River crossing skills examined...
Drowning remains a major cause of fatalities amongst kiwi trampers to this day.
|Contemplating a crossing of the Otira River|
To cross or not to cross?
|Nice...shallow, slow moving water...can be crossed easily at this point!|
|Crossable with care as part of a group (...why...there is a bridge 100 meters up-river!)|
|Cross these rivers aka swirling vortices of death...don't even think about it!|
Approaching a river
|Brew up before crossing a river in Victoria Forest Park|
Look for a safe place to both enter and exit the river. Avoid steep or undercut banks, debris piles and areas with dense vegetation as these will be difficult places to enter and exit.
|The Travers River ford- deep channel near far bank!|
Cross as a group or solo?
|Using the mutual support method|
- Choose a crossing leader before entering the water. They control the crossing- all group members listen close for instructions.
- Choosing a crossing point is a group decision- discuss your options.
- Strongest person to be at upstream end of group
- Upstream person slightly forward of next, you want a shallow incline to the group
- Second strongest person at downstream end of group
- Hands grasp neighbours pack-straps/clothing around their body
- Group should be parallel to the flow of water, this will minimise the force of the water
- Maximum river depth no more than thigh deep. The only exception would be in very slow moving waist deep water. If it is deeper than the thigh DO NOT CROSS regardless of the group size!
- Take small shuffling steps all the way across the water.
- The group moves as one unit- all the way across.
- Move diagonally downstream with the flow of the water. Don't fight the river flow- conserve energy!
- Pack straps loosened and sternum strap undone
- Can be used by 2-5 people, if more than 5 then you need a second group
- Suitable for even and uneven river beds, your neighbours stop you falling into too deep of a hole.
- Always wear footwear as rivers can be slippery.
|Nicely done- group using the mutual support method|
|Solo supported using a pole...|
|...and in deeper water!|
|Solo supported method, pole anchored on river-bed|
|Crossing using trekking poles for support|
General river crossing technique:
Equally, if a river is too high to cross find shelter and wait. It is highly likely that the water level will be much lower after a couple of hours of fine weather. Comprise a striking haiku as you wait...
Undo any sternum straps and loosen but do not remove your waist belt. Sternum straps are a possible choking hazard as the buoyancy of your pack can force them up towards your neck. The waist belt will help with stability if you fall into the water.
|Sternum straps as a choking hazard...|
|Bad crossing technique: don't do this...|
|...and never do this!|
|Standard MSC pack liner bag|
|My pack showing my plastic pack liner exposed!|
What if I fall mid stream?
|Sculling to safety after a river mishap, photo from MSC website|
|Pushing straps to stabilise pack|
|Regrouping and drying off after river crossing|
Practice makes perfect, but....!
Be safe out there!