Browsing the excellent Grough
recently, I read a piece about medical emergencies in the hills, and followed the link to the medical section of the BMC website.
All good stuff of course, but being curious I dug further, and came across a download for a piece on the use of walking poles.
A key sentence stood out: "During load carriage on moderate grade, they reduce the perception of physical exertion."
Did you see what caught my attention? Yes, the telling phrase "the perception of physical exertion".
Not, please note, the actual
It's quite interesting, especially when considering that "Long-term use of sticks may reduce balance and coordinative ability of the subject. This disadvantage is becoming more and more evident and can lead to certain balancing problems, especially in difficult mountain areas... "
My recent walks have been without the use of poles - mainly because I find they just get in the way when you want to use a compass, have a drink, smoke a fag etc. But the balance thing is undoubtedly true - you can become overly reliant on the sticks in difficult terrain, to the detriment of your natural balance and rhythm.
On the other hand, it is considered that for those of advanced age, with excess bodyweight, arthritis, and / or carrying heavy backpacks the use of sticks, especially downhill, may be beneficial. So I'll probably take mine on the TGO Challenge then ;-)
But, for the more lightweight hiker - given that the weight of your pack and footwear has probably reduced by 15lbs or more over the past few years, do you need those poles? Especially if you carry them most of the time. And even of you do clack clack along all the time, is it really neccessary? Or have we all fallen for marketing spin and truly believe that without these talismans we'll be carrying hundreds of elephants (or whatever the ad man's pachyderm of choice might be) up every hill we encounter? Are they more of a security blanket than a real benefit?
The consensus of the UIAA medical committee seems to be that, unless diseased, overloaded and infirm, most of us don't need them, and might even be better off without them.
Just a thought.
Labels: Gear, Health