Home / Articles / Skills

Three ways over a three-wire

Image of the May 2018 Wilderness Magazine Cover Read more from the
May 2018 Issue

Three-wire bridges are a relatively rare though exciting method of crossing a river. But that excitement can turn to terror if your technique is not up to scratch. 

Every so often in the backcountry you’ll encounter a three-wire bridge – they’re sprinkled across the South Island and there’s one spanning the Tutaekuri River in the North Island’s Kaweka Forest Park.

They’re an old-style bridge, requiring less infrastructure than a traditional bridge. There’s one cable for your feet and two for your hands.

They require a bit of focus and balance to cross. On a recent trip to Ivory Lake on the West Coast, my fellow trampers each took a different approach to moving across the Vincent Creek three-wire bridge.

TIP: Regardless of method, don’t look at your feet – instead, focus about three metres ahead. Keep a relaxed hold on the wires so you can slide your hands along. If you’re holding them tightly and push down, the wires will move and it will be even harder to keep your balance.

1. The duck walk: Turn each foot out to the side at about a 45-degree angle. Keep your knees bent and walk forward. If you find it tricky stepping one foot in front of the other, try sliding the back foot forward.

2. The three-wire shuffle: Turn both feet to a 45-degree angle to one side. Your body will be turned slightly sideways. First, slide or step the front foot forward, then slide the back foot forward. While this might be easier on your knees and less awkward than the duck walk, your turned body can make it harder to keep your balance.

3. The high wire: This method is for the balance experts. Step your foot pointing straight ahead down the middle of the wire. Then step the next foot forward.