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Trekking poles in mountaineering

Trekking poles in mountaineering-1

Technological progress in mountaineering has made accessible to us those peaks and routes that in the past were open only to the titans of mountain climbing. Today we use many technical solutions for belay, weather protection, navigation and communications. Almost all aspects of mountaineering have undergone significant technical and tactical changes associated with the continuous technological progress of this industry. But there is one invention, which, being quite unremarkable, is still of the key importance in all kinds of mountaineering and trekking. This invention is called trekking poles. Many will be surprised and say to that - what is it about them? That are just poles, you easily can walk without them.... However, this statement is incorrect at the root, and I will try to explain and convince you that among the numerous technical devices for mountaineering, trekking poles are of the utmost importance. Both to facilitate movement along complex mountainous terrain, and to ensure your physical safety as well.

Let's look at the subject of this article. What are trekking poles? As a rule, today, trekking poles are a completely modern technological product, compact, durable and as light as possible. Foldable design (usually telescopic) makes it easy to transport trekking poles, adjust their length. There are many design and constructive options - trekking poles are produced by almost all the manufacturers of alpine climbing equipment. But common features of all the trekking poles include the following: the maximum length in working condition is 130-150 cm, when folded no more than 50 - 70 cm. The convenient anatomical handle allows you to use sticks for long walks without tiring your wrists. Material - aluminum alloys (inexpensive, strong and durable option), less often - carbon fiber (very light, but expensive and fragile). Various designs of locks (both external and internal) allow you to quickly bring tracking poles from a folded state to a working condition and adjust to any desired length. The working end of each pole (opposite to the handle) is usually made of plastic, with a reinforced point made of steel or a special durable alloy.

So what is the importance of trekking poles in mountaineering and mountain trekking/hiking? First, when moving along a complicated, rocky of steep mountainous terrain, use of the trekking poles can significantly improve your balance - in fact, you have two more points of support to help you to move, increasing control and reducing the risk of fall. Secondly, due to the load distribution - with the partial transfer of the upper body weight to the trekking poles, it is possible to unload significantly the chest, which greatly facilitates breathing - a critical moment in the conditions of a poor mountain air - especially this is important when carrying a heavy backpack. Distributing the load to the four points not only facilitates the walking process, but also significantly increases safety - for example, when moving along a crevassed glacier with trekking poles, the probability of falling into crevasse decreases due to reduction and distribution of the load over a larger area of snow surface. Another positive point of using trekking poles - by analogy with a cross-country skiing - when walking you push a trekking stick giving yourself an additional impulse that accelerates and facilitates the movement. Even on the steep slope where you have to scramble, sticks can seriously ease the task - they can be used as short sharp points for protecting on the terrain – that is much safer and more effective than holding the slope with your hands, with the risk of pulling out the loose rocks.

Trekking poles in mountaineering-2

In short, as a person with 25 years of experience in mountain climbing and alpine expeditions, I can say that without trekking poles I would not go even for the shortest mountain hike.

Many beginners, taking the trekking poles, do not realize that they have to learn the basic skills of using the poles, just like, for example, an ice axe or crampons. The technique of using trekking poles consists in the ability to distribute correctly the weight when moving, load the poles as much as possible when climbing, to control the trajectory and position of the body during descent. Remember - if the tracking poles are put into your armpit, then you should not expect any benefit from them. Until you learn how to use this gear part correctly - trekking poles will do more trouble that avail, giving an advantage in the movement only to those who are not too lazy to get used to them, learn to use and understand the whole necessity of this most important element of the mountain equipment.

Below are some details to which you should pay attention when developing the basic technique for using the trekking poles:

  1. 1. The length of the poles – shorter when going up, longer for going down.
  2. 2. Grip of the stick - by the handle, below the handle, in the middle of the pole or even close to the tip - depending on the specific angle of the slope and the required length of the working part of the stick.
  3. 3. Using a lanyard - not recommended on the difficult terrain - in case of a fall you have to immediately get rid of the pole, otherwise you can brake your hand.
  4. 4. The support walking sequence is the diagonal. The pole is put in front of you at the same time with the opposite foot - it provides maximum balance when walking.
  5. 5. The position of the body - with a slight tilt forward and maximum push on the trekking poles – it is like if you are walking on 4 legs.
  6. 6. On a difficult terrain – put more attention to the choice of the surface where you put the pole - small ledges on the rocks, depressions, ice lenses - the stick should be placed with minimal risk of slipping.

Recently, trekking poles have been gaining popularity also outside of their mountain climbing specialization. A whole sport phenomenon appeared - Nordic walking - a type of activity where trekking poles are used for ordinary walking on a flat surface in the everyday life, while the technique of use is not different from the mountain specific - the upper body is actively involved in the movement, providing the necessary gymnastic load on the shoulders and back mussels – this is an excellent gymnastics for the elderly, as well as a rehabilitation load in case of injuries or diseases of the spine.

And the last tip: trekking poles are consumable equipment. They break easily, especially if you have not yet learned how to use them properly. Therefore, with a large selection of different models, one should not be guided by the principle - "better is that is more expensive". In case of the trekking poles, this principle will not always lead you to the right choice.

Text — Alexey Trubachev, founder of the MCS AlexClimb mountaineering and climbing school.

Trekking poles in mountaineering

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From the very beginning of our activity, here nearly 16 years, the first Principle of work of School of mountaineering and rock-climbing of MCS AlexClimb is the Safety Priority. On the basis of this Principle all process of training is based, all programs and rounds are developed and carried out only within this main principle. We consider that at professional approach to development of programs, at personal discipline and correctly put motivation - occupations by mountaineering and rock-climbing are COMPLETELY safe. And from the return - all troubles and accidents in our sport come from nonprofessionalism, from ignorance or neglect by elementary standards of safety, from irrational motivation, from revaluation of own forces and opportunities. All these prerequisites we COMPLETELY EXCLUDE in our work - ours Rock-climbing, Ice climbing and Mountaineering are based on one Principle - the Safety Priority. In rock-climbing, mountaineering and ice climbing, the Priority of Safety of MCS AlexClimb-is your personal security and comfort irrespective of, than we are engaged - we train muscles and we work technology of the movement in the sports hall and on the rock climbing wall, we make the way through snowstorm to top or we relax on golden sand of the Caribbean beach after hot day of trainings on rocks. The Safety priority - the main credo of School of mountaineering and rock-climbing of MCS AlexClimb.

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The position of AlexClimb Mountain and rockclimbing School regarding healthy lifestyle is quite clear - we consider that only sober consciousness is capable to fill sincere emotions,  to sympathize, to enjoy life in all its variety. Bright various enjoyable life is possible only on condition of keeping the absolute sobriety and purity of consciousness. Any way of obscuring our perception of reality is intended to do harm to our consciousness and bring harm to our physical health, to replace the true values by false ones, to destroy us physically - to turn us into flabby, weak, senseless, gray herd with empty hazy eyes. We don't force anybody to our point of view, everyone has a God's gift of making his own choice and to destroy himself if that is what he wants... But in AlexCilimb Mountain Climbing School we accept quite certain and very simple set of rules: neither alcohol, nor drugs.