Birkhouse Moor with a Third Leg!

17 05 2015

After a bad finish to what should have been a lovely day on Gowbarrow via the Panorama route two days before (post to follow when my photos are back), I had to have a day off to let my disintegrating leg recover. For the first time ever, I had to sit it out while Richard bagged a Wainwright (Birks) on his own 😦

All photos Richard Wood/digital
As you’ve all probably gathered by now, one of my legs has suddenly quite literally fallen apart. Apparently, the hip joint has worn badly and it is taking my knee with it and causing terrible pains in my shins. The day before’s walk had only been 6 miles and was almost flat as we’d started off high but I finished the walk in terrible pain and had an awful night afterwards.

After a day’s rest, I decided to try the Wainwright of Birkhouse Moor with Richard as part of his Wainwright bagging. Of course, this is normally a prelude to Helvellyn via ‘the edges’ but I wouldn’t have been able to add them in and so Richard decided not to bother either – solidarity and all that…

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Birkhouse Moor from near Patterdale

During my day off, as the weather had started off pretty bad, we’d decided to drive around to Keswick from Patterdale to do some ‘gear shopping’. It’s very rare indeed that I ever go gear shopping but I’d come to two conclusions… One was that the high front of a proper walking boot was probably causing my knee to work too hard as you can’t bend your ankle the same in boots as you can in shoes. I’d noticed this many years ago when I swapped from approach shoes to walking boots for the hills. So, firstly, I bought a couple of pairs of good approach shoes.

The other conclusion was a sad one for me and something I said I’d never do – I’d decided I had to buy some walking poles. Richard, an equally reluctant user, had to take to using a pole a couple of years back for his disintegrating hip and I’d had to borrow his a couple of times recently and found it seemed to help a bit.

By the time we got back from Keswick it was a lovely afternoon so Richard had nipped up Birks (with my instructions) and I accompanied him to the start of the path and then walked disconsolately back along the Grisedale Valley to base, complete with new pole. Oh dear, what a come-down 😦

The other thing I’d bought in Keswick was some Ibuprofen Gel which I’d applied the night before and again the morning we started for Birkhouse Moor. This had rendered my leg completely numb – a very disconcerting feeling for me. We walked along the road to Glenridding and then up the riverside to join the Mires Beck track.

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Mires Beck

As we set off up the stonepitched path alongside the Beck, I worried about whether my numb leg was getting damaged but there was no way to tell. This prompted me to go very slowly indeed and use my ‘good leg’ to do most of the stepping up and let the dying one be dragged up behind it.

I found I was managing okay and we even managed to pass one family group and catch up a guy who’d steamed past us earlier so I felt a bit better. The path up Mires Beck is exceedingly easy and quite gently-angled but I could see things got steeper ahead.

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Glenridding from the top of Mires Beck
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Birkhouse Moor End from near the top of Mires Beck

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Sheffield Pike’s Heron Pike from the steepening of our route

The path briefly steepened considerably but then went into a good, wide zig-zag to take us to the top of Birkhouse Moor. I was pleased I’d reached another summit but was very worried about my future as a hill-walker. I’d been very depressed for the whole visit since my first day hadn’t gone well and I’d hardly been eating.

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Catchedicam – one of my favourite Wainwrights

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Helvellyn East Face

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Swirral Edge Zoom

It was a lovely sunny day but too cold to hang around on the summit so Richard just took photos and we set straight off for the ‘hole-in-the-wall’ – the usual way up to Striding Edge. If anyone had been watching they’d have thought us most strange as we clambered over the stile and headed off back down to the valley, ignoring Striding Edge completely!

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I had a terrible time getting over the stile with a bad leg and a walking pole!

The first section of the descent was again stone-pitched and pretty steep so I was again very worried about what damage I might be doing to my numb leg. However, I put a lot of weight on my walking pole and very slowly stepped my way down.

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‘Old hippy’ with her walking stick! 😦

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The dramatic end of Birks which I’d had to forgo the day before 😦

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View up Grisedale to Dollywaggon Pike and Fairfield

Further down the path flattens quite a lot so I tried walking without my pole as I was getting one sore wrist – I’d swapped from one hand to the other quite a bit but my ex-broken wrist from 2012 wasn’t too happy. I was even less happy the next day when I discovered I’d dropped my thinsulate glove somewhere down this path.

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We decided to have a sit in the sun when we found a flat bit out of the wind. This was okay until we had to get up and start walking again when we both struggled to get going again.

