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Safety, Risks and Dangers

River trekking has certain level of risk. There are occasional accidents in river trekking, including falls from steep cliffs or waterfalls, drownings, exhaustion, or getting lost.

Experienced river trekkers or hiking groups have developed rating systems about difficulties on different rivers. The ratings usually are various from 1 to 5 stars, even though a few rivers can be more than five stars because of their extreme difficulties.

Rating of Difficulties

StarsDescription
1Can be handled by normal healthy hikers
2Not too easy
3Fairly difficult
4Difficult, absolutely not for beginners
5Very difficult, demands strength and skill
Source: Hong Kong Adventurer

These ratings are largely subjective, depending largely on river trekker's own experience. Therefore, different people or hiking groups would give different number of stars to the same river.

Risks you should be prepared for:

Cuts and Bruises can be avoided with robust clothing. For your comfort and safety you should be fully clothed when you go hiking in the water.

We recommend cargo pants, thermal top, and a hoodie or anorak. Nylon overalls are useful as they don't leave your backside exposed when you jump about. They keep you covered.

Wear ankle high sports shoes and woolen socks that don't chafe after being wet for a long time. Try all this in your bath tub or swimming pool to make sure it all fits well and feels good when wet.

Flash floods pose a serious danger. Sudden changes in weather, like rainstorms, can cause rapid rises in the level and speed of the river water. Also, the number of viable paths and climbing areas inside the river valley could be reduced suddenly in a very short period.

Steep cliffs inside river valleys require a certain level of rock-climbing skills. However, because of the humid environment inside river valleys, some rock surfaces can be wet and some rocks may be loose despite appearing solid. To deal with wet climbing conditions, professional river-trekking boots are strongly advised.

Visibility can be limited by rainy or misty weather. Low visibility may come in too quickly for trekkers to adapt to. Therefore, a torch (flashlight), preferably a head-mounted one, is a must for river trekking.

Visibility also means being seen by others. Wear brightly coloured clothes so you can always be spotted by your team or rescue workers.