The car is locked, and the keys are inside. Having already endured a 3 am start, many miles of skinning in tough conditions, and a sporty ski and hike back to the car, the disappointment at not reaching Shukan’s summit is now dwarfed by the locked car doors. Facing the prospect of hiking another 10-plus miles out in ski boots, we get creative.

Imran pries the old Subaru’s rear window away from the car with an ice axe. Alexis wedges a trekking pole into the space to keep it ajar. Then, ever so gingerly, I insert an avalanche probe diagonally across the car. Poke after poke I miss, but eventually I hit the unlock button on the front passenger door. We’re in! The manufacturers probably did not design these tools with breaking and entering in mind, but they rescued us nonetheless.

In the spirit of innovation, I asked fellow trekkers to share their most creative uses for trekking poles. I was not disappointed.

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• Removing a snake from the trail.
-Chuck Largent

• I had to use my poles to drag my small backpack out from under a thick blackberry bush that an animal dragged it into while I was tent camping. Yes I know, dumb of me to leave my pack out.
– Gladys Nicely

• I’ve used one for swinging myself in my hammock. [Ed note: This is brilliant]
– Carrie Vallone

• I removed the basket and duct-taped a hunting knife to a pole. I passed it up to a friend who was standing atop two other friends’ outstretched hands against a cliff wall in the darkness. He used it to saw through the cord suspending his food bag, while a bear laid at the top of the cliff eating the contents of another food bag he had successfully pulled up. We used that technique to save the other seven bags from the bear.
– Mike Cutcliff

• Not really original, but I use them a lot to whack water off brush before I walk through, or to clear cobwebs. And sometimes, when I’m feeling troublesome, to knock water off trees onto my partner’s head.
– Jessi Loerch

• A friend’s sandwich slid into a tree well and she stabbed it with her pole to retrieve it. [Ed note: I’ve done this]
– Nancy Krupin

• I’ve used one as a monopod for my binoculars.
– Travis Christiansen

This article originally appeared in The Mountaineers Summer 2021 issue of Mountaineer Magazine. To view the original article in magazine form and read more stories from our publication, visit their magazine archive. Top photo: Field Forest and Fire/Unsplash


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