Trekking Poles

I have taken to borrowing my wife’s trekking poles when I go on my long hikes in Whiting Ranch. The big question that I suppose you are asking is whether they help or whether they are just extra weight. They do work as advertised, helping me on both uphills and downhills.

As you know, I am not a strong climber due to my heart defect, a narrowing of the coronary artery. This is as it sounds — one of the arteries feeding my heart has a section where it attenuates. It means that I have to watch my cholesterol and moderate my speed on uphills. The trekking poles help me go a little faster. I struggle less and can go farther on steep stretches before I tire.

They are also useful on the downhills. There is a section of trail near me, in O’Neill Regional Park, called “Ass Hill”. Though it is short and on a trail designated as moderate, Ass Hill is about ten yards of challenge. Going up winds you. The slope is hard with a loose covering of dust. This makes it a special hazard on the descent. There are two ways to go down Ass Hill without falling. The first is to “ski” down the hill, treating the dust as a light powder of snow. This way is fast, but fraught with danger. A fellow hiker discovered it unintentionally when he started to slide as he went down the hill.

The other way is to cling to the softer fringes of the trail where one can sink one’s pole into the ground and grab on to the bushes that line the side (fortunately none are poison oak). Trekking poles come in handy here as they do when I am going down a rocky slope. I can even get by with just one.

My wife and I have worked out a system. Because I have more difficulty on the uphills, I use them for ascents; her problems center in her knees, so downhills are the challenge; she gets to use them then. One day I hope to get my own pair, perhaps as this year’s Christmas present (if I don’t buy a digital microscope.) For now, I use my monopod when we both have need of extra assistance.

All in all I like them and find them a superior solution to either grinding my way unaided up steep slopes or going down the same.

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