Imagine you’re 12,000 feet high, scrambling over a pass in the Sierra Nevadas.
You have a bum ankle on one side, and a bum knee on the other. And the switchbacks (six miles up plus another six miles down) are made up of jagged granite slabs over which you must clamber, stepping carefully to avoid sticking your leg in a crack or becoming imbalanced by the weight of your pack and slipping off the trail and bashing your head on the stones below.
That’s the position I found myself in this past September, during a 150-mile trek down the John Muir Trail.
Thankfully, I had a pair of tools that reduced the risk: Black Diamond FLZ Trekking Poles. Collapsible and lightweight—but durable—they stood up to every challenge I put in front of them.
The cork grips seemed to conform themselves to my hands, while the foam on the shaft and the large, ergonomic pommels offered a variety of handling positions. A strong inner kevlar cord allow the three sections to release and fold down to a manageable size that fits in the side pocket of the pack, causing no trouble on the plane. On the trail itself, the FlickLock system allowed for quick, fine length adjustments—none of this twisty-turny friction nonsense. Plus, in a pinch, you could use ‘em as ski poles.
I don’t exaggerate by saying that these poles saved my life on multiple occasions. When a woozy, misplaced step would have sent me somersaulting down the mountain, I was able to jam a sturdy pole into the hillside below and avoid serious injury. —Seth Putnam