Although the stick for walking in the mountains has a long tradition that dates back to the alpenstock, the long wooden stick with a metal tip, the habit of using sticks in mountain trekking is more recent, reaching maturity on horseback of the new millennium. Activities such as Nordic walking and trail running have definitively demonstrated the usefulness of this simple but useful tool, bringing it to the attention of those users who have long associated them with a support necessary only for the less experienced.
Trekking poles: when, how and why
“A multi-day trek in the mountains, whether it’s a long weekend or a week-long or longer high route, is a very different challenge from a day trip”, explains Marco Majori. “The backpack is heavier because more changes of clothing are needed, the necessary for overnight stays and, in some cases, even food. Not only does this involve more physical and joint work, but it also makes it more challenging to maintain balance on the trails. Furthermore, more protective and rigid boots are used, which make the walk less natural and further increase the physical effort to overcome the unevenness. I always recommend equipping yourself with sticks, even if only for a day trip, but even more so for trekking, where they can prove to be of great help especially when going downhill with tired legs and, when they are not needed, they weigh very little and do not take up space because they can be folded up and attached to the backpack”.
Use poles when trekking in the mountains
The main benefits of poles are no longer a secret for mountain enthusiasts and can be summarized in three main points.
1. Better balance
This is undoubtedly the main point. Having two more support points transforms man into a quadruped, significantly contributing to having a more stable balance, both downhill and uphill. But not only. Similar to a tightrope’s pole on a tightrope, the poles increase rotational inertia and lower the center of gravity, making it easier to maintain balance.
2. Less effort
Thanks to the poles, uphill and on the flat, you can make part of the push work to the arms, which are normally unused. Without reaching the strength that is imprinted in trail running or Nordic walking, poles can be of great help especially when you encounter high steps to overcome, and when tired legs start to make themselves felt at the end of the day.
3. Greater well-being
A less obvious but very important aspect is the benefit of using sticks for the body. The movement of the arms involved in walking helps keep the ribcage open, improving breathing. While the weight that is placed on the poles relieves the load on the joints, especially the knees and ankles, and on the spine.
“Those who are starting to use sticks often ask me for practical guidance”, continues Marco Majori. “In truth, the usage is very natural and individual. It’s normal to be a little awkward at first, but everyone quickly finds their own style of use. However, there are two safety indications that I think are important. The first is not to use the leash when going downhill, because it can happen that the stick gets stuck in a rock or a root, and having it attached to your wrist risks causing a fall. The second is to fold and hook the poles to the backpack in the more technical passages, when there is an equipped passage and you need to have both hands free to proceed”.
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