George Mallory gave the famous quote on why mountain climbers climb mountains. "Because they're there," he said when asked why he chose to climb Mount Everest. Today, you may have the same desire to get up and over your own personal Everest. If you're ready to hike steep grades, there are several techniques, including a shuffle step much like sliding that can get you up and over safely, while conserving energy.
Pace & Rhythm
When starting into the steep grades of your hill or mountain, begin to place yourself into a steady pace and rhythm. If you are going to err in this pace, err on the slow side. As the grade begins to increase, slow your pace down and begin to take notice of your breathing. As you move one foot forward, inhale. As the next foot begins to go forward, exhale. Keep this rhythm going as you start your ascent.
If you use trekking poles, alternate the left hand and pole with the right foot. Keep up an opposite rhythm along with your breathing with the poles and legs/feet.
Adding the Slide
Now that the grade is getting steeper and your pace and rhythm have been established, it's time to begin to add a shuffle, or "slide" into your hiking. When fatigue hits the legs in the form of lactic acid build-up and burning, instead of pulling your foot and leg up and fighting gravity, gently slide one foot forward, skimming the trail surface.
Plant your opposite side trekking pole into the ground ahead of your slide. Do not continuously slide both legs and feet. Add the slide as needed to give your legs a chance to expel some lactic acid and reduce the burn.
If you feel yourself getting out of breath, stop, rest and catch your breath. Reduce your pace so you do not get winded.
Snow and Ice
Should your mountain or steep grade hill begin to get into alpine or snow and ice conditions, begin to go with a full slide. Instead of removing your feet and legs off the ground, shuffle and slide your feet over the slick, snowy surface. It's important to place your trekking poles properly, going opposite side from the aft leg and foot. Make sure you plant the trekking pole tip firmly into the surface and use it as a level and balance when shuffling and sliding up the grade.
If you find yourself slipping backward or losing forward momentum, adjust your angle to the slope so you are doing a steep traverse. Push your feet at the slide going at a 20-degree angle to the upward slope. Adjust your hillside trekking pole so it is lower and shorter than the downward facing trekking pole. This allows you to keep your hands and arms at level heights to each other, giving better balance when sliding up the slope.
Article Written By Eric Cedric
A former Alaskan of 20 years, Eric Cedric now resides in California. He's published in "Outside" and "Backpacker" and has written a book on life in small-town Alaska, "North by Southeast." Cedric was a professional mountain guide and backcountry expedition leader for 18 years. He worked in Russia, Iceland, Greece, Turkey and Belize. Cedric attended Syracuse University and is a private pilot.