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Walking Poles

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“Should I have a pair of walking poles?” is one of the most popular questions I get asked.

My answer is always “yes they are a very important tool in the mountains when used correctly.”

Let’s bust a myth to start, using walking poles is not a sign of weakness or that you’re getting old!

So what is the point of walking poles and why they should they be used?

  • Provide stability on uneven and slippery ground
  • Help during stream crossing; give extra support on stepping stones
  • Provide additional power as you are walking up hills/mountains
  • Turn your walk into an all body workout
  • Aid in setting and keeping a constant  pace
  • Conserve energy
  • Reduce impact on your joints as you walk down the hills/mountain
  • Share the load when you’re carrying a large heavy backpack
  • Ward off over inquisitive farm animals
  • Check boggy areas

I could go on!

As with everything there are also a few disadvantages that I find, namely:

  • Your hands are full meaning you have to juggle. Things around when taking pictures, drinking, using map and compass.
  • Become less useful when ground becomes very steep and you need to use your hands to scramble.

So to summarise I always have a pair of walking poles with me when I head out into the hills or mountains. I’m either using them or have them strapped to my rucksack and therefore easy to retrieve when needed (Some rucksacks provides walking poles stowage systems).

In a future blog I will cover the types of walking poles available, the best way to use walking poles and provide hints and tips.

What to Wear in the Mountains?

WhatNotToWear

The picture to the right is a poster displayed in a carpark at the bottom of one of the many paths up Snowdon. The message and picture being simple but powerful.

The title of the Poster is “Plan Ahead” with the following text at the bottom “Half Wit – Around 20% of Mountain Rescue incidents on Snowdon are related to lower leg injuries – most of which could have been prevented by wearing walking boots.”

Hopefully you may have guessed the “Half Wit” is the character on the left, unfortunately a sight that is quite often witnessed on UK Mountains!

The questions I often get when planning to take a group into the mountains include:

  • “Can I wear my trainers they are really comfortable?”
  • “The forecast looks good can I leave behind my waterproofs?”
  • “Do I really need waterproof trousers?”
  • “The forecast for Llanberis says it’s going to be 20°C, do I need gloves, beanie and fleece top?”

To answer each question in turn…..

Boots vs trainers – As the poster says 20% of mountain rescue incidents are related to lower leg injuries, this would be significantly reduced if suitable walking boots were worn. The boot will provide ankle support, increased grip and stability greatly reducing slip, trip and fall injuries.

Waterproofs

Packing waterproofs – Forecasts provide a good indication on what you may expect whilst in the mountains but as we all know they are fallible, in addition mountain forecasts cover a vast area and does not allow for micro climates which are formed in the mountains. I have lost count of the great days I have had in the mountains in glorious sunshine whilst people not even 10 miles away from me have been rained on all day, the forecast was the same for both areas…..So yes you must always take waterproofs and both coats and trousers!

InsulationPacking insulation layers – When looking at the forecast temperature for Llanberis the temperature at the top of Snowdon will be approximately 10°C lower, if we add wind chill factor the “feels like” temperature may be further decreased. To remain comfortable especially during meal breaks and rest stops insulation layer(s) becomes essential to stop your body cooling down too quickly and keep you comfortable.

Boots advice

BootsI always recommend dedicated walking boots fitted by a reputable outdoor retailer, either leather or fabric with or without waterproof lining. The retailer should ask you a number of questions including what are the intended use of the boots, take several measurements of your feet, provide a number of makes of boots to try and get you to test them on an incline in the shop. The boot should provide good ankle support and have a good sole unit to provide adequate grip (Vibrum). The boots should be broken in and comfortable to the wearer. Lastly, boots considered not to be appropriate include Caterpillar, Timberland, Dr Martens or similar fashion boots.

Socks advice

Bridgedale, Therlos and Smart wool are the most common makes available; select the thickness/type most appropriate for you boots. Some people use a thin liner sock as well as a walking sock in order to avoid blisters, this is personal preference. Expect to pay approx £10 for a pair of socks!.  Socks are as important as the boot, a good walking sock can help to prevent blisters.

