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Leki Ultralite Ti Air Ergo PA AS Trekking Poles

Trekking Poles Prove Small World Theory

It helps to understand that the only international travel I have ever done was one month in the fall of 1999. (Ok, there were those couple of days in Vancouver, and that one regrettable afternoon in Tijuana, but you get the picture.)

Yesterday, in the area I’ve lived for the past eight years, I was shopping for trekking poles. Trekking poles, if you have not yet discovered them, are fast becoming the hot, must-have item out on the trail. In fact, With the possible exception of gorp, I don’t remember the last time anything hit the backpacking scene with such impact.

They resemble ski poles, and aid in hiking by increasing a person’s balance and stability, reducing stress on knees and lower back while providing upper body conditioning (“4 legs good, 2 legs bad” says Leki, one of the leading manufacturers).

Now people have been picking up sticks in the woods to serve basically this same purpose since, well, Grizzly Adams at least. So why would someone spend $60-$160 US for the privilege?

I couldn’t figure it out, either. So I started digging around, and discovered some crucial features that poles have that most sticks lack. These can include:

• Shock Absorbers
• Diamond-hard anti-slip carbide tips
• Ergonomic handles
• Ultra light metal-alloy composition
• Compact, collapsible construction

I asked my friend, Susan, who is fresh from a four-day trek to Machu Picchu, Peru. “I absolutely love my poles,” she enthused. “Everyone in my group had a set. There were at least two or three times when they prevented me from taking a fall, and I found I could hike longer with more energy, since my upper body was doing part of the work.”

Others concur: “Very useful for preventing your knees from exploding. Years ago I used to scoff at hiking poles, but I've seen the light and now I never backpack without them.” says an Appalachian Trail hiker in her e-journal.

Convinced that I simply must get myself a pair, I was in Any Mountain yesterday. When the person working that department, Dave, asked if he could help, I expressed that all the different combinations of features overwhelmed me. “There is no single perfect choice when it comes to poles,” Dave explained. “It all depends on your priorities.”

“Well,” I explained, “I’m going on this trip around the world…” “Ah,” he said, lighting up. “One of those ‘backpack/hostel’ deals?”

“Yep.” I nodded.

“Did one of those a few years back myself. A set of these poles will be great for Switzerland.”

“Well, the only time I was ever in Switzerland was for four days, and I was only in one place...” I stated, thinking to myself that he will never have heard of it (being very tiny and out-of-the-way)… “Gimmelwald.”

I used to work at that hostel!”

“No way!”

And you can pretty much imagine how it went from there. After comparing notes, we determined that we knew several of the same people from there, and most likely we had missed running into each other by a matter of days.

So, all the clichés about small worlds apply. And I ended up getting some great poles. And Dave says he knows lots of amazing places I should visit, and he’s got tons of photos to show me.

And when I told this story to my friend Paul today, he said, “You know, I’ve been to Gimmelwald, too.”

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Positive-angle grips provide a comfortable, ergonomic design


Carbide tips grip rock and ice surfaces, baskets keep poles from sinking into soft earth


The magical Mountain Hostel in Gimmelwald--have YOU been there?



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