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I was upset to see that someone had found a dead sheep skeleton and hooked it upright onto a wire fence by its horns so it looked like it was standing on its hind legs. I thought it quite disrespectful as, to me, all life is equal and all death deserves the same respect.

The Keldas area, as always, was beautiful – especially under sunshine and blue skies…

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We eventually reached the valley and I was horrified to see we’d been four and a half hours to do one hill! The walk should have been around three hours at most. I was happy that I’d at least done another hill though and hoped that I’ll be able to do another one sometime.

The next day was superb so I decided it was time I had a row on the lake as I didn’t get one last year on any of the Lake District lakes – very unusual for me. At least I can still do that πŸ™‚

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Looking back at our mountain

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46 responses

13 06 2015
fedup

Sorry to see you are still struggling 😦 A pretty steep route to pick considering but I suppose your choice is picking off Richard’s remaining Wainwrights? Ullswater always photographs well πŸ˜€ Cheers Simon

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13 06 2015
mountaincoward

Ullswater photographs particularly well from a boat πŸ™‚ Yeah, we choose from Richard’s remaining Wainwright list. I’d been doing the same hills again and again and that’s got me re-doing stuff I haven’t done for ages so I’m enjoying that…

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27 05 2015
EchoohcE

Hi Carol, so sorry I am to hear of your continuing battle. Well done for actually getting up some mountains, though I’m not sure whether you are being sensible about it! I mean, how can walking up and down those kind of gradients be doing you any good if it’s causing that much pain? I presume you have been doing plenty of ‘training walking’ on relatively level or gently undulating ground and just wanted to test yourself on something bigger.
Forgive me – I’m not wanting to sound like I’m telling you what to do; just expressing my concern! I think ReidlvinsMedia knows what he/she is talking about though; have you been seeing a physiotherapist…etc,etc.

Enough ranting on my part. Normally I wouldn’t say boo to a goose. Actually I have been using a stick (or two occasionally) since April 2009 (when I was 46) as I suddenly developed bad knees. I was alarmed because until then I had been very strong and quite fit. I had gone to Skye for a week or so and with cliff scrambling on the menu with a very heavy rucksack I had to do something… so I cut a couple of hazel sticks, no thicker than an inch, and used those… by god they worked, and I was so impressed I kept them and still take one almost every time I go walking, just in case. They are very strong, as I was putting a considerable amount of weight on them at first. They are very lightweight to my mind, having dried out well. and are very useful. Well, one is, for crossing streams, and boulderfields, and steep descents, self defence, and so on. I used to be bothered by people with ‘ski sticks’ as I used to think of them (and like Alen I still am bothered by two-polers clattering along (in groups!) along country lanes) – but a proper natural stick has much more character (agree with smackedpentax here)!

I digress though but. I mentioned before I tore my achilles/calf muscle thingy junction more than halfway through on my right leg just over six months ago. I followed the advice and instruction of the doctor and physiotherapist pretty closely, took it very very steadily and patiently (and had thirteen weeks off work!) and didn’t hurt the leg at all during that time. I had been using crutches to limp around town for short distances. It was only after twelve weeks (and one week before I went back to my job as a outdoor manual and abused labourer) that I dared go for a ‘proper’ walk! I started with level ground (circuit of Swinsty Reservoir ❀ miles) and used my hazel stick quite a lot as support. It went ok but I couldn't believe how stiff my thighs were the next day! Two days later I did the Fewston Reservoir cicuit (barely 4 miles and gently undulating) again with hazel stick as support, it went pretty well, only taking about 15mins longer than normal. Three days later I did the Thruscross Reservoir circuit (5 miles and gently hilly with a couple of steeper bits) – again with the hazel stick in support, and again it went well. In fact my bad leg felt better than my good (left) leg!

