In his defining bridge building opus, Fifty Shades of Bridge, written to celebrate Abseil Access’s fiftieth bridge build earlier this year, Abseil Access director Martin Wilson wrote: “No bridge is the same, they all create a unique challenge… bridges are the best of times, they are the worst of times.” No one would agree more than Abseil Access project manager Cal Rattenbury, who with his team (pictured) has just completed the third bridge on the Pike 29 Memorial Track through the Paparoa National Park.
The three builds have all gone to plan so far. However, three days before they were to finish the Upper Pororari River suspension bridge the team was stranded by flash floods, losing their camp and some vital equipment. “This was a few days before Cyclone Gita was due to strike” says Cal, “at the same time Matt Thom & James Eagle witnessed an 1000m3 slip cut right through the the track that linked Watson Creek Bridge (pictured) and Upper Pororari bridge site”. To be on the safe side the team was evacuated to Hokitika during cyclone Gita.
The three built bridges all span approximately 50 metres and are fit to carry five people at a time. Abseil Access is due to start work on the final fourth bridge, ‘Waterfall Creek’ on the western side of Hawera Peak near the Pike River mine site in October this year. The final bridge is expected to be the “gnarliest and most challenging” says Cal.