A summary of the grading system for track and route difficulty used on this site. Please note that these gradings are under review at present and may be modified slightly.
In tramping, experience is more important than general fitness. If you are a fit, active person, do not overestimate your tramping ability.
New Zealand conditions are harsh and changeable. Experienced foreign hikers frequently misjudge conditions and challenges.
A track's difficulty varies with weather conditions. Easy summer tracks can become dangerous or impassable in winter. Rain can make easy river crossings deadly.
Do not confuse track popularity with safety. People die on the Routeburn Track. Being in the outdoors exposes you to a variety of risks you may not be aware of.
Plan your trip around the weakest party member. Do not force that person into conditions they are not ready for. Plan a more challenging trip for some other time!
Here are the main causes of death in the New Zealand outdoors:
- Drowning - rivers rise and fall quickly in New Zealand. Be prepared to wait it out.
- Hypothermia - take adequate clothing.
- Falls - take adequate equipment and don't tramp alone.
The good news is that there are no dangerous wild animals such as snakes or bears!
- Easy: Unusually smooth, well-marked track, easy gradients. Up to about 4 hours tramping per day. Example: Abel Tasman Coast Track.
- Easy-medium: Typical New Zealand lowland tramping track. Generally easy walking and well marked. Ascents of up to 1000m. Some easy river crossings, unmarked travel along rivers. Up to about 6 hours tramping per day. Example: Mount Somers Track.
- Medium: Typical New Zealand tops track. Suitable for experienced trampers only. Tracks may be rough, muddy and poorly marked or unmarked. Ascents of up to 2000m. River crossings, unmarked travel on open tops, passes. Up to about 8 hours tramping per day.
- Medium-hard: Navigation and snow skills (use of ice axe and crampons) required. Expect to encounter glaciers, exposure to falls, and hazardous conditions.
- Hard: Tracks are rough or non-existent. Following ridges, bush spurs, and rivers. Steep ascents, hazardous conditions, snow skills and navigation skills essential. Arduous, hazardous travel that may require basic mountaineering skills.
mtbarney reply to jonjojjon....... Some people are prone to rolled ankles. I'm one of those and the problem just gets worse. I fixed it and avoided surgery by buying a pair Meindl islander pro boots. These are higher than most boots but the result is for me no more rolled ankles. They are heavy but I love them because of the ankle security they provide.
28 April 2012
JonJonJon I'm beginning to wonder if I have the experience to hike most of these trails, especially those that venture into alpine area.
Despite my reservations after reading this article, I do fully intend to hike at least one of these wonderful trails. To ease my mind, I've decided that diligent study and acquisition of the optimal gear is something I intend to carry out.
That being said, it seems like the most important aspects are shoes and shelter. The former is taking precedence in my mind, as I imagine a rolled foot or wrong step is going to create a lot more problems for me kilometers away from civilization, then the fact that my tent is polyurethane coated or has a denier weight of 50d rather than 60d.
Looking online(my current search has led me to a site called http://www.shoestores.com. Thoughts? other recommendations?) and I am stumped. I envision wearing these huge boots, that I consider the prototypical hiking footwear, and my feet hating me after about half a day. On the other hand, sore feet sure beats a high ankle sprain from wearing something too light. Is this a catch-22, or is there a perfect fit?
10 June 2011
Honora Yes, we get that with Mt Rolleston in Arthurs Pass. It's only a grade 1 climb but quite a few neophytes go there and come to grief. Mt Taranaki is another matter. It can ice up really fast and become perillous.
23 June 2010
Matthew I expect it is simply the high visitor numbers, combined with inexperience, and the fact that it leads into alpine areas.
25 November 2008
lgwaddel Hi Matthew
Why do so many of the accidents happen on the Routeburn track before i walked the kepler track when i was in wanaka there was a report that somebody had broken there leg and had to get air lifted out.I walked the kepler and went back to wanaka and there was another report of a broken body part.
Is there something about the routeburn track as a woman died several months ago.
18 November 2008