TREADucation: A RMFI Learning Series - Rock Carry How To!
August 2, 2022 by Jennifer Peterson
Whether we are building rock steps, completing cobbling, constructing switchbacks, or other features, trail building and trail maintenance often requires moving rocks - and LOTS of them!
When moving smaller rocks, we often use canvas bags called coal bags or hand carry rocks. Though often the size needed for cobbling, steps and similar features use rocks that are about the size of a microwave or slightly bigger. To move these rocks, we use 2 rock bars and a specialty rock net called an RCD - Rock Carrying Device (see picture to left).
To assemble an RCD, the 2 rock bars are woven through the RCD netting and kept parallel so the rock net is in the middle of the rock bars. Even out your rock net so there are 4 loops on the sides adjacent to the rock bar (or an even amount of loops on each side depending on what style of rock net you're using). To attach the rock net to the rock bar you'll use a clove hitch on all 4 corners.
Start with the first corner, slide the rock bar through the clove hitch, then through all 4 loops on the net, and then through the 2nd clove hitch on the corner of the same side, then repeat on the next rock bar. Before placing your rock or lifting, ensure everything is attached properly. Once your rock is in place and you're ready to move your rock you'll typically need 2 to 4 rock movers. If using 2 people, it will look like the picture shown to the left; if using 4 people you'll have 1 person on each end of both rock bars.
Communication to move your rock is key and imperative to the safety of your team. RMFI typically assigns the person to communicate as the front left, though there are other ways to do this. Either way, ensure you pick 1 person to lead communication. This person will ask who on the team is not ready to lift. If someone is not ready, they will communicate to set the rock down by giving a count off or a ready, set, lift/down and ensure the team is aware of any hazards. All team members in a rock carry should be communicating how they feel and telling the team if they need to break.
Using an RCD and multiple movers only goes so far until the rock becomes too large, the distance is too long, or the area is too steep or dangerous to perform a team rock carry. At this point, RMFI often uses a rigging system with pulleys and/or a high line to move material across long distances or steep terrain. If you're interested in what this looks like, we will be using this setup to help move material at our switchback project at Cheyenne Mountain State Park to get the material closer to the worksite - see above volunteer opportunities for dates and registration!