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264 Hiking Skills - Walking 2010-07-06

climb the trail to Teewinot

On our recent trip to the Tetons, my friends Jon and Ray joined me on a climb of Mount Teewinot. With a pre-dawn departure we plodded along half asleep. The trail was steeper and in worse shape than I remembered. I don't guess it really mattered we just kept putting one foot in front of the other.

Jon set a steady pace. It was slow for me; but I had been in the mountains for 5 weeks. I plodded along in the back, constantly reminding them to keep moving. "I don't care what you do, just do it while you are walking." Ok, we stopped to pee.

As the trail grew steeper, Jon would change the pace and begin taking baby steps. Shortening your stride is a great way to save energy. He had learned well; but his speed decreased from 2 mph to .20 mph. Seriously, that is no exaggeration (well maybe a little.) Jon not only shortened his stride, he also slowed the pace to a crawl. Ray would quickly run into the back of Jon and I would stumble into Ray as I tried to put on the brakes. It was like being behind a semi climbing a big hill on the interstate - he was doing 25 and slowing.

After running into Ray and his ice axe a dozen times, I finally spoke up. We either needed to install brake lights on our packs, use hand signals to indicate slowing down, or stop slowing down.

We soon had the pace and stride issues resolved and we easily made the summit.

We spend our lives walking, but few people develop good walking skills. If you walk with me, you will constantly hear gibberish about balance, pace, stride, rhythm, and efficiency.

When I am not walking well (as in I am hurting), I immediately look at my mechanics.

  • Am I landing each step properly, in balance?
  • Am I walking a good pace, one I can maintain all day without stopping?
  • Am I adjusting my stride for the terrain?
  • Am I in rhythm and flowing up the mountain?
  • Am I moving efficiently, not wasting energy?

When I reset my mechanics, my walking improves. Jon's does too.

Happy walking trails.




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