Sunday, March 3, 2013

Lightning + Metal/Carbon Fiber Trekking Poles = Danger

I've been making a concerted effort to lighten the load I carry up the mountain.

As the photo above (on the way to Summit lake in the Eastern Sierras last year) shows, I use a wooden staff. It's a piece of White Alder I picked up in the Sonoma Valley mountains about 15 years ago.
 
WEIGHT REDUCTION: OUNCE BY OUNCE

Weight reduction ... whether human or a backpack is all about ounces. I'm 80 pounds lighter than I was 15 years ago and my pack is about 10 pounds lighter than last year.

As part of lightening the load I haul up a mountain, I considered using an aluminum or titanium staff. I'm not much for the ski-pole type of trekking poles, one in each hand. So I looked for a trekking staff.

My White Alder staff weighs 1lb, 14 oz.

CARBON FIBER TEMPTING

I have to admit that I was tempted by carbon-fiber poles weighing in at 9 ounces (and about $90). That would be a savings of 1 lb, 5 oz -- substantial!

Two things dissuaded me from making the switch.

Item 1:  Last year, lightning chased me off the 14,000+ summit of California's second-tallest mountain. See: Climbing Mt. Langley: Slow Ascent, Lightning Descent

Item 2: Carbon fiber composites are an excellent conductor of electricity.

Plus, they all have substantial metal components. Given that I was chased off Mt. Langley with the hair on my arms standing on end thanks to static electricity from approaching lightning, I think there's a good chance a carbon fiber trekking staff might have been all that it would have taken to turn me into toast.

Because I spend a lot of time high-altitude climbing and backpacking I think I will stick with White Alder and its additional weight. And its warm feel and the memories of where it's been.

7 comments:

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  6. You are right about the carbon fiber poles, they are good conductors; therefore, bad news. I would prefer the wooden stick. They are commercially produced. I did find one on Amazon with a unique hand-carved flower structure. I also found some amazing hiking stick designs here: http://wildernessmastery.com/camping-and-hiking/best-hiking-poles.html

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