[pct-l] Trekking poles?

jeff.singewald at comcast.net jeff.singewald at comcast.net
Thu Jan 14 18:15:05 CST 2010

I would definitely agree with Eric's comments.  You will likely see a mixed bag when you attempt your thru as some folks can't seem to hike with them and others can't hike without them.  I know of at least several cases in which folks both sent their poles home as well as purchased poles along the way as their desire to use nor not to use poles changed. 

One additional advantage with regards to balance is when travelling in snow the poles provide a huge benefit in my opinion.  You never know when you will post-hole in the snow and the poles provide an additional touch point to aid with both balance and extrication.  Additionally, in the spring and early thaw, the Sierra snow has significant cupping.  Cupping can be shallow (3-5 inches) or the cups can be very deep (2 feet) with very narrow edges.  Poles allow additional balance as one navigates across the tops of the cups. 

I found that poles saved me from nose plants on at least a half dozen near falls in 2006.  This typically occurred travelling down-hill near the end of the day.  One such occurrance was in the Alpine Lakes region of Washington.  After a 35 mile day I was nearing the bottom of the 2 mile descent just before Waptus Lake (I think it was) and I stumbled on one of the many rocks and was heading for a major nose plant but by getting the poles out in front of me allowed me to regain the balance sufficiently to avert a major fall. 

In 2006 we had a very heavy snow melt and the poles were invaluable in the numerous waist deep fords that we encountered.  While crossing a significant creek in Northern Yosemite, I lost a pole attempting to rescue one of my hiking partners after she had fallen and was unable to get out fo the water.  At that point, I actually made a pole out of a willow branch (quite a feat with my Leatherman Micra tool) until I could get a replacement pole in South Lake Tahoe. 

I would suggest that if you are training properly in advance of your hike you will come to your own decision about whether you find advantages to poles and make your choice based on your own training experiences. 


----- Original Message ----- 
From: "Eric Lee" <saintgimp at hotmail.com> 
To: "PNW Hiker" <pnw.hiker at gmail.com>, pct-l at backcountry.net 
Sent: Thursday, January 14, 2010 9:48:13 AM GMT -08:00 US/Canada Pacific 
Subject: Re: [pct-l] Trekking poles? 

PNW Hiker wrote: 
What are the advantages in long distance trips? Do they help your back, 
knees? Anyone given them up and preferred it that way? contra wise? 

They probably cost more in overall energy to use because it's extra weight 
to move down the trail and it causes a lot more motion in your upper body 
than you'd otherwise have. 

On the other hand, they spread out the strain load across more of your body, 
reducing the odds of catastrophic failure in high-use areas.  Or to say it 
more simply, they tend to take strain off the muscles, bones, and joints in 
the legs, which is where over-use injuries usually occur, and also help 
prevent falls. 

I know that some people get along better without poles but I for one don't 
go hiking anywhere without them.  I probably wouldn't be able to do 
long-distance hiking except for my trekking poles.  Best gear I've ever 
bought.  On flat ground I could take them or leave them, but they're useful 
going uphill and they're *pure gold* going downhill. 

If you've never used them before, be aware that it might take some practice 
before they become second nature and really help you.  They can feel pretty 
awkward at first.  Most people find the best technique is to plant the 
opposite pole with each footstep and to use them aggressively, i.e. put some 
weight on them.  I've seen some people who just kind of tap a pole on the 
ground every couple of steps and I don't see where that helps anything. 


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