Posts Tagged ‘ultra distance’

Mountain King Trail Blaze Poles 2015 Review

I completed the Fellsman this weekend ( 25th April) and was lucky enough to have got my hands on a pair of Mountain King Trail Blaze Poles – Ultra Light Fast Packing / Trail Running Poles that are made by a British Company.

The Camera got wet hence a bit of a bur in the midle - The Trail Blaze Poles were great

Mountain King Trail Blaze Poles at Fleet Moss Checkpoint on Felsman 2015 with Dunc and Dave. A wet windy cold day that included snow, turning to clear skies with frost later. The majority of the route is on boggy ground or tussocks, with minimal amounts of hard paths and trails..

I have previously had a pair of BD Ultra Distance Poles so it was going to be interesting to  test these Mountain King Trail Blaze ones out (I snapped my BD ones a few weeks back whilst scouting for the Fellsman event)

The poles are certainly minimalist. They have a small but comfortable cushioned hand grip with a non adjustable wrist loop, again comfortable on the wrist. A small cord runs through the centre of the 4 sections and when pulled hard out of the top of the poles allows the poles to slot together then locked in place by slipping the manufacturers pre fitted knot into the little groove at the top of the pole. The Poles come with 2 detachable baskets (screw fitting so don’t just try to rive them off), and also 2 rubber type covers for the carborundum/tungsten tips of the poles if you dont want to click on rocky terrain. Personally I leave the rubber tips of all the time but would be likely to use the baskets on the poles in winter or in the alps.

Trail Blaze Pole Mountain King 2015 Review

Metal tips showing detail of the screw fitting thread for the light weight but effective and sturdily attachable baskets in case you require them

The poles are made up as an aluminium centre overlaid with a wrap of carbon fibre, and I imagine that this is what has given them their strength without compromising on weight – especially at the joins between the sections on poles

120cm long - weight 250gms the pair - 40gm lighter than the BD Ultra Distance Poles at 120cm

Trail Blaze Poles folded up with velcro straps in view, tidy and compact and very light

The poles arrive with a small mesh bag to hold them in and they are both fitted with a small but ideally sized velcro loop to keep the poles under control when they are folded away and stashed on or in your bag.

Pull the cord whilst dangling the sections of the pole and they pull into place, and then clip the knot into the slot on the top of the handle for a light weight locked out pole.. Quick and easy. The handle is well cushioned and is not noticeably les comforrtabe when ts soaking wet (as it was for most of the Fellsman event)

Pull the cord whilst dangling the sections of the pole and they pull into place, and then clip the knot into the slot on the top of the handle for a light weight locked out pole.. Quick and easy. The handle is well cushioned and is not noticeably les comforrtabe when ts soaking wet (as it was for most of the Fellsman event)

At first glance look and feel very fragile, but after having used them a number of times and trapped them between rocks on trails or had them stuck in a bog and get unfeasibly pressured as I bent them over whilst stopping myself to extricate them, they seem to be robust enough to last – this has dispelled any worries about fragility.

Aluminium ferrule slots into carbon sleeve on each section of the poles - Mountain King Trail Blaze 2015 design change apparently

Aluminium ferrule slots into carbon sleeve on each section of the poles – Mountain King Trail Blaze 2015 design change apparently

The joins in the poles feature an aluminium ferrule one end and a carbon sleeve at the other side. As far as I understand it this is a part of the poles redesign since last years model, to improve strength without compromising on weight, and so far so good, no splits or cracks despite rather a lot of abuse in a short time…

I intend to use these poles plenty over the course of the summer, both here in Snowdonia and in the Alps. I plan on a number of longer runs hopefully including the Paddy Buckley Round here and some other Sky Races out in Northern Italy  and have loads of confidence in these poles.

They have proved themselves so far – lightweight, easy to fit together and quick, comfortable hand grip and an perfectly adequate wrist loop that is also comfortable. Very impressed and would recommend them for sure. Oh and by the way as far as lightness goes, they are 40gms lighter per pair for the 120cm length than the BD Ultra Distance Poles – Perfect…..

For future reference and if I would suggest any improvements that could be made then I would suggest a slightly less stretchy or a tighter fit for the centre cord, as a number of times the poles were pulled significantly apart when pulling them out of sticky turf terrain whilst running and this caused me to be a little concerned that they would pop apart.

I would also suggest that the padded section on the handle could be made another 4 cm longer to be really sweet when ones wrists are engaged into the loops and to give a bit more flexibility to hand position and comfort.

However both these issues are minor tweaks and should not put one off these amazing poles








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….

Snowdonia Weather