I've done a couple of Exodus activity trips, including a trek in Nepal, but no volcanoes. The Nepal trek was the same grade as this trip, and was quite hard going in places - even as an experienced hiker I found it tough in places. The good news is that these are shorter days.
What time does the group flight arrrive in Catania and is it still the Thompson flight?
Yes, got that confirmed by somebody at Exodus a couple of days ago. Will see you there - we'll be the ones who look awake :)
I personally swear by them - even before they were sold in the shops I always used to pick up an old branch when I was out walking. On this trip they will probably be useful, as I imagine there will be areas of loose scree type material. Basically, you are a lot more stable with sticks, especially on steep downhills, as you have a minimum of 2 points of contact at any time, plus they take some of the load off your knees. There's a lot of factors to consider - whether to use 1 pole or 2, do you need a shock absorber, cork or plastic grips etc., so see what feels comfortable for you. I've only gone onto 2 poles in the last couple of years, and even now only tend to use both on more difficult terrain. How much you spend depends on how much use you think you will get out of them. Don't spend a fortune if you're only getting them for this trip, but also DO NOT buy a very cheap one (tenner or less) - it won't be up to the job. You can't go too far wrong with a Leki pole which most outdoor shops stock. One final point often overlooked - make sure they will fit into your bag! Most poles are actually too long for a typical bag so you may need to take a longer hold bag as you can't take poles on as hand carry. And buy plastic endcaps or you may get a hole in your bag! Hope this helps :)
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