Walking in the rain on the Milford Track guided walk

Risk Management

Before booking a hike with Ultimate Hikes you should be aware that hiking on New Zealand’s Great Walks and tracks involves risks .

Ultimate Hikes is a registered Adventure Activity.

We are committed to providing a safe environment for our guests walking the Milford, Routeburn and Greenstone Tracks.

Please read the information below.

When booking this activity, if an email address is not provided for each person, the main contact is responsible for ensuring that all members of their group understands the risks and have made an informed decision to walk with us.

The natural environment in these remote regions can be hazardous and unpredictable and under the New Zealand Adventure Activity Regulations, we are obliged to provide prospective guests with detailed advice of the potential risks you could face undertaking our activities. 

Ultimate Hikes has long been a voluntary member of active adventure programmes and we regularly seek out audits to review our health and safety practises.

The following are hazards that may be encountered on our walks and the ways that Ultimate Hikes mitigate the risks where we can anticipate or predict such events.

Natural Hazards that may occur at any time include:

  • Severe Storm
  • Flooding
  • Landslip
  • Treefall
  • Avalanche
  • Earthquake
  • Tsunami (Milford Sound)

The region we operate in is extremely remote and rugged.  The landscape is mountainous and densely covered in forest with rivers and waterfalls, some permanent and others rain created. 

Snow, heavy rain, and high winds can occur at any time. Weather patterns can be unpredictable and change swiftly. 

Walking on uneven terrain in an alpine environment carries the potential for high winds, wet cold conditions which could result in exposure, falls from height, injury and death.

Ultimate Hikes have detailed processes and policies developed over 30 years to prepare for severe weather events.  These include:

  • Respected and detailed weather software to monitor weather patterns specifically within the region we operate.
  • Experienced staff in Queenstown base office constantly monitor weather and hazards
  • Staff at base and on track are in regular contact with relevant departments and rangers on the Department of Conservation track network. And work closely with them on track related matters, including track safety and maintenance.
  • Trained guides and managers on site in the lodges who can provide on the ground advice about conditions.
  • Guides and lodge staff are in constant touch with the Queenstown base by radios. Repeaters are maintained by Ultimate Hikes and checked regularly.
  • Guides and lodge managers are trained in appropriate levels of First Aid.
  • Safety equipment, first aid kits, extra clothing etc are carried by guides and stored at huts along the track.
  • The guide/walker ratio allows for the group to be managed safely in weather events.
  • Guides are encouraged to take up the opportunity to work towards a qualification from the New Zealand Outdoor Instructor Association (NZOIA). Guide managers are trained in assessment for the course.
  • Ultimate Hikes provides a detailed clothing and equipment list that walkers are required to wear and to carry with them.

While we may not be able to predict or prevent natural hazards from eventuating, Ultimate Hikes operates 8 lodges along the Milford, Routeburn and Greenstone tracks which are of strong construction and have full amenities that can shelter groups for extended periods if required.

Ultimate Hikes operates a H125 Airbus Squirrel Helicopter in line with Civil Aviation Authority requirements and is able to carry out activities on the track that provides a safe option to transport walkers where required.

Personal risk and responsibility 

The tracks mostly follow the contours of the landscape and in places are rocky, with exposed tree roots.  Some areas are very steep both up and down, and there are some steep drop offs.  In wet weather the tracks can become slippery and muddy.  Heavy rain can result in surface flooding that could reach knee height or above.

Within normal track conditions where the danger of flooding is minimal, walkers may be spread out and not always in sight of a guide.  At these times, they must be acutely aware of the track conditions and take responsibility for their personal safety to minimise any risks as shown above.

You are required to adhere to any instructions given to you by a guide at all times including the wearing of appropriate clothing for the conditions.  Failure to comply with any instruction could result in you being unable to continue and/or being removed from the activity. You are also responsible for all children in your care doing the same.