I did not use these during my earlier trip up the mountain, as I was really fit and did not have knee injuries. However, after I sustained meniscus tear of my right knee (thanks to Sundays football @ Yayasan Sabah field) a year ago, I had to use a hiking pole for my last trip up April this year. And the pole has helped me a lot on bearing my weight while going up and down the mountain, relieving some of the burden to my right knee.
I also received an email from one of my readers, saying that she sustained knee injury, just 50m away from the peak, in which, she had to turn back because of the pain. Apparently, it was an old injury, but she did not bother to seek medical advice before going.
And guess what? She also sustained meniscus tear of her knee and had undergone laparoscopic surgery to repair her meniscus. If she happened to get an advice from a doctor before the trip and maybe using a proper walking/hiking pole to climb Mt. Kinabalu this episodes of event may have been avoided.
So, should you use hiking pole on Kinabalu?
- It is not a necessity for healthy person with good knees, but for those who have problems with your knees, or even ankle and still want to climb, a good hiking pole is a must. Otherwise, you may end up like our friend above.
- Hiking pole is also useful if you are lugging heavy loads up (except the porters).
- Hiking pole will help you bear some weight that is put on both of your knees. By that, it will reduce some pain, as the climb up and down is very strenuous compared to your daily usage of them.
- It will also increase your hill climbing power by spreading the load more evenly around your muscles.
- It can also increase endurance, aid in crossing soft and slippery ground, especially if you are climbing during wet season and aid balance on uneven ground. Three legs is always better than two in this type of terrain.
However, you must also take notice their cons;
- It may keep your hands full – I would advise that the hiking pole is only used during the first phase of the climb, as the second phase of the climb will need you to use both of your hands to hold the guide rope.
- You may need to invest on some good hiking pole, in which many of us do not want to do it, as they claimed that the pole will only be used once in a lifetime. While the branded hiking pole can cost you more than RM100, buying some generics pole (made in China maybe), may saves you up to 70% of the price. Or, you may want to buy the mountain guide’s walking wood sticks – which will cost you only RM3. It’s just an ordinary sticks but some climbers claimed that it has “super power” that kept them going. They will usually sell it to you while you are in the bus from Kinabalu Park HQ to Timpohon Gate.
- It can also get in your way while walking through some technical sections, in which, Kinabalu do not have much.
- It can be ineffective you are not using it the correct way.
Now, let’s talk about the features:
- One or two poles? One pole is a benefit, but two will have bigger benefits. Up to you.
- Telescopic adjustable length or fixed length? While telescopic adjustable length hiking pole can be adjusted to your height, it can be a bit costly than fixed length poles. But, it will give you more comfort on having a pole that is correct for your height.
- Shock absorbers or not? After much research, I would recommend you to choose the one with shock absorbers. It will help while you are climbing down the mountain, as much shock can be absorbed when the load of your body fall on the pole.
The correct length for you?
Ideally the length of the pole should be adjusted with your forearm horizontal while holding the grip. But it can be changed to shorter length when climbing up (because the ground is nearer) and longer when climbing down (because the ground is further).