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Descending A Steep Hill

Discussion in 'Trails' started by 2sweed, Dec 28, 2014.

  1. 2sweed

    2sweed Natural Camper Staff Member

    Wondering how you get down steep slopes when doing backpacking or hiking in mountainous areas. Do you use the side-step method or zig zag from side to side, take tiny sure-footed steps or leap down like a confident mountain goat? :)
    I have read it is better not to lock your knees to prevent ligament blow-outs. So what is your way of getting down a steep trail other then sliding on your bottom, to the bottom. :rolleyes::woot::woot:
  2. MacGyver

    MacGyver Survivalist

    When hiking in areas where you encounter steeps slopes, I can't stress enough the importance of adjustable trekking poles. Especially when you're carrying a pack, the risk of injury is too great. The poles offer amazing stability on both ascents and descents. Lacking actual poles, I recommend finding two long and very stout sticks to steady yourself and not being in a hurry to get down the slope.

    Years ago while car camping, my friends were laughing at me because I'd spent over $100 for a pair of Leki poles. As it happened, the site where we were was at the bottom of an insanely steep hill. I lowered the poles and took off up the hill. When I got to the top, I yelled down to ask if anyone else could get up there as quickly and easily. They yelled back, "Yeah - good luck coming down!" I extended the poles to their maximum length and casually walked down, almost effortlessly.

    They stopped laughing.
    happyflowerlady likes this.
  3. campforums

    campforums Founder Staff Member

    I use the zig-zag approach (since I do not have any hiking poles). It works pretty well but I don't think I would be winning any races against @MacGyver. Usually on steep slopes like the one you are describing there are trees or roots that run along that I can grab on to to stabilize myself. Another thing that is really important is shoes that have a good grip on the bottom. Ideally some good fitting hiking boots but a decent cross trainer would also be suitable. If it is extremely steep you also have the option of tying some rope to a tree or something at the top and using it to propel yourself down the hill.
    happyflowerlady likes this.
  4. Northern Dancer

    Northern Dancer Survivalist

    I use a staff - enabling me to have one hand free to balance or grab onto things. And you are right - good trail shoes/boots are a must.

  5. 2sweed

    2sweed Natural Camper Staff Member

    This is how it is done, with great care and "hey wait @Dancer, you forgot your staff."

  6. Northern Dancer

    Northern Dancer Survivalist

    At one time I thought a staff was dorky - but one changes. At one time I disliked broccoli too but it's okay now.
  7. campforums

    campforums Founder Staff Member

    Not the first time I've seen that staff!

    I reckon the grip at the bottom should provide some nice extra traction.
  8. Northern Dancer

    Northern Dancer Survivalist

    I feel more confident if I have a hand free.
    campforums likes this.
  9. actadh

    actadh Pathfinder

    I use an old tobacco stick staff that I got off eBay. My grandparents on my mom's side were tobacco farmers during the Depression in southern Maryland, so I like that connection.

    Like Northern Dancer, I would rather have one hand free while I hike.
  10. campforums

    campforums Founder Staff Member

    Me too, it is important to be able to break your fall in case the worst case happens and you do slip or even be able to react quickly and try to rebalance using your free arm or grab onto something nearby.
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