Climbing & Descending Hills

Going-up 

           One step at a time

As in many other challenges, your attitude in approaching a hill-climb is nearly as important as your technique. Always keep insight where you are heading, but don't keep looking at that seemingly way-off summit. Give yourself lots of smaller destination points along the route - and reward yourself when you reach each one. This may also be a good opportunity to practise your singing (in your head?!), count your paces - or whatever else helps you maintain your walking rhythm.

 

Pace Yourself

Don't be tempted to go screaming into things. You want to choose a steady pace that you can sustain over a longish period. Whatever you do, don't push yourself until you become breathless and your legs are burning as you'll be asking for trouble later; what happens then is that you use hard-to-replace glycogen reserves and build up lactate chemicals in your muscles that will make you less efficient for the rest of the walk.

Better to stop and have a quick breather than push yourself into the physiological death zone.

Shorten Your Steps

When going uphill, shorten your steps but try to keep the rhythm the same as you were using before the hill; with shorter steps, it’s easier to maintain your rate; it will take a bit longer because of the hill but as your fitness increases your climbing  will get quicker.

Leaning

It is natural to lean into the hill a bit. Try to keep that lean to a minimum, keep your torso over your hips; if you lean too much you put yourself off balance and can strain your lower back.

Zig-Zag

Walking in a Zig-Zag pattern up steep hills lessens the stress on your leg muscles; however, you will walk further.

Consider walking poles

Walking poles can be a great help when going uphill - they allow you transfer some of the 'load' to your arms and allow you to set a rhythm for your walking. You will need to shorten your poles for up-hill sections.

It may be worthwhile considering poles that allow the anti-shock system to be turned off for uphill use.

Stretching

Help keep your muscles supple by doing some light stretching during breaks. In addition, try to do 10-15 minutes at the end of each hiking day. Think of it as an investment in your on-trail health.

Breaks

Try keeping them short and regular rather than long and occasional. This allows less time for the muscles to stiffen up, thus making it easier to get going again. This especially holds true for those chronologically challenged amongst us. If you are taking a longer break, particularly on a cold and windy day, consider putting on some warmer clothes so as not to catch a chill.

Hills will raise your heart rate, breathing, and exertion level as more muscles are used to carry you both up and along. Keep your exertion at an intensity level where you can still speak in sentences rather than just gasping out single words.

 

Going-Down

Descending steep hills can be more of challenging than the acsent if approached inncorrectly; thereby, significantly increasing the risk of joint damage in your knees and ankles.

Posture

Your posture is very important. Don't lean back as this will send you out of balance. Your weight should be over your hips and knees which should be slightly bent particularly as you put your foot down. Bend your knees, to make yourself more stable, if you should fall you’re more likely to fall  backwards rather than falling forward. Your stride will lengthen automatically - to control your speed, shorten it.

 

Zig-Zag

If at all possible, pick out a zig-zag route downwards - this will reduce the overall impact on your joints and enable you to better control your speed and provide a greater sense of security.

Crab walking

Crab-walking, is particularly useful when your faced with a very steep set of downhill steps and or hill;  edg down the trail with your feet pointing across the steps/ trail instead of straight up and down.

Walking Poles

Many people find walking poles very useful when going downhill. Try to buy poles with a good shock-absorbing system. When using them, place the pole slightly in front and to the side before each step so that it takes some of the weight. 

Stretching

Help keep your muscles supple by doing some light stretching during breaks. In addition, try to do 10-15 minutes at the end of each hiking day. Think of it as an investment in your on-trail health.

Breaks

Try keeping them short and regular rather than long and occasional. This allows less time for the muscles to stiffen up, thus making it easier to get going again. This especially holds true for those chronologically challenged amongst us. If you are taking a longer break, particularly on a cold and windy day, consider putting on some warmer clothes so as not to catch a chill.