In Praise of Trekking Poles – February 2009

I was given a pair of aluminum, adjustable trekking poles last year.  They stayed in the Jeep. Each time I went hiking I would remember them when I was too far along the trail to go back to get them.

This time I remembered them before the hike to top of Roan Mountain in January. Roan Mountain is on the border of North Carolina and Tennessee, elevation 6,285 feet.

There had been snow the week before. There had been hikers and cross-country skiers on the Appalachian Trail too.  The snow had been packed down and partly melted and refrozen. The result was crushed ice.

Testing the conditions at the trail head I discovered that walking uphill on crushed ice was not easy. Each foot plant was unsure. Each push off was uncertain.  It made for some slower than expected going.

This is when I remembered the trekking poles.Trekking poles look similar to ski poles. They have a molded handle with wrist strap at one end and a sharp tip with a basket at the other end. The big difference is that the middle part is adjustable. I found this was really useful.

Compared to the gloves and multiple layers of clothing, the poles hardly weighed anything. These light aluminum poles are feather light. The molded cork grips are a natural fit to my gloved hand.

After some experimenting with the adjustable heights, I was on the trail.  Not exactly swiftly but surely.

Each foot was placed steadily and much more confidently.  The poles provided a sure balance and helped to check for ice hidden under the snow. I never fell. My foot did slip several times, but my stability was saved by the trekking poles. I never hit the ground.

I can now recommend these light, collapsible poles. They pack easily and they hardly weigh anything. They give excellent aid on the uncertain footing. Maybe I’ll move them to the day pack.

I’m still not convinced that they help take weight off of your feet while you are hiking, like the advertisements say, but when you are on a slippery slope they can sure save you from some painful souvenirs.

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