Medicine for the Outdoors
Medicine for the Outdoors

Dr. Paul Auerbach is the world's leading outdoor health expert. His blog offers tips on outdoor safety and advice on how to handle wilderness emergencies.

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Hiking on Rocky Trails

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Our trail to Everest base camp was challenging, with lots of uphills and downhills, big steps onto boulders and into narrow dirt cracks, and uneven terrain as the rule. Given that falls, ankle sprains, and blisters comprised our biggest risks, an ounce of prevention was worth a ton of cure. We encouraged everyone to carry at least one walking stick or pole for improved balance. Adding a third (or fourth) point of contact makes a huge difference in terms of decreasing falls, and also cushions much of the impact that would otherwise be transmitted to ankles, knees, hips, and the lower back. Whether or not your pole has a spring action built into it is not nearly as important as having the pole. If you are concerned about maintaining the environment, put a rubber cushion tip on the pole so that you don’t tear up the ground. You may not appreciate the benefit of the impact reduction from your hiking pole when you are climbing, but you will certainly notice the improvement on the way down. Be good to your knees!

Except for your pole(s), try to keep your hands free, so you can use your arms for balance like a tightrope walker, should you begin to fall. If you’re carrying your expensive digital camera in your hand and you fall to that side, guess what’s going to get smashed?


photo by Brian Auerbach

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Tags: Backpacking , Climbing High

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About the Author

Dr. Paul S. Auerbach is the world’s leading authority on wilderness medicine.

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