‘To bring the poles, or not to bring the poles’. That always used to be the question.
Until I started testing Grivel’s Trail Three Pole, I usually opted not to bring poles on ice climbing approaches. They tended to be clunky, heavy, unwieldy. If you weren’t descending the same route you ascended, you’d have to figure out how to holster them in your pack, where they’d awkwardly stick out and catch on things.
Now I bring poles for every approach. Always. They’ve even come with me on a couple bouldering excursions to the bemusement of my pebble-wrestling friends.
Weight: Weighing only 190g each, I’m not concerned about the extra weight hindering my climbing ability. I’m usually an ultralight hound (yes, I’m that person that snaps their toothbrush in half), but I don’t think about throwing these poles in my pack given their feather-light weight.
Packability: They fold down into a length slightly longer than a Nalgene bottle. No longer do I spend time futzying and cursing trying to stuff two sticks into my pack. They’re so compact, that they easily fit inside a pack or attached to the outside straps (my usual method).
Multifunctional: I started off using these poles for approaches to ice climbs. Now they’re my go-to poles for everything. They’re great for skimo and alpine climbing because I can quickly replace one with an ice axe or vice-versa when ascending steep slopes in the North Cascades. I use them for trad approaches, scree-talus navigation to certain sport crags, and recently on trail runs when I know there are significant, steep descents.
Let’s talk about why bring poles at all. Like I said, I used to be a purist that didn’t believe in bringing poles. Scree-filled approaches in Cody, river crossings and approach shenanigans of many types over the years have changed my mind. I consider it a safety enhancement to have two extra points for balance.
Stability and a way to take the weight off your knees on steep descents helps reduce pounding. But these poles really shine when you have to cross obstacles. Crossing a tree-bridge you built? The extra balance is reassuring that you’re not about to slip and slide your way into a log jam.
Crossing a freezing cold river in early winter looking for ice? The poles help keep you from being swept downstream.
In summary, bring the Trail poles. As one of my partners likes to say ‘trust me, your knees will thank you in a few years’.
Natalie is a Grivel and Beal athlete. She grew up competitively ballroom dancing but secretly wishing she was an arctic explorer. Inspired by stories of her Soviet mountaineer dad, she booked a one way ticket to the Himalayas when she was 18, where she saw her first ice climbers scaling the frozen waterfalls of the Khumbu Valley. Inspired, she hitchhiked from Seattle to Bozeman with a pair of donated ice tools and crampons she found in her dad's old gear. Since then she's been chasing ice and alpine adventures around the world while working on autonomous robots and engaging in citizen science projects.
Grivel Trail Three
Grivel Trail Two
Grivel Trail Vario
June 1, 2020
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