Five Things What Use Are Walking Poles?
Often seen on the hill, much more often clacking down the street in Ambleside or Betws y Coed, how useful are they? Well they’ve certainly got more uses than just Nordic walking.
1 – As walking poles. They provide extra support and take the stress off the legs which can protect the knees. This is also useful if you’re carrying more weight than you should, be that on your back or around your gut. They also help on the descent, adding an extra point of contact with the ground, invaluable when conditions underfoot are slippery.
Finally, as they take the stress from the legs, they add it to the arms. This means you get a good all ’round workout. Yes, that’s like Nordic walking, but you don’t expect us to be doing that down the local park when there’s hills to be climbed?
2 – Bog Probe. Vital for crossing the boggy bit of the Moelwynion between Cnicht and Siabod by testing the viability of any quaking bogs. Can also be poked up by anyone caught in the bog so that they can be easily found by their companions.
3 – Tent Pole / Tarp Support. Tarps need supporting, and as they are often used in the States in forested areas this left a bit of a problem using them in the less hirsute UK hills. Enter the humble walking pole which doubles as a tarp support. It’s also useful to prop your tent porch open.
4 – Stretcher. Used between two packs, supported by the shoulder straps, you can use this to make a seat for an injured casualty.
5 – River Crossings. If you’re on a trip where you’re likely to need to cross a river, then poles make the difference between wet feet and wet everything. Bridges are also good for this, but slightly heavier to carry into the Scottish Highlands.
6 – Snow. Poles are invaluable for crossing snow, especially if it’s deep. They help you balance, and hopefully upright if you do succeed on finding a rather deep drift. Along with your ice axe, they’re an essential extra couple of pegging points for winter camping in snow.
The most important thing you need to remember about using them in winter however, is that the safest place for them is securely on your pack. Especially in these sort of conditions. Some guy had obviously thought otherwise as he topped the cornice on the Garn NE Ridge a few minutes after this photograph was taken, without crampons. At least he had poles, unlike his poor wife who popped up over the cornice a few moments later.
7 – Pointing at distant objects.
You’ve run out of ideas now haven’t you?
Yes. Yes we have…