/ Question for Old Farts - Knees

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mypyrex - on 12 Oct 2017
Many of us will be only too familiar with the problems with knees on descents. I find, at times, that I'm as slow going downhill as I am going uphill and, to be honest, I sometimes make better progress on an ascent.

I was wondering; if faced with a long, steepish descent, how do you tackle it(I'm not talking about using poles or support bandages - rather actual technique) Would it be better to descend as steadily as possible for ten or fifteen minutes and have a short break rather than attempt a long, sustained descent?

Interested to hear the thoughts of others.
JJ Krammerhead III - on 12 Oct 2017
In reply to mypyrex:
Grit teeth and very slowly descend 20th no breaks. Increasing use of me arse getting down small steps and a few yelps of pain and much muttering if no one around to hear
OMR - on 12 Oct 2017
In reply to mypyrex:
Suppose it depends on the state of your knees, the actual steepness and the terrain. I vary technique from slope to slope, day to day, but generally, if the gradient is steepish, but not too bad, and the terrain okay, I'll almost run down, so that I absorb some of the shock of each pace, but never actually stop. I look well ahead and pick out boulders or stable spots which I can use as 'stoppers' every so often to stop too much speed getting built up.
If it's steeper, or the terrain rougher, I'll go down one step at a time, trying not to make any one step too much of a drop.
Of course there are some slopes, such as the track down through the ski area at Cairngorm, and parts of the path down Sron Riach on Ben McDui, which are of such a gradient that no technique will make them anything other than endless purgatory.
Oh, and I tend not to have proper stops very often, but will have brief 'standing stops' whenever I feel like it - until I realise I'm taking forever, when I might beast on if I can summon the willpower.
Post edited at 09:45
mypyrex - on 12 Oct 2017
In reply to JJ Krammerhead III:
> Grit teeth and very slowly descend 20th no breaks. Increasing use of me arse getting down small steps and a few yelps of pain and much muttering if no one around to hear

Well at least I'm not alone.
Post edited at 09:45
Lord of Starkness - on 12 Oct 2017
In reply to mypyrex:

Take up cycling. It's certainly kinder on the knees, and I've had no problems with finger joints and knackered rotator cuffs since I stopped climbing -- but I've found it less kind on the collarbones when I fell off!
oldie - on 12 Oct 2017
In reply to mypyrex:

I used to run downhill with long bounds and leaps, being able to correct myself if I started to stumble and not minding if I ended on my bum occasionally. Probably due partly to the long term effects on my knees I now run downhill with very short steps, paying more attention to the ground ahead, still reasonably quick.
mypyrex - on 12 Oct 2017
In reply to Lord of Starkness:

> Take up cycling.
No thanks. Having seen mountain bikers on the TMB the thought horrified me ;o). They seemed to spend more time carrying their bikes than riding them
Doug on 12 Oct 2017
In reply to mypyrex:

wait for winter & descend on ski ? - I'm younger than you by around 10 years but after tearing a meniscus in my left knee some years ago find walking downhill a bit painful at times although using ski sticks helps (as does Ibuprofen in the evening). But skiing doesn't seem to cause the same aches & pains.
wercat on 12 Oct 2017
In reply to mypyrex:

personally I descend away from paths where there is a better descent (I don't mean just widening the path itself) but this is not always an option. Cycling definitely good for strengthening legs and protecting knees
GrahamD - on 12 Oct 2017
In reply to mypyrex:

Apart from sticks and coming down soft grass where possible I have no answer
Lord of Starkness - on 12 Oct 2017
In reply to mypyrex:

Getting someone to carry your sack always helps. ;-)
cb294 - on 12 Oct 2017
In reply to mypyrex:

Different techniques for different terrains: On steep paths or ski slopes, do not stop and recover balance with every step, but keep your centre of gravity moving as constantly as possible, as if moving on wheels. This does look rather silly, a bit like the cartoon Roadrunner who also seems to be gliding or rolling rather than running (as the up and down movement of the body is missing). However, it will drastically reduce the impact force on your knees. You can combine it with walking poles, which you can use to slow down every ten or twenty steps.
For snow slopes, practise plunge stepping.
On ice (wearing crampons), not much to be done.

My knees are f*cked (I am even wearing a neoprene brace to the lab at the moment, hope it will get better after the next fistful of Diclofenac), but I usually rather fast downhill (too heavy to compete on the way up!)

CB

arch - on 12 Oct 2017
In reply to mypyrex:

I tended to zig-zag down the slope quite a bit. Spread the load from one leg to another.
Jeff Ingman - on 12 Oct 2017
In reply to mypyrex:

I have had surgery on both knees and struggle with descending. One exercise that has really made a difference is the reverse step up described here....

http://www.bergadventures.com/v3_main/trip-preparations/knee-tips.php

I was sceptical that doing four or five sets of these with dumbells would make a difference, but it has. The exercise targets the muscles that stabilise the knee joint and it seems to do the trick.

Other than that I try to get the youth to carry the heavy stuff and I zig zag around rather than go straight down. Good luck........Jeff

Dave the Rave on 12 Oct 2017
In reply to arch:

> I tended to zig-zag down the slope quite a bit. Spread the load from one leg to another.

