Walking poles

The Black Diamond Flicklock hanging on my office wall met its end coming off the Col du Bonhomme on the Tour du Mont Blanc in 2006. I seldom use walking poles. I’m a devotee of wristloops, lengths of webbing that I’ve tied through rings near the tops of my pack’s shoulder straps. I don’t actually put my wrists through them, which would be stupendously dangerous in even a minor fall, but holding onto them is comfortable, and they help me avoid the dreaded sausage fingers.

I have used poles occasionally to ease my old knees down difficult descents, but my experience has been mixed. Sometimes I think, “Wow, good thing I had those along.” More often I think, “Boy, are these ever more trouble than they’re worth.” Needless to say, I wasn’t too thrilled with them on the Bonhomme, where I wound up on my back, head downhill at the edge of a small drop, wriggling like a flipped turtle until H helped roll me over. And I never use them in my home mountains, which are routinely very steep.

On the other hand, there is my injury-induced fearful hesitation, mentioned a couple of posts ago, when I need to hop from stone to stone now and then.

So I’m debating the utility (for me—I know many more swear by them than at them) of walking sticks for the Challenge in May. I’d leave them home for sure except for the knowledge that I’m going to have to ford the Kingie at Kinbreak (and while we’re at it, can someone tell me the correct spelling of Kinbreak? I’ve seen that, and Kinbreack, and even Kinbrake, which I’m sure must be wrong). But is it worth the weight and fuss for a 20-foot wade and the occasional rock hop? I’m leaning against, but this is another choice I’ll agonize over, then probably make on the spur of the moment just before I leave.


Walking poles — 6 Comments

  1. Hi, as you’ll see from what we say on our Tour du Mont Blanc website we are pretty much firm advocates of using walking poles. Would be interesting to know in what circumstances you found them a hazard – could be we should put something on the website about it. Feel free to email me any issues they’ve presented you with, email address is on the website.


  2. Hi, without reservation I’d recommend walking poles, and specifically a pair of Pacer Poles (www.pacerpole.com). Nothing else comes near to beating the technology in this superb improvement on ‘ordinary’ poles.

    All the very best for Challenge ’08!

    David Albon (’05,’06,’07)

  3. Hi, David. I know about Pacer Poles, though I’ve never seen a pair in use over here. I think if I were a real “user” these would be my tools of choice, but if I bring poles at all I’m reasonably certain I’ll be carrying them on the side of my pack 90% of the time.

    Are you in this year? If so, I hope we cross paths.


  4. Hi,

    I’d strongly recommend using poles, as a pair. I converted to them after knee surgery and find them useful in virtually all conditions, and they definitely reduce the loading on the knee joints over a long day. I reckon they increase my pace on the flat and make me more sure-footed on inclines. It looks like our routes are very similar for the Challenge, so I look forward to saying ‘hi’ in person.

    Good luck with the training and preparation,

    Jules E

  5. Pingback: Getting a grip | Catswamp

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