Black Diamond Ultra Distance Poles – Review

I was just thinking about what runs I plan for when I get back to the UK and musing on the fact that I am really missing the mountains.

Right now the thought of lots of ascent is just so alluring, as I am seriously ¬†only running in flat places right now. The need to feel the steepness in my hamstrings, calves and quads is omnipresent, as I know this sort of fitness is lost quickly…

This then got me to thinking about my Black Diamond Ultra Distance Poles and how much I like using them. I have been a skeptic with regards to poles, assuming that they would drive me crazy, be bulky, hard to fold away and serve little purpose, so I resisted investing in a pair until earlier this year. I have in mind that ultimately, when I finally get around to a Paddy Buckley attempt that is not scuppered by heavy snow or storm force wwind and rain, then they will play an integral part in keeping me on my feet over the distance…

Behind Middleberg looking towards the valley to Crystal pool just after I missed my turning for Algeria. BD Ultra Distance Poles, Salomon S Lab 12 Bag, and plenty of dried mango kept me going

I used these every day in the Cederberg, the steep climbs and technical descents meant they were really useful and definitely saved my quads for the next days running

I am now a convert to the wonders of poles, and specifically these poles. Black Diamond have created such an amazing, light weight pole, that they just become extensions of ones arms in a way and really help me on steep steep ascents it seems..

So lets start at the top. The Black Diamond Ultra Poles handles are made out of a great dense foam with two levels to grip ( an extended handle) which I find really great when descending as well as when climbing. The handles are comfortable and don’t feel sweaty after use, and have not so far caused blisters , they just seem to fit the hand so well.

I dispensed with the wrist loops after the first 5 minutes of running. People may be a fan of wrist loops but personally I found them immediately a bit of a hazard and it reduced the dexterity of the poles. If you haven’t got loops on them you are much freer to put 2 in one hand, shift your grip, sling them over your shoulder or keep them to one side / chuck them up when you are on a technical scramble section. I felt also that whilst descending one could snag the poles, and with wrist loops on then you would grind to a standstill or snap the poles, or worse.

Probably for walking then loops would be great but I definitely prefer them without. Personal preference. They are easy enough to remove or refit.

The BD Ultra Poles come with 2 sets of end pieces, one softer and the other a hardened carbon steel insert, again very easily changed depending on what terrain you may run on, although I have the carbon steel ones in permanently.

The mechanism for assembling the poles is brilliant, basically you hold the pole vertical and then pull on the handle taking up the slack in the internal wire and the poles straighten out and then the metal stop pin just below the handle pops into place and voila – less than 8 seconds to assemble/ dissasemble each one. While I am out on a run, I generally keep them out and assembled until I hit the final stretch of tarmac . They are so light I don;t mind carrying them in my hands. Equally they fold away small enough that I can stash them in the sides of my Salomon S Lab Bag securely and quickly.

Looking into Duweisgat with Smallberg on the left, a remote and trackless valley that time forgot

A steep rocky climb led to this beautiful valley with a snaking single track rolling along in a splendid position. This is a view down into Duweisgat, about 600m below, an inaccessible trackless valley,probably full of undisturbed wildlife. Amazing place. The BD Ultra poles are great for switchbacks and fighting through dense overhanging triffid like fynbos vegetation, and they even disturbed a Black Spitting Cobra just ahead of me, meaning the snake got out of the way, alerted by my clattering poles as I rolled along the trails

I was wondering about the longevity of the poles, as they are carbon and I thought they may become damaged easily. However the only damage I can see after 4 months is superficial scratches on the lower 1/4 of the poles from rocks, which is amazing considering how they have been used and abused. On my recent trip up Sneeuberg I had to throw them down some vertical sections so I could climb down, and I often hold them in one hand whilst scrambling so they get a battering.

So far so good with my poles and I will certainly be using them on some of the races I have entered next year. Long days out in the hills are definitely assisted by poles. Not every time in every location but there is now definitely a time and a place for these BD Ultra Poles for me….

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