Dry Stone Staircase Construction
Over a twelve month period in 2012 and 2013 i worked with a small crew in the Grampians National Park in Victoria, Australia building and repairing walking tracks. One of our more challenging projects took place on a remote ridge near Mt. Rosea, where a new track had been built that followed the ridge line - with a 200 foot escarpment on one side and a 15 foot drop-off on the other. At one point the ridge between these two features became quite narrow, forcing walkers to pass dangerously close to the escarpment, and it was decided to construct a stairway down the other side of the ridge in order to avoid this hazard. As there were very few suitable small rocks in the immediate area to build with, we decided to use the numerous large boulders available by drilling then splitting them, using feathers and wedges, in order to create usable pieces. An overhead rigging system was also set up in order to lift the heavy wall and step rocks into place. It took a some deliberation to figure out the best alinement for the stairway, and in the end we opted to take advantage of a large column of rock that had partially cleaved from the main ridge and created a gap that was ideal for containing the planned stairway. For this to work, a 10 foot high retaining wall needed to be built on the side of the column where the track left the ridge, with a further three and a half foot of free-standing parapet extending above the retaining wall to remove fall height issues for walkers. The site was about a 45 min walk from vehicle access and approximately 270 kilograms(600 pounds) worth of tools and rigging equipment had to be hiked in and out on our backs.