I was just going to post that. Even if 'paths' are guiding me down, I will zig zag about it to decrease the gradient and angle of pull on me knees.
Stone Idle - on 12 Oct 2017
In reply to mypyrex:

Poles, braces, slow and steady. Rests when it gets silly. Better since APOS therapy. Expensive but much better than surgery, at least in my view. Look it up
Baron Weasel - on 13 Oct 2017
In reply to mypyrex:

> I was wondering; if faced with a long, steepish descent, how do you tackle it(I'm not talking about using poles or support bandages - rather actual technique) Would it be better to descend as steadily as possible for ten or fifteen minutes and have a short break rather than attempt a long, sustained descent?

Poles for the descent will preserve your knees for more trips to the mountains over the rest of your life - so why the hesitation?

I like Pacer Poles..

BW

aln - on 13 Oct 2017
In reply to mypyrex:

Turn round and do a kinda backwards crawl thing. Better on your knees and you get a look at the summit you were just on.
Tom V - on 13 Oct 2017
In reply to mypyrex:

I wish you would stop referring to people of our generation as "old farts".
When there has been occasion to back up your point of view ( as in the babe in arms in Cwm Idwal) i have aligned myself in your part of the argument, if valid.
But by continuously referring to yourself as "an old fart" you are playing into the hands of people who want to dismiss your posts as those of a person who, because of age/senility no longer has a valid say in climbing/ mountaineering matters.


Matt Vigg - on 13 Oct 2017
In reply to mypyrex:

As someone else mentioned, you can use your arse! Basically if you clench the muscles of the trailing leg as you step down you'll be lowering yourself onto your front foot rather than falling onto it.

And definitely sticks as well, they make you faster on the way up at the same time as preserving your energy for the walk down - the more knackered you are coming down the less your muscles will support your joints. Lengthen the sticks on the way down so you can plant them in front of you slightly down the hill and use your arms to lower yourself onto the front foot as well.

All slightly strenuous but it'll help, I use the falling down the hill technique a bit as well, often good if there are trees around to grab/palm.
Matt Vigg - on 13 Oct 2017
In reply to mypyrex:

PS, I'm not an old fart, but do have one slightly knackered knee. If you're asking this question, I suspect you're not actually an old fart either.
GrahamD - on 13 Oct 2017
In reply to Lord of Starkness:

> Getting someone to carry your sack always helps. ;-)

Actually that's a good point, especially with climbing sacs. If I'm climbing with someone younger and fitter than me (they usually are younger and fitter) I'll make sure the weight distribution between the sacs is in my favour.
Dauphin on 13 Oct 2017
In reply to mypyrex:

Widened stance, arse dropped + yomp down the clear bits of track >> sluggish truculent jog.

D
mypyrex - on 13 Oct 2017
In reply to Dauphin:

> arse dropped
Was it painful?
Ffat Boi - on 13 Oct 2017
In reply to Dave the Rave:

Same here; zig-zag, short steps using a single pole and a few short breaks (and whimpers)
charliesdad - on 13 Oct 2017
In reply to mypyrex:
I'd recommend kayaking, and specifically sea kayaking, to anyone who's knees make hill walking too painful.
It gets you into the great outdoors, it can be just as exciting as climbing, (no really; rock hopping, surfing or just a big sea will get the heart rate pumping just as much as climbing at your limit!), but best of all, it's mostly done sitting down. Many sea-kayakers I've met describe themselves as ex-climbers or ex-walkers, often because of damaged knees, ankles, hips...
Rob Exile Ward on 13 Oct 2017
In reply to mypyrex:

I don't know why you are so dismissive of trekking poles, they seem pretty important to me - but there *is* a technique to using them, which at least 80% of users don't seem to use, and the technique is this: use them like ski poles.

That is, place them carefully before each step, then you can take a significant proportion of your weight on your upper body. It takes some concentration but that's a benefit too - you focus on each step, each placement and get into a rhythm that soon gets you down.
mypyrex - on 13 Oct 2017
In reply to Rob Exile Ward:

> I don't know why you are so dismissive of trekking poles,
I didn't say I was dismissive of them; I use them. My comment about them in my OP was in the context of looking for other options re: technique as well as trekking poles
eroica64 - on 13 Oct 2017
In reply to mypyrex:

(1) Take Co-codomol
(2) Use poles on steep gravely stuff but not when it's necessary to down-climb/scramble.
(3) Grit your teeth.

steve taylor - on 15 Oct 2017
In reply to JJ Krammerhead III:

I can just imagine you doing that Eamonn - I'm the same. Thanks to my ever-expanding waistline I mutter all the way up too!

Jim C - on 15 Oct 2017
In reply to mypyrex:
Weave your way down reducing the steepness of the descent, and taking the strain on more knee muscles than you do when you go straight down.
Post edited at 11:12
arch - on 15 Oct 2017
In reply to mypyrex:

One thing to consider is when ascending, we face the hill. Descending, we face away from the hill. I always found when my knees started to complain on the decent, turning to face the hill and climb down the big steps facing the hill was better for my knees.
mypyrex - on 15 Oct 2017
In reply to all: Thanks for all the comments and suggestions. There seem to have been a few advocating zig zagging. I accept it is a possibility but I envisage problems when trying to follow a narrow path (say no more than two or three metres wide) and there is no option other than to remain on the path. Seems to me that the effectiveness of zig zagging would be somewhat limited.

JJ Krammerhead III - on 15 Oct 2017
In reply to steve taylor:

My girth has also grown thanks to my fear of dehydration
buzby - on 16 Oct 2017
In reply to mypyrex:

I was wondering; if faced with a long, steepish descent, how do you tackle it?

with ibuprofen mostly. :<))

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