Went back to work two days later. It was tough, everything ached apart from my bad leg… Six weeks later I did two 8 mile walks (Easter week) the second of which was from Ribblehead over Simon Fell and down the steep 'staircase' towards the Hill Inn and back to Ribblehead, again with the stick, again it was ok!
Six months exactly after the injury I drove to Skye on my own for a weeks' walking and scrambling on the sea-cliffs (with my favourite stick) and apart from being rather unfit, the leg was fine, which was reassuring. Rock-climbing with the stick in one hand was a bit awkward, but I was glad of it for boulder-hopping along the 'beaches', especially as I was carrying a heavy rucksack…

It has taken me hours to write this, and I don't usually go on this much so I'd better wrap up with a summary:
Don't rush things, work your way back to health slowly, get professional help and follow their advice! Wonders can happen. I thought I'd never walk up hills again at the time of my incident (I actually heard it snap – ugh!) but now, I can. I'm still being fairly cautious and won't be doing some of the things I used to do – this year – but am pretty confident that next year, I can. I'm sure that given time, you will be walking those high mountains again. Honest πŸ™‚

I hope you don't find all this insulting or take it the wrong way; just concerned, that's all.

Best wishes, Mike πŸ™‚

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27 05 2015
EchoohcE

Hmm, so less than three = <3. I've leared something! πŸ˜‰

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27 05 2015
mountaincoward

I never really have any time off from regularly walking hills of some kind – in fact, my walk to work (a mile each way) is over a big hill. The walk which caused all the pain was almost flat – the one I did with the pole and the ibuprofen gel was the steeper one and I didn’t have any ill effect after that – but that was when I took the pole and walked like a snail.

I went private and got some physio and am doing the exercises. My muscles are starting to work a bit better but I still have problems some days. I already had all the muscle but, for some reason, they’d stopped working when they should and I have to remember to keep ‘tensing’ the right bits of my leg while I’m walking as soon as I start to get problems. But, no matter what I do, I’m not getting my mileage up to what I need to be doing for my summer’s plans. The way I see it, if I don’t meet those plans this summer, I have little chance in future summers as I’m sure I’ll deteriorate more.

Didn’t understand your second comment?
Carol.

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28 05 2015
EchoohcE

Ah ok, sorry I got carried away – must have been thinking too much – or not enough! Of course you know what you’re doing! πŸ™‚
Thank you for the explantion of what’s happening with your legs. I think going private was a good move; I went NHS and apart from the very good physiotherapist (who however was so busy I could only get to see him every three weeks, and then only for twenty minutes) it was a bit shambolic. I went to A+E the same day I did it, then an appointment two days later, when I was expecting an ultrasound scan – only to be told to my disbelieving face that ‘there is a six week waiting list for a scan’ which I thought was a little off. I did get one about six weeks later after my GP put some pressure their way, best bit is the hospital THEN gave me an orthopaedic boot to wear and told me to wear it all day long!
Strange thing with your legs though, I can’t weigh it up so I’d better just shut up instead!

My second comment was, after I posted my first comment I noticed that ‘less than 3’ miles written mathematically turned into a little red heart! You know, the < symbol followed immediately by 3 and you get <3. I said I'd leared something but I meant to say learned something, just a typo. Hope that clears things up! πŸ™‚
Best wishes, Mike

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28 05 2015
mountaincoward

Ah got you on the less than 3 miles – I didn’t notice that!

I’m glad I went private (although my NHS physio appointment has finally arrived – after probably 3 months!) as you get far more time to talk to a private physio and you can e-mail them and things which you can’t with the NHS ones.

It’s strange how suddenly my leg fell apart but I’m starting to think it isn’t strange for a hillwalker who does as much as I was doing to wear out their joints – it seems to happen to us all!

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26 05 2015
tessapark1969

Sorry to hear about the ongoing leg issues 😦

I have a dodgy back following an accident and also have slightly dodgy knees. I’ve always used two poles for walking and find them a godsend on descent. I tend to buy cheapies as I get through them quite fast!

Only just seen this btw as been in the Lakes for a few days.

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26 05 2015
mountaincoward

Yeah they do seem to break fairly soon – Richard’s have been doing anyway.

Where have you been in the Lakes? (I’m sure you’ll be posting on your blog soon about it anyway πŸ™‚ )

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27 05 2015
tessapark1969

Was in Ambleside for a few days – did Red Screes and a couple of others but went over on my ankle so didn’t do as much as we’d hoped 😦

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27 05 2015
mountaincoward

Hope your ankle’s okay

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26 05 2015
ReidIvinsMedia

I’m a pole convert as they saved my knee cartilage from destruction. I noticed you got sore wrists from using them. Can I suggest trying the following: put your hand into the loop of webbing on the pole so it goes over the back of your hand and under the ball of your thumb. Lightly hold the pole and press your arm down until the webbing is under tension and the lower arm is at 90 degrees. You shouldn’t feel any weight on your wrist but on the back of the hand.

