from Bonnie & David Alley
There was a time when I laughed at what I termed as “yuppies” using trekking poles for hiking. If a backpack was not carried, I was even more amused. Who in their right mind would pay good money for telescoping aluminum trekking poles ? They are toys — right?
On earlier backpacking trips I would use a single hiking pole. It was heavy, but good for balance, especially on steep slippery terrain. Later the heavy pole was traded for a much lighter bamboo version. As time progressed my interests moved to mountaineering. At that time my perception was that “real mountaineers” did not use hiking poles, so neither did I. Long day climbs were very tiring and painful, but that was just “part of the experience.”
Introduction to Trekking Poles
In July 1995 while on a steep talus slope below Blanca Peak, CO (4,372m – 14,345′), I saw a man and woman descending the slope with incredible speed and apparent ease. Each was using a pair of telescoping [yuppie] hiking poles. My partner and I exchanged glances and commented on how easy they made it look. That event became stuck in my mind.
Then on another Colorado trip in 1996 a member of our group used a single trekking pole and claimed that it helped his knees significantly. I subsequently purchased a single trekking pole. Later that year, while on a long day hike, I borrowed my wife’s trekking pole and together with mine experimented using two poles. The experience of using two trekking poles, as opposed to one, was similar to riding a 21 speed bike after struggling with a single speed model on mountainous terrain! I was now absolutely sold on the two pole configuration, and ordered a pair of Leki Super Makalu Hiking Poles for my next backpacking trip.
The trip was in May, 1997. We traveled the Appalachian Trail north from Sam’s Gap, NC for 127 km (79 miles) to Walnut Mountain Rd., TN. My beginning pack weight for the 8 day trip was 24 kg (53 lb.). During the trip I spent a lot of time experimenting with the hiking poles, building on the experience I had gained during pre-trip day hikes. After about 3 days using the poles, it became almost “second nature.”
Each pole, when planted, reduces weight on the legs and back by at least that of the arm (4 – 6 kg / 9 – 13lb). Applying pressure to the poles can easily raise this number to 7 – 11 kg (15 – 25 lb.) per step! Anyone who does not believe this should try hiking with a 18 kg (40 lb.) pack for 30 minutes while effectively using hiking poles, then continue without the poles for a few minutes. They will notice the difference — It is major!
Effectively using two trekking poles reduces fatigue, increases speed (level, uphill and downhill), provides excellent stability, increases the distance that can be comfortably traveled in a day, and reduces accumulated stress on the feet, legs, knees and back by an estimated 8,877+ kg per kilometer (31,500+ lb. per mile).