Walking Poles to the Rescue

Walking Poles to the Rescue

Moel Siabod descent and a minor knee injury

Walking Poles to the Rescue 

Walking Poles to the Rescue

Many people would not consider carrying or even using trekking poles. However, I do as part of my First Aid Kit and should I need that little bit of assistance when walking, they’re there, ready to use.

The following has been adapted form a blog that I keep, but hopefully, it will give some food for thought, as to how safe you are in the hills and how you could get out of a situation, even a minor one like the one I’ve described. Without the need to call Mountain Rescue out.

After spending a reasonable amount of time on the summit of Moel Siabod, taking in the views around us, John and myself started to make our way down, back to our cars near the village of Ponty Cyfyng, near Betws-y-Coed in the Snowdonia National Park, North Wales. We discussed various route options for our descent. We wondered about following the ridge back down towards Pont Cyfyng or to back track more or less the route we came up by.

We agreed with the threat of possible cloud engulfment, it would be wiser to retrace out steps during our descent, based on the fact we knew what we would encounter, plus, the fence we could hand rail if necessary. (Hand railing is a navigational term for walking alongside a fixed feature, often marked on a map, as an aid to safe navigation.) Descending via the ridge, would be new territory and probably not a wise idea to get caught in clag negotiating our way down. So we started our descent, back to the fence and hand railed that for a short way after crossing back over the trodden section.

It was a steep ascent and the descent was no less a gradient! So care would need to be maintained all the way down so not to lose your footing. I think it fair to say at this point, descent can be a lot harder than an ascent, and Moel Siabod was most certainly in that category on the route we took down. Conscious of the fact we need not only to descend, but also to back track as near as possible our ascent route, while maintaining a safe passage. It was a little tricky at times, but on the whole, we managed to keep our footing, taking it nice and steady, regularly assessing the route down and looking at the various options that presented themselves to us.

Not only were we regularly assessing our descent route, we were still managing to chat about our various experiences, both on the hills and off, camping and caravans, outdoor gear and many more topics were discussed, both during the ascent and descent. During our descent, my left foot found a grass hidden hole, causing me to stumble. This in turn tried to bend my knee the wrong way, which nature never intended and it was a little uncomfortable, to say the least. This just goes to show, how easy it is to have an accident, no matter how careful you aim to be. Even the most experienced climbers and hill walkers get caught out. The difference is how prepared for it you are and how you handle the situation. This was very minor and after a couple of minutes to let the pain subside, we continued our descent.

As we continued, using either grassy slopes or rocky areas as we saw fit, we quickly lost height and many of those splendid views from the summit. We neared to point where our ascent of Moel Siabod started in earnest, but by this time, my knee was starting to get very uncomfortable, with all the jolting that knees often take during a steep descent.

I always carry a pair of trekking poles, mainly as part of my first aid kit, but also, should I, anyone I’m walking with, need them for generally assistance while walking. However, this time, they became useful, somewhere between a walking aid and first aid usage.

I got the pole from my rucksack and the comfort gained through using the poles was immense, even though my knee still felt somewhat uncomfortable. The benefit of using the poles was to reduce the weight and pounding that my knee was to take for the remainder of the descent.

There have been many debates over time regarding trekking poles and their advantages or annoyance. Personally, I think they are a great tool, used correctly and though they are extra weight, I feel a valuable part of my first aid kit. Yes, I would have walked down without the trekking poles, but they did make the descent a lot easier and quicker.

Llyn y Foel was fast approaching, though we were a little off course, but not seriously off course. We had a small ridge to climb over then Llyn y Foel was in full view. Now the more level ground was with us and the going would be a lot easier. We stayed to the north of Llyn y Foel, picking our way around before approaching Rhos Quarry and the deep dark lake, then walking through the old quarry buildings. Now we were going to back track the route totally. Following the footpath down, passing the man made lake, the style where you had the option to either ascend the ridge to Moel Siabod or follow the south face.

From here, it was plain sailing, a straight footpath that we came up earlier. It was along this footpath both John and I were thinking the final steep descent to follow back in to Pont Cyfyng will be fun. What with my knee, and John was also expecting to feel some discomfort on that last stretch.

Would I do the same route again? YES and I would most definitely continue to carry my trekking poles, whether they would get used or not.

Hindsight is a wonderful tool, if only we could use it before an event. However, if the same instance happened again, instead of keeping that stiff old British upper lip, the poles would come out sooner.

About the Author

Mike has a blog at Peak Rambler and you can follow him on Twitter too - @PeakRambler