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Group River Crossings

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  • John Ladd
    Here s an interesting suggestion form New Zealand on how to cross rivers as a group. http://tramping.typepad.com/tramping_report/2005/07/river_crossing.html
    Message 1 of 1 , Jun 4, 2011
    Here's an interesting suggestion form New Zealand on how to cross rivers as a group.


    Author Frank King gave me permission to add the following pics to our stream-crossing (and other hazard) photo album, but I recommend that you follow the above link and read his entire discussion if you are going at a high water time of year.  (I've included the link in our trailcraft section as well.)

    The posting was inspired by Frank's concern about a bad technique that creates only an illusion of safety.  Here's the bad technique:

    5-wide bad.png

    Parts of his comment about this arrangement:

    In the arrangement pictured above, being held at arms length with no support at body level would mean the person at the top would be knocked over very quickly as the current increased. This is because the high grasp makes their shoulder the pivot point while the river is applying pressure against the lower part of their body. When they go over they would drop fully into the water, pulling the second person's arm down. The current would carry them down and across the front of the party.  [etc] ... In fact the method of linking illustrated above would probably result in people going over sooner than if they all crossed individually.

    Better plan from the NZ Mountain Safety Council's Bushcraft manual

    four wide - good.png
    Note walking facing forward -- in direction of travel.  In this picture the guy on the right is taking the force of the current (upstream is to the right) and the three people to his left will be providing him with stability and helping him regain his footing if he goes down.  Presumably the stronger hikers go on outside of the group and any kids would go on the inside (preferably next-to-last position).

    Detail of the recommended grip

    crossing grip.png

    If you can't see the pics above -- just go to the original link given above.  And I recommend the original posting for all - I've just highlighted parts of it.

    Only comment I can think of about this Frank's useful posting is that on very rocky bottoms, you may not be able to move a group of four in tight lockstep if one of the people in the middle of the group encounters a boulder that is too big to walk over.  Might be better in smaller groups or with two hikers who face each other and go more crabwise (the method that seems to get taught to PCT thruhikers).

    It is also discussed here, from a PCT perspective:


    But this seems like a great way to do if the stream has a fairly even bottom (e.g., the main Evolution Creek crossing) but is deep enough or fast enough to pose a problem for individual hikers.

    Here's another interesting discussion, from a military perspective:


    PS: Anyone have a good picture of the oft-taught PCT method - 2-man facing each other?

    John Curran Ladd
    1616 Castro Street
    San Francisco, CA  94114-3707

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