scafell Pike saying that they are lost and asking if we can help them.
“It's vitally important that people who go into the mountains have a map and compass, and that they know how to use them correctly.”