Trampers Reminded to Rethink Track Choices for Winter

31st May 2024|4 min
Media Release | For immediate release

King’s Birthday Weekend signals the beginning of winter, and NZ Mountain Safety Council (MSC) is reminding trampers that some walks should be put on hold until spring.

“All trampers need to consider that there will be significantly colder temperatures and reduced daylight hours in winter,” says MSC Chief Executive Mike Daisley. “For alpine areas, there are the added complexities of ice, snow and avalanches. These factors combined, present a significantly more challenging environment for alpine tracks, and they should only be attempted by trampers with alpine and avalanche skills, equipment and experience appropriate for these conditions.

With the wintry weather and shorter days, choosing the right track for your skills and abilities is essential, says Daisley.

“Take time to thoroughly research a walk. Make sure it’s suitable to do in winter, that it’s within the capabilities of everyone in your group, and that it can be comfortably completed before it starts to get dark.

“We encourage everyone to put time into their planning and preparation at any time of the year, but especially during winter, even for short, local walks. That includes checking the weather forecast and being prepared to turn around or change your plans if the weather unexpectedly turns nasty. Taking a headtorch, waterproof jacket, warm hat and gloves, extra warm clothing layers, and food are basic requirements for a more comfortable and safer trip.” 

MSC’s Plan My Walk website and app is a great place to start researching options and planning a trip.

“Plan My Walk includes advice and alerts so that you can decide if a walk is appropriate for you to do in winter. It includes a track description and key information, such as the length and grade of the walk. The MetService weather forecast and any severe weather warnings for the area are also available. There’s a suggested gear list that you can customise and useful reviews from other trampers.”

Of the Great Walks, there are five that should not be attempted over winter without expert skills. These are the Milford Track, Routeburn Track, Kepler Track, Tongariro Northern Circuit and Whanganui Journey. Facilities have been greatly reduced on these trips, and on the Routeburn and Milford, bridges that are prone to avalanche damage have been removed.

“With bookings underway for the Great Walks, these are on many people’s minds. However, everyone needs to be aware of the tracks that should not be attempted outside the Great Walks season except by fit, highly experienced and winter-equipped trampers with alpine, avalanche and river-crossing skills,” says Daisley. “There are plenty of other achievable winter tramping options around the motu. Plan My Walk is a great place to get inspiration.”

For those keen to try a Great Walk this winter, Rakiura Track and Abel Tasman Coast Track are open year-round for walkers. The Heaphy Track and Paparoa Track are open for both walkers and mountain bikers.


 Remember to always follow the NZ Land Safety Code when exploring our great outdoors:

  1. Choose the right trip for you – learn about the route and make sure you have the skills for it.
  2. Understand the weather – it can change fast. Check the forecast and change your plans if needed.
  3. Pack warm clothes and extra food – prepare for bad weather and an unexpected night out.
  4. Share your plans and take ways to get help – telling a trusted person your trip details and taking a distress beacon can save your life.
  5. Take care of yourself and each other – eat, drink and rest, stick with your group, and make decisions together.