When you walk guide the pole out forward with you fingers and as you step bring the arm to 90 degrees and (gently,) press the whole lower arm down

Sounds odd I know but its easy to get the hang off after a few minutes. With loose hands and a 90 degree angle there’s no strain on the wrist joint but plenty of support.

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26 05 2015
mountaincoward

They aren’t the kind of poles with the upright handles – both Richard and I have bought the ones with the horizontal handles so we can really lean on them if our legs are collapsing. I try not to use the pole until towards the end of the walk when I have to swap onto hard surfaces – that seems to work okay. I find them very hard work uphill – just having to use my arms as well as my legs – not used to that!

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27 05 2015
ReidIvinsMedia

I find them brilliant for uphill – shorten them a bit and off i go. But descents really test my cartilage without poles. I’ve not seen poles with horizontal handles. Good luck with the injury, hope you heal quickly.

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27 05 2015
mountaincoward

Thanks – my hip won’t heal as such but, if I can get my supporting muscles strong enough, that should really help

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27 05 2015
ReidIvinsMedia

Yes, it should. I found an long course of physio and hours in the gym building leg muscle really improved the stability of my knee. But its a grind to do- easy to forget/excuse myself “just today”, etc!

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27 05 2015
mountaincoward

I do tend to do my exercises on the days I haven’t done any other major exercise but I’ve found, like my friend with the bad hip, that doing the exercises on the same day as a big walk or cycle ride or something makes things worse.

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27 05 2015
ReidIvinsMedia

I guess its a bit of an overload to do both. Took me 12 weeks to get mobile and mine was basically soft tissue damage only.

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27 05 2015
mountaincoward

I think my knee is just muscle/tendon problems but my hip is the joint wearing out

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27 05 2015
ReidIvinsMedia

Might just be caused by your gait being affected by your knee problems? I got something called reactive arthritis in my ankle and other knee because of the other knee. Its a temporary condition on the joint that causes inflammation, grinding of the joints -goes as gait improves. Might be worth checking out?

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13 06 2015
mountaincoward

I’m pretty sure my problems are reactive and that my other leg problems are all being caused by my hip instability – it’s bound to be making me walk a bit funny. The good news is anyway that I’ve just had a week in Scotland and got quite a lot of big walks done. i couldn’t walk every day but managed every other day πŸ™‚

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21 05 2015
smackedpentax

If it is any help – I used a walking pole for a few months and although it did help quite a lot, it felt uncomfortable – I didn’t like it. I have since bought a nice thick walking pole (a bit like the one Gandalf uses) from a shop in Skipton, and it is much better – and it looks ‘cooler’ too πŸ™‚ Hope your leg gets better soon..

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22 05 2015
mountaincoward

I find it quite tiring having to use my arms to walk as well as my legs! I’ve got the sort of pole which is a bit like a walking stick as in the handle is horizontal so you can really lean on it if you’re having real problems (which, by the end of a walk just now, I am). The muscles seem to be improving a bit now though so my ‘endurance’ is getting very slightly better. Still only on about 8 miles though – need to be much better than that for Scotland!

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22 05 2015
smackedpentax

I am pleased you seem to be getting fitter, and I hope you are fine for Scotland. I know how much hiking and mountaineering mean to you and it is awful that you are not able to do your walks. I am sure you will get better in time – maybe you just have to take it easy for awhile. πŸ™‚

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22 05 2015
mountaincoward

I’ve definitely decided this is my last year doing big hills in Scotland if I can get those tops finished – I’m not doing anything major after that. Still want to walk in the Lakes though – and Snowdonia if poss

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22 05 2015
smackedpentax

This time last year I had just completed Fairfield Horseshoe – and felt like I could have done it again. I am in Northumberland this week and yesterday I had trouble walking the quarter mile around Flodden Memorial 😦

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22 05 2015
mountaincoward

That’s what’s so annoying – it happens so quick without any real warning 😦

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20 05 2015
Simon Howlett

I’ve started using a walking pole recently which helps my dodgy right knee! Would not be without it up on the fells now. Will keep an eye out for your thinsulate glove next time I’m out that way.

