The Helvellyn Pro Carbon are Harrier’s top of the range collapsible poles that are suitable for both trail running and hiking.
Although not allowed in fell races, running poles are becoming accepted and more widely used in longer distance trail running events. It is not unusual nowadays to see people using them on the Bob Graham Round – much to the disapproval of some of the traditionalists! On longer multi-day events such as the Spine Race, Dragon’s Back and Cape Wrath Ultra most of the runners will use poles at some point, including the elite runners at the front end of the race. The Helvellyn Pro Carbon poles are a strong, lightweight, collapsible pole, perfectly suited to such events.
The Helvellyn Pro Carbon are a collapsible, 3 piece carbon pole with the sections being linked by a plasticated wire running through the inside. When folded the 3 pieces form a Z shape and hence they are sometimes referred to as Z poles. The length isn’t adjustable, they are available in six lengths from 105cm to 130cm to suit different user heights. My 110cm poles weighed in at 341g for the pair and measure 36cm in length when folded. The handles are ergonomically shaped EVA foam with an adjustable wrist strap which has a fleecy lining for comfort.
The poles are easy to use, to deploy them you simply unfold them and slide out a telescopic section until a small button clicks into place to keep them rigid. To fold them away you simply press the button, slide the telescopic section back in and fold the poles.
A small notch on the plastic mud basket allows the two smaller pole sections to clip together for neat storage. Deploying and stowing the poles is very straightforward and can be done quickly, even whilst wearing gloves. The poles come with a rubber end cap which can be removed to reveal a carbide tip allowing a choice of end depending on the terrain. The poles come in a sturdy, water resistant bag for storage and transport when not in use.
3 piece collapsible Z poles, fixed length (6 options), 4k carbon fibre, weight 340g per pair, rubber or carbide tip, adjustable wrist loop, carry bag.
Poles can be effective, particularly when climbing steep hills or when descending whilst tired. However my personal preference for long, hilly days out has been the hands on knees approach! I didn’t use poles on any of the Big 3 Rounds and the only time I’ve carried them is when supporting mates on their Rounds and they’ve said “Here Dave, can you carry these for me?” Having said that I did give these poles a good try out on steep, technical Peak District terrain and found them very easy and comfortable to use. They are very simple to open up and likewise to refold. They felt surprisingly light and the grips were comfortable in the hand. The poles seemed strong and I was happy to commit my whole bodyweight to them without them bending or creaking (having said that I’m not very heavy!) I would be cautious of using them in bouldery terrain as it would be easy to get a pole wedged between rocks and snap it, but that would apply to any brand of pole. My main issue with poles isn’t whilst using them it is the faff of carrying them when they aren’t in use. If they knock against each other or bounce around on my pack it drives me mad!
If you’re considering using poles for your next ultra or big “Round” make sure you get lots of practice using them in training (and don’t let the fell running “purists” know!) You need to become efficient in both using them and also in doing other things such as eating and navigating whilst holding them. Practise with them both with and without gloves on and whilst wearing the pack that you intend to wear for the event. It’s important that you perfect your system of stowing and attaching them to your pack – unless you are expecting your mate to carry them for you!
You don’t have to be a runner to use poles. hikers and wild campers will find them useful too. I know campers and “fast packers” who use very lightweight tarps instead of tents and they erect them using hiking poles. Winter walkers can also find them useful for added stability when crossing streams and when seeking to negotiate a safe passage through the notoriously deep Peak District bogs!
Harrier are a small, family run, Peak District business. Their range of poles along with tips and advice on using them can be found here: https://harrierrunfree.co.uk/collections/poles