The most valuable technique in wilderness hiking is setting the right pace. A very important way of controlling your pace is the rest step (fig. 5-1), used whenever legs or lungs need a little time to recuperate between steps on steep slopes. Once you learn it, you'll use it often.
The pace is slow, because for every step there is a pause. The rest takes place after one foot is swung forward for the next step. Support the entire weight of your body on the rear leg while relaxing the muscles of the forward leg. Important: keep your rear leg straight and locked at the knee so that bone, not muscle, supports the weight.
Synchronize breathing with the sequence. In a
typical sequence, you may take a new breath with each step—but the number of breaths per step will be less or more depending on how hard the work is. With one breath per step, inhale as you bring your back foot up to the front; exhale as your front leg rests and your rear leg supports the body's weight. Keep repeating this sequence. Where the air is thin, the lungs need an extra pause—sometimes three or four breaths per step. Make a conscious effort to breathe deeply.
Mental composure is important with the rest step. The monotony of the pace, especially on glaciers and snowfields, can undermine morale. You must trust the technique to slowly but steadily chew up the miles, even when the summit seems to be getting no closer.
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