Wicking base layers

Cotton is the worst material to wear when walking; sweat will soak up in the cotton and will soon leave you wet, cold and uncomfortable. A wicking base layer tee-shirt is essential as this will move your sweat away from your body and dry quickly. (nb: cycling and running base layers are suitable)

Legwear

Jeans no! Dedicated walking trousers, tracksuit bottoms, Ron Hills etc are preferred. Jeans have no give or stretch and if they get wet will become heavy, cold and take a long time to dry. If the weather is fine shorts will suffice but be warned that temperatures can drop 1 degrees for every 100m this means that the temperature could be 10 degrees lower at the summit when compared to the base.

Waterproof Jackets and Trousers

Preferred option is a decent breathable jacket and trousers using Gortex, NikWax Analogy (Paramo) or manufacturers own breathable membrane etc. Avoid non-breathable waterproofs these will leave you sweaty inside and uncomfortable.

Budget vs Premium Makes

A day out in the mountain shouldn’t break the bank, there are multiple options out there to suit all budgets. As a guide expect to pay the same for a pair of boots and a waterproof coat, these are the two main items that will take up your budget, the next most expensive item will be waterproof trousers, as a guide aim for 50% cheaper than the jacket.  Other items like base layers trousers, fleece tops etc can be picked up at a relatively low price. As you become more experienced and items wear out you can look to refine your kit as and when required. My top tips to kit yourself for the mountains on a budget are:

  • Budget shops and kit can provide quality kit at a fraction of the cost
  • The sale rail can be your friend
  • Become a BMC member many shops offer discounts which will soon cover the membership fee
  • Wear what works for you and not what is recommended by magazines or others we are all different and what may suit one person may not suit you
  • Get to love bright colours and wearing clothes that clash, these are the garments that usually end up on the sale rail at an excellent discounted rate as the fashion victims don’t go for them – the colour does not usually affect performance so their loss is our gain!
  • Similar to the above learn to love last years colours and don’t be a fashion victim!
  • Cheap gaiters can protect your trousers and boots
  • If you find kit that suits you try to buy them when they are on sale, if your old ones are still good and you have the cash buy them and store them until they are needed

Duke of Edinburgh

It has been a busy season supporting the Duke of Edinburgh Award helping young people achieve their goals but an equally rewarding experience. Through my years in supporting DofE I have taken on many roles including but not limited to:

  • Theory navigation training
  • Practical navigation training
  • Practical camp craft training
  • Expedition support
  • Expedition assessment
  • Theory and practical navigation training to support staff

The above is provided to all levels of DofE from Bronze through to Gold for various schools, organisations or Approved Activity Providers on the walking expedition section.

It is a no brainer to support DofE when you get to truly understand what it is about and what the young people can get from it. For example during the expeditions I have encountered a number of firsts including but not limited to:

  • Away from home
  • Camping
  • Navigating using map and compass
  • Cooking on a trangia (often first time cooking!)
  • Walking a considerable distance
  • Leaving their electronic devices behind
  • Fending for themselves

The young people can come to us with a “no can do” attitude, this is why we spend time training at the start of their award level to equip them with the skills, knowledge and confidence to become self sufficient and have a “can do” attitude for their assessment. This is normally provided through training events and practice expeditions. These days can be hard and long days which is usually rewarded during the assessment when they complete without any issues.

I share the sense of achievement with the young persons at the end of the assessment weekend not just by them navigating to their destination, camping for a number of nights, cooking their meals  working as a team or completing their aim under their own steam but for gaining real life skills which will stay with them for a long long time.

First Aid

You are out in the Black Mountains enjoying a day out with friends, you have just bagged the last peak of the day and heading back to civilisation and the pub on a high to toast your achievements of the day. You are 4km away from your car and your friend slips and falls landing awkwardly on his arm – it’s obvious it is broken and he is in a great deal of pain what do you do next……….

Unfortunately things can go wrong, normally when you least expect it to. Being prepared and having the skills to deal with these things, especially a medical emergency, when it happens is vitally important to me and Trigpoint Adventures. This is why I like to make sure that my skills in treating medical emergencies are regularly updated through attending a two day dedicated outdoor first aid course.

