Mountain King Trail Blaze Lightweight Poles

I wrote this post on the 10th of January this year, and I can finally stick it up as Mountain King have gone public here. After six months use the skinny poles survived the abuse of many trail miles, the accidental application of my full body weight, being lobbed over scrambling sections and having some mild curvature installed into them…
I’m looking forward to getting to grips with a production pair.

I see I’ve also been outed for testing the poles on one of Bobs podcasts from Friedrichshafen. Jump over to the Outdoors Station and check out his extensive coverage of all the new stuff for the next year.

 

Those ultra thin poles you might have see me using and have garnered much interest are an exciting development prototype from British company Mountain King.

The Trail Blaze poles are 10mm thick, they’re 1250mm long when assembled for use, pack to 320mm and weigh around 100g each in this prototype form.That’s light indeed.
Originally designed for adventure racing, I think they’ll find their home with anybody who goes lightweight in the outdoors and doesn’t have to spend all day propping themselves and their huge 20kg+ pack up on a pair of trekking poles.

On the trail and and on the mountains they’re ideal. The kinda nordic walking-esque style you adopt, ie pole placement to your rear and the slight flex make them smooth, comfortable and easy to use with a natural gait. None of the usual haphazard clac clak click cluk we’re used to hearing in concert with laboured breathing.
Carrying them on your pack for the scrambling sections isn’t exactly an ordeal at that weight and packed size. They also assemble and break down for stowing in a flasht.

You do have to adjust your approach to pole use a little, but that’s easy to do.

I’ve got them on exclusive long term test and they’re looking very good. I’ll keep you posted.

35 thoughts on “Mountain King Trail Blaze Lightweight Poles

  1. I saw these on their website the other day when looking for my first pair of poles and trying to find something lightweight but without shock absorbers. Any idea on an RRP PTC? Having never used poles before but starting to think that they make sense I won’t have to relearn any ‘technique’! Would they be ok as an aid to crossing rivers?

  2. I’ve used them for just that, you have to take into account their strength though. They’ve taken my full weight several times and survived, but they’re an aid to stability and propulsion, not for leaning on.
    I think as a non pole user you’ll have an advantage, you’ll size them up and just get on with it, so aye, buy!
    I could be wrong, but the price was going to be £60. I’ll amend that as I find out more.

  3. At last!! :))

    I’m definitely up for a pair of these. Despite owning 4 or 5 sets of poles already, from cheap Slovenian no-brand via Alpkit and Black Diamond to Pacerpole Carbons, I’m still very much an intermittent pole-user (well, except for the ski-touring! :)

    I tend to want to take a set backpacking for river crossing, a bit of stability on snow, or occasional propulsion, but then they spend the majority of the time lashed to my pack – at this weight and bulk these sound perfect.

    Do they assemble like an avalanche probe, with sections fitting together like a tent pole and held by a screw-adjustable wire? Haven’t Exped just announced something similar?

  4. Aye Matt, a central cord that gets pulled up and fastened at the top. It works a treat.
    Not sure about Exped, I saw the new poles right enough with their notched adjustment…no faffing around looking for markings, you just pull out the section and count the notches.

    There are couple of skinny poles out there, but they’re all heavier :o)

    My pair were the ones at Friedrichshafen, so I can’t take any better photies, I’ll have a dig around and see what I’ve got because the one above is rubbish.

  5. Only collapsing down to 76cm would have to rule them out for me – not easily stowable on the pack, and certainly not easily stowable for surviving airports and baggage handlers…. :(

    I’ll happily take 20g more for the added portability of the Mountain Kings.

  6. I was forgetting about Titanium Goat. Those poles have been “Out of stock” for as long as I can remember. Like yon ULA carbon-and-wire coathanger ice axes with the “do not use” sticker on it. Alway out of stock…

    I was talking to Mountain King earlier on, I’ll have a new pair as soon as they’re available and do a proper write up.
    But, I think it’s worth a gamble on a pre-order if you really want a pair and are happy with the differences to a regular pole. Shipping is mosty likely to be the end of September.

  7. Wooohooo at last I can get a pair of those lovely poles.

    What length were the ones that you were testing ptc as they don’t give any recommendations on that.

    You never know this may mean I can stop myself from arse planting so much ;)

  8. Re my first comment – it wasn’t Exped, it was Grivel!! They’ve announced a lightweight pole using a very similar design (it was a news item on OM a week or so back), but it’s not going to be available until sometime in spring 09. I can’t find any technical info on it anywhere…. always the way, do you jump for the one that’s out first or wait to make a proper comparison before buying?

  9. Aye, I saw them briefly at KORS. usual Grivel quality I’d imagine.
    I’ll see what I can find out.

    I trust the Trail Blaze’s because I’ve used them, I also trust Grivel through experience. It just comes down to what you fancy the look of most I suppose.

  10. I’d trust either for quality (got a cracking couple of Grivel Air Tech axes). If the info or pics were there to compare it’d be more down to things like the grips and straps, or more likely the length – the Mountain Kings say they are 110 or 120cm, which is 5cm less than the shortest I tend to use ‘standard’ (as opposed to Pacer) poles. If the Grivels happen to be a different length it’d be a factor in choosing.

