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Getting better at descending?

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After any advice anyone has on getting stronger at descending. Just had four days in glencoe and whilst I was fine on the ascents of things like the Lost Valley up to Stob Coire an Lochain, Etive Beag etc, i  find i struggle on the descents esepecially on the now well made rock steps. Its in fully rigid mountain boots and with a 45 litre pack but just don't seem to have the strength/balance to make the descent as fast as people that i was dropping on the way up. I'm not particulatly heavy and do lots of cycling when not walking but wondering if its a 'core strength' thing as i'm normally either in the car, at my laptop or on a bike, and all that gives me the core strength of marmalade. Other then actual long descents any training i can do at home to help?

 Fredt 16 Feb 2020
In reply to stevefroud:

Do you use poles? I find them invaluable on descents, purely for balance, which gives confidence and speed. I don’t use them for ascending.

 girlymonkey 16 Feb 2020
In reply to stevefroud:

I'd say most of it is about confidence in your footing. Relax, don't try to brake too much and trust your feet.

 Basemetal 16 Feb 2020
In reply to stevefroud:

I've found it helps to consciously  tilt my pelvis as I step down. I know it sounds strange, but it becomes second nature after a bit. I suspect many folk do it naturally and never think about it, but I found I had to learn to do it and I'm glad I did. See eg 2:30 in this vid:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=cDIeu_QL51U&

In reply to stevefroud:

Squats, lunges, planks, etc. might help a bit, but nothing is better than some practice. 


I hate to say, but halving the 45 litre sack might make it much more manageable. Lighter footwear and less load makes you so much more nimble. 

In reply to stevefroud:

I have no answers, but I share the pain. I am rubbish on steep descents, to the point of feeling I am a serious nuisance to those who end up  waiting for me. Much of it is balance, and also the effect if varifocals which mean I am not always sure which way a rock or patch if grass is tilting.

I have started using poles, or one pole, and that helps, and I am reading the suggestions here with interest - thank you for posting.

In reply to Basemetal:

Good video, thank you.

 Basemetal 16 Feb 2020
In reply to BusyLizzie:

Cheers I know the joy of varifocals, but often take them off on descents. I'm a fan of pacer poles too and usually have them with me. The ergo handles and lack of straps are easier on the wrists and avoid the hazard of being tied into them while having a secure hold. I'd recommend to anyone to take them upon their month's free trial if you haven't tried them

 Dave the Rave 16 Feb 2020
In reply to stevefroud:

Step onto a slightly bent knee, don’t lean back even if it feels more natural and look ahead for your next footstep. If you’re passing people on the way up but they overtake you going down, then perhaps you are ascending too quickly and knackering yourself out?

 Jeff Ingman 16 Feb 2020
In reply to stevefroud:

You're younger than me but I have the same problem and the varifocal issue , I think it gets  worse with age unless you do something about it. There's an exercise that's helped me called the reverse step up, search for this. It helps with the critical strength needed in decent. Add weights or that 45 litre rucksack as you get stronger. I hope this helps you...... Jeff

 Chrismith 17 Feb 2020

For me, it’s about getting into a rhythm, bending the knee slightly on each step and ‘bracing’ by slightly tensing your thigh muscles to support the knee each step.  Sounds like hard work and yeah youll notice sore quads at the end but it gets easier and your thighs get stronger. this approach worked for me and over the years...light footwear help massively too.  I can take or leave poles for the decent, I find them more useful for ascending, as you can use your arms to help propel you. 

 Concentrate on being light on your feet, rolling from the heel to the toe rather than stomping down and ‘bending & tensing’
 

1
 Babika 17 Feb 2020
In reply to stevefroud:

I'm rubbish and slow on the up but usually overtake heaps of people on the down.

Solely down to poles imho.

The steeper and gnarlier the terrain eg rolling screen, the more effective they become

Post edited at 08:46
In reply to Chrismith:

> For me, it’s about getting into a rhythm, bending the knee slightly on each step and ‘bracing’ by slightly tensing your thigh muscles to support the knee each step.......<

Descent is the only thing I'm often fairly good at. A big plus is it doesn't need the energy involved in the ascent. For me the rhythm or momentum is probably a major factor though I find it hard to analyse my own movements. I think if I make even a very short pause at each step I am much slower. I've looked ahead at least a few metres and the next foot moves immediately the previous is secure, using protruding edges and sharp edges as stops and for grip. Often use short zig zagging and digging whole side of boot on grass etc. The points made about light sacs (balance) and lighter, nimble boots (possibly B2s) work for me. I don't use poles (yet) though many find them invaluable. Upright, turning torso and often using arms for balance. Now I'm older I don't make long leaping bounds but use much shorter though still rapid steps. I quite like scree, fewer people seem to enjoy scree running these days (less small scree left in popular areas of UK?). Bonus of aging is that my distance vision has improved so no glasses vision problem in driving rain.

