At CMH Summer Adventures we have been awarding our Alpinists a set of trekking poles from Black Diamond for a few years now. The guests are ecstatic with them. Not being a trekking pole user myself, I decided to go to the source to find out the advantages of using them. I contacted Alan Adams from Black Diamond and here’s where our conversation went:
JC: Alan, I’ve heard seasoned hikers say again and again that they’d never leave home without their trekking poles. What advantages do they offer?
AA: Jane, the biggest advantage is saving one’s knees. Oddly, everyone thinks this is just for older folks, but I fully disagree. I’m only 29 and I use poles. That means that my knees will be going long and strong for many years to come. Preventative behavior is worth it in my opinion. I won’t go on any mountain adventure without them.
Trekking poles vs. ski poles are a great upgrade as they have much nicer grips and handles along with trekking specific narrow baskets instead of the wider powder baskets used on ski poles. Some of our higher end poles even have shocks in them like a mountain bike fork. Finally, trekking poles offer more adjustment points (2 vs. 1) for length, which also gives you the ability to collapse the pole to strap onto your pack or carry in your travel bag when they aren’t needed.
There are tons of other advantages as well. For crossing a stream, you have another point of balance. When navigating tricky rocky terrain, you can descend small drop off’s much easier by moving your weight on/off the poles as needed. Numerous other random uses as well. . .splint for an injury, a great device to hit your hiking partner when they get annoying, grizzly bear prodding device, etc. . .the list is endless. . .
JC: I’m one of those hikers that is happy to go uphill or across meadows for most of the day. My knees hate the downhills! Would a set of poles help me to love the decent?
AA: Yes, they would help a great deal. Find a great 2 hour loop and do it one day with trekking poles and another day without. I guarantee you’ll be a convert after a test like that. With a good set of trekking poles I can place nearly half my weight on the poles on the downhills. Plus, you get into this zen like state of mind when you are making your way down a rocky downhill.
For any skier who batters their knees all winter, trekking poles are a must. Climbers with huge loads of gear in their packs also reap the benefits on the approach and trek out from their epic slogs.
JC: I think I could have used them on the Inca Trail then! There’s a pretty wide range in price and quality. What features should I look for in a good set of poles?
AA; Our poles range from $75 to $140 in the US. At the lower price points, you will typically get an aluminum pole with a basic strap/grip system. For around $100-$120, you can get shocks in the handles, nicer straps (typically nubuk), better molded grips with an ergonomic bend on certain models, and cork handles on a few select models as well. At the top of the lineup, the tubing switches to carbon fiber, which is typically lighter and stiffer. Our top model, the Alpine Carbon Cork, gets a full 3 piece carbon shaft and an elegant cork handle that wears in wonderfully over time. Anyone that is a fly fisherman will really appreciate the feel of a worn in cork handle.
Looking for a place to use your trekking poles this summer? Consider a Summer Adventure at CMH's Bobbie Burns Lodge. A full immersion into Canada's Rocky Mountains awaits you! Contact our Heli-Hiking experts for more information at 1.800.661.0252.