From Turtle to Mountain Sheep: Trekking Poles on the TMB

Posted on May 21, 2013. Filed under: Exercise, Tour du Mont Blanc, Travel | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , |

Travel - TMB Poles 1Not living in a mountainous region of the world, and planning a mountain hiking trip like the Tour du Mont Blanc, I relied on information about trekking poles on the web.  I found a lot of conflicting information.  Some sites said absolutely, get them, it makes you virtually a 4-legged creature instead of 2 which gives a lot of stability and eases the pressure on the knees.  This made sense, but then others said you don’t really need them.  Being a massage therapist I liked the idea of giving my hands and arms the fortnight off.  We did own 1 set of poles we got at a REI rummage sale of returned merchandise for a song.  We decided to take the one set along and share them.  This way we’d have a little help, but we wouldn’t have to use them.

Pretty rapidly I was given the nickname, “La Tortue” (the turtle) due to my slow progress.  Our friends had their poles and clipped along claiming I would be much faster with 2 poles.  I was very skeptical about this.

Then Bill hurt his knee.  Something sort of snapped and then he hobbled.  He took my pole,  my just-in-case knee brace, and some ibuprofen.  This worked for him, but now I had nothing and I really noticed the difference.  I was even slower.

Ok, I thought, a nice set of poles would be a great souvenir, my favorite kind, something really useful that I’d appreciate every time I’d use them.  We found a great outfitter in Champex, Switzerland.  The new poles are light, easy to change length (and the very helpful sales girl who had lived in the mountains all her life taught me the right length for flat, and then for uphill and downhill.  Changing the length for conditions makes a big difference and on the TMB it is easy to do because the terrain tends to stay up or down for awhile at a time.)

Travel - TMB Poles 2The result?  I became “La Mouton” the mountain sheep, sure-footed and swift!  I was put in the lead and didn’t hold anyone up!  I was amazed at the difference of having 2 poles.  It was significant.  I moved much more gracefully which, of course, saves energy and makes everything more comfortable.  Additionally, a nice extra is that my hands never swelled up like they often do hanging at my sides during hiking.  The straps on the handles are so well designed that I hardly have to grip at all so my hands and forearms are really still pretty much off-duty.

Bottom-line advice?  Get 2 poles, you will be glad you did!  The TMB is strenuous enough, anything that aids in your comfort while doing it is worth it.

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