During the course we cover  everything we can expect to encounter in the mountains including but not limited to:

  • Unresponsive casualty
  • Heart conditions
  • Breaks and sprains
  • Hypothermia and Hyperthermia
  • Bites and stings
  • Shock
  • Bleeding (internal and external)
  • CPR
  • Defibrillator use
  • Allergies
  • Drowning
  • Spinal injury
  • Crush injury
  • Breathing conditions

The course is split between theory and practicals including scenarios in order to put us through our paces. The scenarios in particular are really powerful tools to put into practice what we have covered.

The scenarios usually start with the casualty being given a brief in private on their condition, how it happened and how they should act. The first aider is then given a brief on the situation, like where you are, if you have phone signal and what you may or may not have seen.

The role play then begins, there is no ready, steady, go in real life! The casualty acts out their condition as briefed and the first aider has to treat the systems as seen. If you have a casualty who has no issues in play acting (which they normally don’t have an issue with) you get quickly sucked into thinking this is a real life scenario and you are fully concentrating in doing what you believe is right in preserving or stabilising the life of the casualty.

People may think that these scenarios can be stressful but I normally find that something triggers inside and you focus completely on the casualty in order to determine what has happened or what is wrong and to start the right course of action in a calm and collective manner. Somewhat similar to real life and therefore provides excellent practice and preparation.

As I am a Mountain Leader, I am required to be current with this qualification, however, I believe this is a vital skill for people heading up in the mountains with their family and friends and would encourage people who enjoy the great outdoors to attend a similar course.

Hill & Mountain Skills Training

It is always a pleasure to pass on knowledge or skills that I have learnt over the years. Personally, I have done this for years in various situations, but the feeling I get once people understand and use what I teach them is one of the best I will ever experience.

This weekend I was doing just this whilst out in the Brecon Beacons running one of my Hill Skills Courses. The course is developed by Mountain Training to provide personal skills to individuals so that they can go out and enjoy the great outdoors safely.

My course usual starts with a quick introduction from each attendee, during this I want to understand their experience and what they really want to get out of the course. Whilst the course syllabus never changes this enables me to deliver bespoke training to meet the individuals needs.

The course syllabus:

  • Planning
  • Walking Skills
  • Clothing and Equipment
  • Weather
  • Navigation in the Hills
  • Environmental Knowledge
  • Hazards and Emergency Procedures in the Hills

70, 20, 10 rule of learning states that 70% of learning comes from practice or experience, 20% comes from coaching or mentoring and 10% from formal lessons this is what I replicate during my training sessions. Minimise the time in the classroom, get out into the hills and get them to practice for themselves. On this basis the training starts with a theory session before heading out into the proper classroom, the hills and mountains of the Brecon Beacons!

The training is structured to increment the skills gradually through a short coaching session before allowing the individuals to try for themselves using a number of  different methodologies as the situation dictates.

The result that lasts forever is when I ask an individual to lead a leg to a specific point on the map, they work out how far it is, how long to get there or how many paces and how they know that they are there. They then execute that leg without error and arrive at their destination, usually met by a grin and a nod of approval by me!

If you are interested in attending one of my skills courses check out my training course page where you can find further details.

 

 

 

The Start of a New Journey……

My manager once asked me how I stay so calm and relaxed considering the work stresses that were constantly thrown at me – “I use Mountain Therapy!” was my response. The next thing I know I am taking my companies Leadership Team into the mountains for a “team building session”, something must have worked as I was asked to run more!

My love for the mountains is renowned amongst my family & friends, it is only natural that they would join me on some of my adventures, but leading the company Leadership Team was a completely different experience and I loved every minute of it – this was the true start of my Mountain Leader journey.

So after years of dreaming, months of hard work, and a level of self investment TrigPoint Adventures has eventually been created!

The aim of TrigPoint Adventures is to share my passion for the great outdoors to all ages by guiding or providing training. I want people to experience the benefits of the great outdoors and gain the confidence to get their own mountain therapy!

Thanks for joining me!

Good company in a journey makes the way seem shorter. — Izaak Walton

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