 Toerag 17 Feb 2020
In reply to stevefroud:

The question is, why are you slower? Is it

a) because you're being more cautious as you don't trust your feet not to slip

b) because you're stepping down, stopping to work out where to go next, then stepping again

c) because you're getting tired (burning quads!) and having to be more careful

Personally, I've found it mainly to be a confidence in footwear issue when I've been slow.  Stiff boots with little feel are particularly bad.  One or more poles make a massive difference on steep steppy terrain as you can lower yourself onto the lower level under control instead of having to remain in balance. 

Top tip for walking on bare slippy rock - place your feet in corners so they can't slide anywhere. Next best is edges.  The worst is in the middle of a flat bit as you never know when you're going to slip, and when you do you'll either a) pull your groin stopping the slide or b) hurt something when your foot comes to a stop or slips over an edge.  30 years of fishing on algae & seaweed-covered rocks has given me significant expertise in not falling over on slippery rock .

 The Grist 17 Feb 2020
In reply to stevefroud:

Sounds a bit silly but I do not see the issue. If I am out with people it is an issue if they are slow on the way to the route as the route may be taken and speed can be safety but going down it is far less of an issue. At worst I wait every now and again for them to catch up (or they wait for me). If it gets dark also no issue as we have torches and a map. I would rather partners go their own pace on the way down and are safe than they rush and fall.

Re: exercises I guess do it more....

It could also be a stamina issue. Do long days and long runs / bike rides.

 kathrync 17 Feb 2020
In reply to stevefroud:

I have this problem too - I've always been slow on descents.  The problem has been exacerbated by instability in my ankle after injuring it one too many times, which makes me cautious, but I was always slow even before that.

Things that I find help include walking poles, wearing flexible footwear that gives good proprioceptive feedback, making a conscious effort not to lean back, taking small steps at a reasonably fast cadence, relaxing and lots of practice.

Things that I find really don't help include stiff boots (I am much slower in my winter boots than my summer boots), and feeling under pressure.

 mysterion 17 Feb 2020
In reply to stevefroud:

On steep, steppy ground I tend to raise my arms as each foot makes contact. This seems to unweight the impact and allows for a quick rebalancing as the arms come down again. I suppose it's just skipping really.

Post edited at 16:56
 kathrync 17 Feb 2020
In reply to mysterion:

> On steep, steppy ground I tend to raise my arms as each foot makes contact. This seems to unweight the impact and allows for a quick rebalancing as the arms come down again. I suppose it's just skipping really.

Interestingly, toddlers tend to put their arms up in the air when they first start walking for balance too

 Basemetal 17 Feb 2020
In reply to mysterion:

> On steep, steppy ground I tend to raise my arms as each foot makes contact. This seems to unweight the impact and allows for a quick rebalancing as the arms come down again. I suppose it's just skipping really.

That should weight your foot if that's really how you're timing it. I raise my arms for balance quite often, it helps quite a bit.

 Wainers44 17 Feb 2020
In reply to stevefroud:

Really concentrate on foot placement and balance. Sounds obvious but the clatter some make when going downhill is shocking!

Think balance and Toy Story.....ie "falling with style"!!

 C Witter 17 Feb 2020
In reply to stevefroud:

45l pack? I think, if you're struggling to keep up with the others, you should give them a bit of extra weight - that always slows the beggars down ;)

 Emily_pipes 17 Feb 2020
In reply to C Witter:

Aye, try sneaking rocks into their packs when they're not looking. 

1
 John Kelly 17 Feb 2020
In reply to stevefroud:

Swap rucksack to 30 ltrs and learn to slackline

1
In reply to stevefroud:

Thanks everyone for the comments, been too busy to reply until now but here goes. Rigid boots are because I've been into the snow and I've and been wearing crampons for several hours so no option there. The 45litre rucksack tends to be full in the carpark but gradually empties as I get higher as jackets, gloves axe helmet and crampons come out (and lunch gets eaten). Think overall its probably a confidence/fear of slipping issue alongside a balance thing. On the right day I can hit that rythmn and go quicker but sometimes it just doesn't seem so easy. Overall I think I'll prescribe myself more trips to the mountains for more research! 😀 

 Pero 20 Feb 2020
In reply to stevefroud:

What do you mean by "slow"?  Take Sgurr a'Mhaim in the Mamores, for example, and the steep continuous 1000m descent to the lower car park.  How long would that take you?   How long do you think it should take? 

Post edited at 10:04
 Toerag 20 Feb 2020
In reply to stevefroud:

> Rigid boots are because I've been into the snow and I've and been wearing crampons for several hours so no option there.

Is it an option to wear snowshoes with bendier boots instead of stiff boots and crampons?


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