Zimmer frame takes flight

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Sportiva Akyra banana boots

Sportiva Akyra banana boots and Black Diamond walking poles


For years I disdained walking sticks: they were for pensioners. But with the passing years my attitude has changed. When my knees started clicking and then collapsed under me, something had to be done. I first tried injecting them with Go-On hyaluronic acid which was quite effective. Then I tried losing weight which was even better, though more painful. But finally I had to resign myself to walking sticks. Not just one but two. So there I was, shuffling around on four pins: two shaky legs and two walking sticks. I felt like a Zimmer frame. Soon it would be the real thing.

But then last summer I was overtaken by a group of Americans who were walking the Pyrenean Haute Route. They were young and racing along. Surprisingly, they also needed two sticks – No, we call them walking poles. And how come you walk so fast? Look at our feet…

So I did. They were wearing trekking shoes, not walking boots.

It’s all a question of weight. The American army, it seems, has calculated that any excess weight on your feet is five times as tiring as the equivalent on your back.

But what about weak ankles? Don’t boots reduce the risk of twisting them? That’s where the poles come in: like stabilisers on a child’s bike they stop you crashing into the undergrowth.

So now I have two walking poles and a pair of trekking shoes. I have cut 20% off the time it takes to climb my favourite mountain. My Zimmer frame has sprouted wings!

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11 Responses to “Zimmer frame takes flight”

  1. Tom Wheeler says:

    I too have succumbed to the artificial third and fourth leg syndrome. However I will never forget the wonderful review given by Grant Hutchison in “The Angry Corrie” (1996) just as the “sticks” were coming into use.



  2. steve says:

    Thanks for pointing that out Tom. Great article. Just true enough to be funny… but it won’t change my mind.

  3. Andrew Spacey says:

    When I first saw people walking with one stick whilst our rambling I thought, Must be someone with balance issues. Say hello, and give them a compassionate nod. But,I mused silently to myself, they don’t appear to have any physical issues whatsoever.
    When I saw people walking with two sticks I thought, Here is someone who needs extra reassurance, who has dodgy knees, who probably wouldn’t even be out walking if it wasn’t for those sticks, poles, canes, ski sticks. But I mused to myself, surely walking is less efficient if you have hold two sticks all the time, plus, your eyes will wander down to the stick tips frequently and that means less time for nature and wildlife and what not?
    When I see groups of ramblers and walkers all holding sticks I get suspicious and think someone is on commission selling those things. Do they really all need sticks?
    When I saw people out walking with four sticks, two in each hand, I knew I was dreaming.

  4. Filipa Pereira says:

    Hello. I’m going for a 6 day walk in GR10 with my husband and our two kids (17 and 20 years old). We have hiking experience from recent vacations and we are from Portugal. I was wondering which part of the trail do you recommend for us, considering that our final stop must have some kind of way to come back to our starting point. Thank you.

  5. steve says:

    Hello Filipa

    There is only one circular walk to speak of on the GR10: Cauterets, Oulettes de Gaube, Gavarnie, Luz-St-Sauveur, Cauterets but that is only 4 days. Longer walks include the Senda de Camille, see my page on cross-frontier walks including the GR11 and GR10.
    best wishes, Steve

  6. Tom Wheeler says:

    Hello again Steve. As part of the planning for my return to section hiking on the GR 11 this coming September I attempted to reserve two nights at Lizera Refuge (20 & 21 Sept.) I filled out the requisite form on the FAM web site, but my US based Credit cards would not be accepted. Any suggestions, or should I just hope that there will be room for me when I arrive? On the 18th & 19th will be staying at the Hotel Uson in valley Hecho, and before that in Zuriza.

  7. steve says:

    Hi Tom. You could try email info@refugiodelizara.com or phone +34 974 348 433 but mid-week in September you shouldn’t have a problem. If you don’t solve your issue before Monday, let me know as I am walking the Senda de Camille from Tuesday and will be staying there.
    Best wishes, Steve

  8. Filipa Pereira says:

    Hello Steve. Thank you very much for the information, it was really helpful. However our plan was to make a linear hike, not circular, preferably ending in Saint Jean Pied de Port. We are having trouble finding a way to come back from Saint Jean to our starting point. How do hikers usually go back to their starting point? Could you help us? Thank you.

  9. steve says:

    Hello Filipa

    sorry, I didn’t realise you wanted a linear hike. If you start at Hendaye there are five trains from St-Jean-Pied-de-Port back to Hendaye (via Bayonne). It takes two hours. Alternatively you could walk from Lescun and get the train plus SNCF bus back from SJPP but this would take 4-5 hours so is less interesting (although that way you would be in higher mountains).
    I hope this helps

  10. Filipa Pereira says:

    Thank you for your help. The information was very useful.

  11. Robin M says:

    Tom Wheeler – I read your link “The Angry Corrie”; and it proved the old adage correct “it’s better to keep your mouth shut and let people think you are ignorant, than to open it and remove all doubt”!
    One of the most important part of a trekking pole is the wrist strap. 95% of the people I see using trekking poles use the wrist strap incorrectly or don’t use it at all; so I’m assuming 95% of the people (who use poles) I have never seen are similar. There is no vice like Death Grip on the pole and the hand is hardly used. There are plenty of instructions on the Net, so I will leave that to you to find them.
    I have been using trekking poles from about the time that garbage was written and my ankles, knees and hips are fine.

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