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  • chania

How to put the 'rad' in gradient// Surviving hill climbing and mountain walking

New Zealand is a beautiful country. It has crystal blue fiordlands, volcanoes, incredible mountain ranges and waterfalls, to name a few of its natural attractions. Unfortunately, exploring all of these has one thing in common: ASCENSION.

I have climbed many a hill in my lifetime, but with the recent frequency of my mountain hiking here I have discovered a need for some helpful techniques to use whilst climbing; these methods are tried and tested and I can guarantee they will allow you an easier upward passage. Feel free to apply these to any hills, no matter how steep the gradient. Regrettably the only way is up, but these will get you there.

Fig 1. Devolving a few thousand years can be advantageous to the hill-climber

For our first technique, I suggest the readoption of quadrupedalism. The beauty of this is: though nearby walkers may stare, you won't be able to tell.

If it suits a baboon, it suits me, as the proverb goes.


  • extra grip

  • less vision of the incline - what you can't see won't hurt you

  • feeling grounded


  • a feeling of inferiority as climbers walking tall stride past

Fig 2. The backwards walk

Keep the arms pumping and the neck turned (or unturned depending on your level of adrenaline-junkie). This method is surprisingly effective - would highly recommend if you want to implement a technique without immediately going onto all fours

Fig 3. Never heard a zombie or ape complain of hills? This technique is why

This really relieves the tension in the back and has nearly all of the pros of Fig. 1

Top tip: a loose swinging of the arms makes the walk much more fun, especially when done in conjunction with the humming of 'Bare Necessities'

Fig 4. Sometimes simple is best. Here we have the age-old pull technique

The next few strategies I will share with you require a willing companion. [If you do not have a willing companion, please skip to Fig 9.]

I prefer a wrist-wrist grip here, which should provide a strong enough hold for you to lean back and really enjoy the journey.

Please note the index finger placed against the side of the wrist. This is by no means necessary, but advisable for extra stability.

Fig 5. Sit back, relax, and enjoy the ride

WARNING: This technique requires an EXTREMELY willing companion.

If you're walking with a competitive sort, use this to your advantage. I like to place bets, for example:

I bet you couldn't push me up the WHOLE way

This works with varying success but can be a good way to upgrade your willing companion to a very willing companion

Fig 6. The 'I'm ill in hospital'/fully assisted method

I implemented this during a particularly steep incline. Prepare yourself for worried glances from nearby walkers.

The two-grip support mechanism works very well and if you can, try and ask your companion to lead with the handheld grip - the derrière will follow.

Fig 7. This clutch won't stall

Another surprisingly effective mode of companion-led hill climbing.

As you can see by my white fingernails, a steely two handed grip is required.

If you dare, and your companion is taller than you (although no judgement if they are not), try and rest your head on the top of the arm for a slight breather. I could only get away with 5 seconds of this, but they were a golden 5 seconds.

Fig 8. Arm stretch strategy

Long fingers are beneficial for this more relaxed technique.

A big plus of Fig. 8 is that it can be mistaken for affection. Whether your companion is a friend, partner, mother (again, no judgement), overgrown child - this classic pseudo-affectionate walk will get you places, as long as you secure a tight grip on the shoulder.

[You can see by the fixed nature of my stare that there is nothing affectionate about this. My eyes are on the prize: the summit]

Fig 9. If you're reaching the summit, so am I

Like me, you might find yourself in a position where your companion has transitioned from willing to unwilling. Or - even more unfortunate - you never had a willing companion in the first place. Never fear. I have devised a couple of strategies which still enable you to reach the top of that hill.

Here I have grabbed on to a high bag strap. If you prefer a lower bag strap please see Fig 10. The same technique applies to both - holding on.

Your companion may try to swerve and break your grip. Keep hanging on. Unless they remove the bag do not let go (don't worry, if they remove the bag it is not your responsibility).

Fig 10. The lower bag strap hold

If you are shorter this may be a preferable hold. It can sometimes be fun to mix up the holding of the bag straps (left - right, top - bottom) to keep your companion on their toes/unable to successfully tuck away any bag straps.


Sadly my advice must end at Figure 10. After the lower bag strap hold my companion was so unwilling that he stormed ahead, and my poor short legs could not carry me fast enough to catch up/I was choking on the churned up dust. I should have noticed his aggressively pointy elbows before it was too late.

LUCKILY I had conserved so much energy through the execution of these techniques that I could successfully reach the summit (I actually beetled past my companion at the very end, poor guy had run out of puff. This can happen to well-used companions).

So GOOD LUCK fellow begrudging hill-climbers. The summit is within our reach!