Dart Valley, Mt Aspiring National Park, Otago – February 2022
The February 2020 floods created significant infrastructure damage in the southern part of Mt Aspiring National Park and the northern part of Fiordland National Park. One of the bridges washed away was located at a critical ford of the Dart River at Daleys Flat. This swingbridge provided essential access to the Barrier Ranger for parties accessing Seal Col and the Margaret Glacier, one of the important routes in and out of the Olivine Wilderness Area.
Backcountry Trust manager Rob Brown reports: ‘As part of the Backcountry Trust ‘Kaimahi for Nature’ (Jobs for Nature) work schedule with DOC, we agreed to work together to reinstate a bridge at this important crossing.'
'Engineer Grant Stevens (who had kindly donated some of his expertise to other Backcountry Trust projects) offered his engineering skills pro bono, with oversight from DOC's own engineering team.'
'After inspecting the site in early 2021, we decided a 3-wire bridge design would hopefully not require sway cables on the true right. During the floods, the sway cables on the previous swingbridge had caused the problems by pulling down that end of the bridge.'
'By January 2022 the steel work for the towers and components had been made and stored in the yard at DOC Glenorchy. Abseil Access planned to build the new bridge the following month. On 1 February, Danny Higgins and Owen Hale from DOC Glenorchy cleared trees from the new anchor boulder on the true right. Ten days later on a hot February day the loads of materials were flown onto site.'
'The Abseil Access team began by rigging up a Tyrolean traverse across river along the line of the planned new bridge. This allowed access across both sides. The team based themselves at Daleys Flat Hut (on the Rees-Dart Track) and were blessed with almost perfect weather.'
'Ed Nepia and Jimmy Armstrong stayed onsite for the entire 13 days of the project. Their first week involved a lot of grinding and rock breaker work to prepare the tower and anchor sites. During the second week, Jesse Banham joined them to complete the site work and rig the bridge.'
'Local companies Glenorchy Helicopters and Heliworks Great provided excellent logistics by transporting in supplies and materials at critical times. Support from the local DOC office made for a largely trouble-free project.'
Thanks to the resources given by the Kaimahi for Nature fund, trampers and climbers can once again safely access the magnificent alpine terrain of the Barrier Range.