  11. You know, there’s a case for Mountain King offering single sections to extent the pole length.
    I’ve had the poles down to their component parts and it would be easy to do even for the minimally technically minded. Guarantee issues would be a factor though.

  12. Wooo Hooo :))
    Just spoke to Head For The Hills where I’ve a pair of the 120cm Trail Blazes on pre-order…..

    They’ve finally been produced this week and the rep is bringing their stock in on Monday next week. Mine will be posted out immediately and he’ll give me a call to say it’s happened.

    I can’t remember the last time I was this excited about the imminent arrival of some shiny new kit! :))

    Of course Sod’s Law says I’m backpacking this weekend, and cycling next weekend – typical!

  13. Aye Pete Kelly from H2H is a good guy and is a big fan of the Nordic Walking and using poles to move faster in the mountains!
    He has ran a few workshops for people interested in the skills.
    Enyoy the poles

  14. Aye, I must have been to Ambleside a hundred times but I went in the shop for the first time last Saturday – it’s a bit of a wee place with a slightly odd mix of stuff – and saw evidence of nordic walking kit and courses. Apart from that it was quite strange seeing OMM next to Gelert… and some quite nice and excellently priced softshell stuff from a Finnish brand, Icepeak.

  15. I see the other ones I want are instock in Ryedale Rambler. Head t the Hills has them as well but I think the photie is wrong.

    Anyway now I just need to wait on pay day…..

  16. Those carbons are very good, I’m always surprised how light they are every time I pick them up.

    It’s good to see that while poles are kind of annonymous, the folk making them are beavering away improving them. The poles I’ve got on test are all better and lighter than the ones I was using ten years ago.
    I’ll need to do a pole round-up at some point.

  17. Hmm, not quite to plan… Trail Blazes have yet to be delivered to HTTH, but my pair have been sent out to me today direct from Mountain King – I should get them in the morning! :)

    (Or at least I would if I was home for the postie. Looks like I missed my replacement Haglofs LIM 45 this morning too… )

  18. I get the impression that the weekend as spend furiously assembling poles at Mountain King HQ. I’m looking forward to hearing what you think Matt.
    I just want my old testers back, I really miss them…

  19. :))) and :( ….

    :))) – The Trail Blazes have arrived at work today!

    :( – I’m struggling with the rudimentary instructions, so I wonder if you can offer any enlightenment, assuming your test pair worked the same as the production jobs….

    I assemble the sections and pull the cord tight out of the top. This cord then needs securing. The instructions say “…and pull the knot to the outside of the groove in the top piece to ‘lock’ the cord. Close the velcro tie before use”.

    What knot? I can’t find anything that locks the pole together purely by securing it outside the top groove. The only way I can get the cord at all secure is to hold it right down under the velcro tie at the bottom of the handle. Is that what you had to do ptc*? Am I missing something.

    If this makes no sense, don’t worry, I can always email MK or HTTH….

    But if I can get past this little hiccup then first impressions are excellent – so compact, so light! :)

  20. It sounds the same, there’s a notch in the plastic top that a knot in the cord gets captured in. The velcro bit was just there to stop the end swinging around.
    I think they just forgot to tie a knot.

    What colour are they??

  21. I think you’re right – a knot certainly seems to do the trick, I may need to fine tune the knot position a bit as I use them.

    They’re black, all black, shafts and handles. Lovely :))

  22. :))

    They’re all adjusted now, and still impressively chic in an understated way.

    I’m struggling to think of a way I can test them on the bike this weekend….

  23. Hi,
    I got a pair (blue) today,£69. well pleased.
    As Matt said so compact, so light!:)
    I hope to test them in the Lakes next week.
    Thanks for the review Pete.

    Cheers Dave.

  24. Oh, I was informed they were only bringing black into production…. but never mind, that’s what I’d have chosen anyway :)

    If I get out on Sunday I’ll christen mine.

  25. Well, a week or two later than planned, but I finally took the Trail Blazes for a bimble on Saturday – 12 miles or so of gloop and grit over Kinder Scout…

    I carried them on the pack for the first 2 or 3 miles, then tried them for ascending via Jacob’s Ladder – and reminded myself of the extra power a pair of poles can deliver! :)
    After that they were used until we were back down to pasture in the gathering gloom, and they proved excellent, especially for rock hopping when the path back from Kinder Downfall took to the river channel (what a fantastic landscape btw! :))

    Anyway, some observations:
    – you notice a slight vibration from the sections as you place them at first, but soon become oblivious to it and learn to trust in their strength
    – they flex noticeably more than traditional pole designs but again you soon forget abou this and just use them!
    – an interesting spring effect if you bury the tip in soft ground as you almost leave it behind, then the cord stretches, and then they retract back into your hand – odd but not a problem.

    So I’m proclaiming them a great success. As a part-time pole user I think they’ll see far more action than any of my Alpkit Carbons, Black Diamond Flicklock Expeditions or Carbon Pacerpoles – all of them are very good but the Trail Blazes are strong enough, good enough, and simply so much smaller and lighter when they on my back rather than in my hands. Result! :))

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