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22 05 2015
mountaincoward

Please do keep an eye open for my glove – I hate losing things. I don’t mind if you make use of it yourself but I hate the thought of it lying wasted on the fells – it was quite a new one too. It was a black one πŸ™‚

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20 05 2015
underswansea

Hi Carol, sorry to hear about the bad leg! I bet it makes the ‘coming down’ harder than the ‘going up’. I have the feeling it’s not going to keep you off the mountains for long. Lovely photos and good write-up. Still tons of snow in our mountains. Take care. Bob

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22 05 2015
mountaincoward

The coming down is, for the first time ever, painful by the end of a descent – weird for me! I think it’s still a distance thing at the moment though and I’m struggling to get up to the distance required for my summer in Scotland.

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23 05 2015
underswansea

The only thing that can get you in shape for hiking mountains is hiking mountains. Do what you can and it will become more.

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23 05 2015
mountaincoward

That’s always been my maxim πŸ™‚ You see so many people here trying to get hill-fit in a gym and it just can’t work!

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19 05 2015
Blue Sky Scotland

Hi Carol, sorry to hear about your leg and hip. I’ve been using a pole for over ten years now and it does help.Takes a while to get used to it. I’m always leaving mine on hills so I buy cheap ones. I found two poles too much like hard work and my arms got tired instead after a long day. Variety is the key which is why I do parks, beaches, island bagging, cycling, boating, all sorts of other things. Cheer up, if it gets too bad you can take up sailing or kayaking and still have a good time. That’s what Douglas Wilcox had to do ( He’s one of the mad sea kayaker’s linked to my blog who used to be a keen hill walker) and he’s more adventurous than ever. Seakayaking blog. I know you want to finish the tops but after that I’d try and diversify into.other outdoor activities that put less of a strain on your hip and leg. (Don’t think you will listen to me anyway… or the doctor :o)

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22 05 2015
mountaincoward

Yeah, I don’t want to carry 2 if I can help it. I did buy cheap ones – I’m a Yorkshirewoman! πŸ˜‰ I don’t like sailing but would enjoy kayaking and like rowing. Also, my horse-riding friend says it hasn’t done her hip any harm carrying on riding so I hope to do that too (I’ve been avoiding that as I thought it would make it worse).

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19 05 2015
Ian McKeag

Dont know if you’ve ever heard of Pacer poles Carol,but they have a totally unique type of handle that doesn’t put as much strain on the wrists. Made a big difference for me.

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22 05 2015
mountaincoward

Unfortunately, I have to really lean down on the handle when my hip/knee start collapsing towards the end of the walk so I’ve chosen the ones where the handle is horizontal. My friend with a bad hip/knee uses those and he seemed to be finding them useful so I just followed suit. I’d been borrowing his a bit anyway and found they’d helped.

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18 05 2015
the Severe climber

Ouch. That’s really nasty with the leg and hip. I hope it doesn’t cause you that much trouble again in the hills.

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18 05 2015
mountaincoward

Hi, I seem to maybe be getting a grip of it. I’ve managed a couple of Scottish hills but my mileage isn’t up to much yet and I’m usually suffering by the end of the walk. I’ve stopped suffering the next day though which is good πŸ™‚

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17 05 2015
McEff

Blimey, Carol, you sound in a bad way with your leg. Hope you get sorted soon.
I was always anti-walking poles until my wife borrowed a pair about ten years ago and I borrowed them off her to do the Cluanie Ridge. I’ve since found them very useful, especially on steep gradients, and always have a pair with me on the higher mountains and fells. What I can’t stand, though, is these people you see walking down country lanes with them. I once saw a chap marching through Bishop Auckland town centre swinging a pair of poles like he was cross-country skiing.
Cheers, Alen

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17 05 2015
mountaincoward

Yeah – we used to joke that some people used them to walk up and down the High Street but it’s not funny really because they almost do!

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17 05 2015
razzah

I’m so sorry to hear how bad your leg is. I don’t know what people have against walking poles – I love mine. They help my knees, and are also great for testing bits of bog πŸ™‚ But they do get in the way on boulderfields and as you found out, stiles.

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17 05 2015
mountaincoward

I just believe we were designed to walk without any aids and that our muscles should be doing their job properly. They are good for river crossings and testing the ground ahead though – very true!

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17 05 2015
razzah

Hmm, see what you mean. There is a case for that. A little like the bare foot running debate in a way, that our feet are not naturally designed for cushioned trainers. But, I still love my poles πŸ™‚

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17 05 2015
Mark Adams

Dear Mountain Coward, I will dong my Tibetan singing bowl to wish you better health.

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17 05 2015
mountaincoward

Can you sing louder? I can’t hear you from here! πŸ˜‰

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