Backcountry skiing is great for you in many ways– one little exception being your knees. Squeezing in as much skiing every season as I can ever since I can remember has beat up my knees a little bit. They still work great for many things, but on the rare occasions that I’m hiking down hill rather than skiing, they don’t feel super good. Consequently I’ve been using trekking poles on most of my summer trips to take some weight of the ol’ leg hinges.
I’ve simply used my ski poles as trekking poles in the past, but they don’t work quite as well as a dedicated trekking pole. The big ski pole baskets get tangled when you’re hiking through PNW jungle, and they usually don’t pack down quite as short as the hiking versions. Trekking poles are pretty basic, they simply need to be strong, lightweight, and comfy. As with all my other gear, that’s with a big emphasis on lightweight.
I decided to get the Alpine Carbon Cork poles from Black Diamond. They are the lightest cam locking trekking pole BD makes, with every section composed entirely of carbon fiber. The grips are comfy all-cork, with well designed straps. On some long days I have started several blisters on my hands, but the grips seemed to prevent that better than the “frictioney” foam ones I’ve tried in the past, and definitely better than ski-pole grips. Given the feather light weight, I was a little concerned about the Alpine Carbon durability, but they’ve held up to my bearing down on them hard on steep descents, and occasionally bashing them against rocks. Thumbs up.
Louie Dawson earned his Bachelor Degree in Industrial Design from Western Washington University in 2014. When he’s not skiing Mount Baker or somewhere equally as snowy, he’s thinking about new products to make ski mountaineering more fun and safe.