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 ... 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.


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.


  1. I actually newer even thought about getting fried by a lightning because of a pole... You gave me a topic to think about :) In the meantime, I will keep my hiking low altitude :))) and suggest a few poles that are actually worth checking out. You can check the reviews here:

  2. Trekking poles are good hiking items to invest on. I mean, you don’t want your trekking poles to break on you during a challenging hike because you’ll get injured if they do. These tools may look simple, but they must have the durability to withstand even the toughest hikes you’ll have. This is what I learned from this article that I’d want to share to other outdoorsy people out there:

  3. 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: