Mountaineering is an inherently risky recreational pursuit, and it is often this balance between risk and reward that attracts and motivates climbers, or if not, climbers are at least aware of this fine balance.

It is impossible to remove all the risks from mountaineering. The MSC encourages those with the relevant skills, experience and knowledge to undertake outdoor recreation activities, including mountaineering, and in no way suggests people should not get involved in the pursuit. Unfortunately, on occasion things do go wrong, and despite best intentions and actions serious accidents do occur.

Key risks

  • Many deaths have occurred due to inexperience with crampons, or not putting them on when needed.
  • Many falls which created a rescue or fatality were on the descent.  These may have been due to inattention to the task and risks present, fatigue and not staying together with climbing partners.

Climbers on a peak - Stock

Did you know? 

In the past 10 years, a third of all mountaineering fatalities occurred in December.
– There and Back, 2016


Quickly explore a section of this page


Outdoor Safety Code

The first thing to remember is that every trip needs a plan. It doesn't take much to turn a short walk into an 'unexpected night out.' If you've planned before you hit the track using the outdoor safety code as a guide, there's a good chance you'll be prepared to handle an unexpected turn of events. 

Safety is the outcome of good planning and good decision making
– Mike Daisley, MSC CEO
Find our more about the Outdoor Safety Code below. 


Key Insights 

26,551 Mountaineers participate per year. There are an average of 64 injuries, 37 people involved in a search and rescue and 3.2 fatalities.
There and Back, 2016


Mountaineering makes up 24% of all fatalities included in 'There and Back' - Tramping / Hunting / Mountaineering / Trail Running / Mountain Biking
–  There and Back, 2016
64% of all injuries are soft tissue.
– There and Back, 2016


A quarter of all those killed while mountaineering in NZ were Australian.
– There and Back, 2016


Key Resources 

New Zealand Avalanche Advisory (NZAA) 

The New Zealand's Avalanche Advisory (NZAA) is provided for anyone planning on travelling in the New Zealand backcountry alpine areas.

Please note that avalanche forecasts are supplied by the Mountain Safety Council (MSC) and are intended as an advisory only. NZAA and MSC recommend checking the mountain weather forecast provided by MetService as part of your trip planning.


Head to the New Zealand Avalanche Advisory (NZAA) for forecasts about your local conditions. 

Head to the NZAA


Snow Safety Code

Know Your Limits
  • Ride to your ability, control your speed
  • Be aware of the conditions
  • Take a lesson
Find Your Space
  • Stop where you can be seen
  • Give others room
  • Look ahead
Protect Yourself 
  • Obey all signs and closures
  • Tired, take a rest
  • Wear a helmet

pdf Snow Safety Code pdf – 71 KB


Info EX

The Info-Ex is a cooperative service managed by the New Zealand Mountain Safety Council (MSC) and has been running since 1998. It provides a daily exchange of technical snow, weather and avalanche information between organisations and commercial businesses that actively manage avalanche hazards during the winter months (e.g. heliskiing companies, ski areas and land managers).

The Info-Ex data base allows subscribers to input and view daily weather, snowpack and avalanche observations giving avalanche professionals access to data that is accurate and relevant. This information improves each subscriber's awareness of the conditions across New Zealand, greatly enhancing their ability to manage their local avalanche risks. Info-Ex serves as one of the key sources of data used by the NZ Avalanche Advisory that forecasters use to produce and verify their avalanche advisories.

Subscribe to Info Ex



YouTube 01

MSC worked with Epic TV to produce a five part avalanche safety series. Watch the whole series HERE. The video series is designed to be a short beginners guide about avalanche risk, and some basic techniques. Please note: This video series is NOT designed to be a complete training course – we strongly recommend you get training and learn from the experts. Please visit the courses page for more details

Episode #1 - Epic TV video series 

Episode #2 - Epic TV video series 


Mitigate The Risks

Manage Fatigue

Employ strategies for identifying and managing fatigue. Ensure this is considered as part of any pre-trip planning and pay this element the due respect it deserves during your trip. Allow time for adequate breaks to rest and take on food/water. Most importantly ensure the culture surrounding your trip allows for topics such as fatigue management to be part of your conversations and communication.

Did you know?

71% of all mountaineering fatalities are due to falling.
There and Back, 2016
Plan each stage of the journey

Discuss, agree on and employ suitable travel options/modes in terrain where falling is possible, and could result in serious consequences. Pay particular attention to moderate terrain where typically mountaineers would travel un-roped. 


What Should I Take? 

Questions to consider before you head out 

  • What route are you planning to take?
  • How long will it take you?
  • Do you have enough experience to climb this mountain?
  • Is it within the limits of everyone in the group?
  • Have you factored in enough time in case it takes longer than expected?
  • How will you manage fatigue on your descent?



Head to the New Zealand Avalanche Advisory (NZAA) for forecasts about your local conditions. 

Head to the NZAA

Learn more about the risks of avalanches on our Avalanche safety section

Find out more

Join an alpine club - visit our clubs page

Find out more

Attend a Backcountry Avalanche Course - Visit our courses page

Find out more 

Head to our online store for relevant resources such as:

  • Avalanche Safety pamphlets and manuals
  • Avalanche assessor and rescue cards