How to use poles

Half Dome – Yosemite Musing

As I hike, I see more people using trekking poles. They are catching on. Once you give them a try, you will be convinced. But I also notice that many folks don’t have a clue just how to use them. You see them on the rack and decide to invest some of your dinero and get a pair. But usually that’s it. If you are smart, you can get the clerk to explain their use. Many brands don’t come with any instructions. Leki is phasing out the little DVD that they have attached in the past. They have a very good website, but how many people take the time. What’s to learn? Just clomp along with them – isn’t that the idea? Well, no. As shown below, when going horizontal and especially uphill, you want the lead poles to land behind your lead foot. It is at an angle such that you should be pushing off with your arms. If you do it right, your triceps will be getting involved. Maintain the angle with the poles as you move.  Really PUSH off with the poles as you stride forward. I see many people just tapping the poles out in front of them – like a blind person. This does no good and you are merely taking your poles for a walk.

 Walking poles 1

Going downhill, and specially on steep areas, put the poles out in front of you as shown. The idea is to use them to help brake as you descend. You are transferring the energy from your knees to your upper body. I go down the Half Dome trail like Spiderman. It’s fun to watch big horn sheep scale really steep cliffs at ease. Hmmm, they have built in poles – 4 legs. Give this a try.

 walking poles visual

Also, remove the plastic tip covers that come with the poles – they are for shipping. I have even seen people using rubber tips on the trail. Why? The tungsten carbide alloy on the tips will grip the trail firmly. I saw one woman who’s tip had cut thru the rubber. If you’d like more help, I can recommend Jaya Faye Paley’s Adventure Buddies program. She gives sessions on poles for stability and balance and is often booked at Bay area REI’s and other forum. Check out her website <here>.

Unrelated thought worth quoting:  “The clearest way into the Universe is through a forest wilderness.” – John Muir

*Mr. Half Dome -Rick Deutsch –


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