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Still climbing hard after 50?
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By Bill Flaherty
From Evergreen, CO
Mar 11, 2013
The important stuff!
OK, I never actually climbed that hard, but I am passing the mid-century mark, and had my first bad climbing season last year. Interested whether other "mid-lifers" are seeing performance wane, and if not, why not? And yeah, I know, I should use my feet better.

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By Jon Nelson
Administrator
Mar 11, 2013
Me
Good questions.

Sofar, having just recently turned 50, I've found that I can still improve, but I have to be really careful about pulling or pushing on things too hard. I'd never had any injuries, but recently have found that my elbows, shoulders, and back can start feeling a little tweaky pretty easily. But I just tone things back and continue on.

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By Mark E Dixon
From Sprezzatura, Someday
Mar 11, 2013
At the BRC
Well, Lee Sheftel sent his first 14a at age 59.
Jim Logan did Sonic Youth 13a a couple of years ago, must have been in his 60s.
I see Jim Collins in the gym working 12s and 13s pretty regularly.
Steve Hong must be in his 50s and is still absurdly strong.

I think if you keep trying hard and don't get hurt, you can hope to make progress for years to come.

My advice, at age 56, trying to work up the 12s, climbing better than ever-

Listen to all the advice you get, but don't believe anything, unless it works for you. Nobody really knows the answer, much less for folks our age.

It is all about the fun, but trying hard and suffering is part of the fun!

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By Finn the Human
From The Land of Ooo
Mar 11, 2013
Mathematical!
There's a gentleman at my local gym who is in his 70s, and regularly climbs .10's and easy .11's.

He is living proof that there's hope for us all.

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By Kirk B.
From Boise, ID
Mar 12, 2013
belay slaving on some route I forgot the name of w...
Or you could die at any moment. Fuck it....Jump up there and try, eh?
That's what I do.
If your foot work sucks, then it doesn't matter how old you are. Your footwork sucks. We stand on our feet, man......huh?
Step the Hell up there(correctly). Don't be a puss or a bonehead.
Problem solved.

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By 1Eric Rhicard
Mar 12, 2013
It is a good sized roof. Photo: Jimbo
Not sure what a bad season is. At 54 I keep being able to get up routes that are as hard as the hardest I have ever climbed. Which means when I was younger I should have tried to climb harder routes than the hardest I do now.

I have what I call the 5.X a day rule. Whenever, I climb I always get on at least one route at that grade even if I have to dog my way up it. Climbing 5.X makes it easier to climb 5.Xs and keeps me in shape to project a number grade harder now and then.

I try not to overdo it in the gym in order to avoid injuries and so I have the strength to climb well when I go outside.

I also make it a point to climb with positive good energy people who are always pushing their limits.

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By Stich
From Colorado Springs, Colorado
Mar 12, 2013
Coffee after freezing our asses off near James Pea...
If you can improve your technique then you can improve your climbing. Age is unimportant given that. Then would come weight. If you can shed some weight you can probably climb harder. Then you can blame age on the rest, but there's two other more important things to address first.

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By Old and Busted
From Centennial, CO
Mar 12, 2013
Stabby
One of my primary partners keeps extolling his idea of bolting up some 6's, 7's and 8's for our 60's and 70's. I respond by telling him that if that would be my limit to shoot me in the face.

Just like golf, this sport is all about how much time you consistently put into it. Climb hard 3-4 times a week while being smart about avoiding tearing and overuse injuries and 5.12 should be within your range. Climb once a week or less and expect lesser ability.

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By Dana Bartlett
From CT
Mar 12, 2013
It is all about the fun, but trying hard and suffering is part of the fun!

Excellent.

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By wivanoff
Mar 12, 2013
High Exposure
Bill Flaherty wrote:
had my first bad climbing season last year.


Define "bad climbing season". Did you not have fun?

I'm 60 this year and recently had heart surgery. Yeah, my body doesn't work the way it used to. But, I'm still climbing, still having fun. Just not climbing as hard as I used to.

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By RobC2
Mar 12, 2013
This..
Just relax and enjoy yourself...


RCC@50+ Photo courtesy CO Crack Gear
RCC@50+ Photo courtesy CO Crack Gear

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By Stich
From Colorado Springs, Colorado
Mar 12, 2013
Coffee after freezing our asses off near James Pea...


Bad season? I climb two 5.6s a year, I'm good. I climb no climbs a year, I'm better!

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By Doug Redosh
Mar 12, 2013
It is often said that there is about a 10% decline in strength (what climbers often call power) per decade after one's peak (late 30's). I (age 58) think I have seen that translate into a number grade decline (I never climbed 5.12 and have decent footwork). I have also seen a slight decline in balance the last couple of years. Sure there are certain exceptional athletes (George Lowe - age 71) still climbing real hard, but they are the exceptions. Injuries (back, elbow tendonitis for me) don't heal as fast. I think the having fun mantra should prevail.

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By Legs Magillicutty
From Littleton
Mar 12, 2013
Function over fashion.  My newest pair of climbing...
I hear that Lee Smith guy can still send like a muther...

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By Mark E Dixon
From Sprezzatura, Someday
Mar 12, 2013
At the BRC
Doug Redosh wrote:
Sure there are certain exceptional athletes (George Lowe - age 71) still climbing real hard, but they are the exceptions.

There are plenty of men and women aged 50-69 climbing 5.12 and up in the Front Range. If you want to climb hard there are many normal people examples. Climb as hard or as easy as you like, but middle age is not a valid excuse.

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By Jon Nelson
Administrator
Mar 12, 2013
Me
For inspirational & informative stories about older climbers, see John Gill's section on senior athletes:

128.pair.com/r3d4k7/SeniorAthl...

There are 10 short profiles, each a response to John Gill's questionnaire. I think 9 of them are climbers, 1 a gymnast.

Anyway, I found the accounts quite inspirational.

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By reboot
From Westminster, CO
Mar 12, 2013
For males, I think power peak is probably around mid-20s (just search for Olympic records and the age of the record holder in events like sprinting, long jump, weight lifting, etc.) But athletes peak later in endurance based and more skilled events. But unless you've reached your genetic potential at some point, I think you can still improve later in life, you just need to work harder than you've done before.

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By Steve Williams
From Denver, CO
Mar 12, 2013
How about after 60?
Jim Donini, check!
Greg Lowe, check!
Tom Frost, check!
Yvonne Chouinard (prolly), check!
and probably lots more than that. . .

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By Woodchuck ATC
Mar 12, 2013
Rock Wars, RRG, 2008
Was doing near my best at age 57 yet,,,but a definite downward turn since 60. Never was a 5.12 climber sort of person, so my goals are some nice friendly 5.10 to 5.11+ if possible once again. Hope some testosterone treatment this spring will help me wind up and swing for the fences once again in a few weeks.

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By bernard
From birmingham, al
Mar 12, 2013
near trapps, Shawangunks, NY, 2008
Nobody mentioned Fred Beckey.....?

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By wivanoff
Mar 12, 2013
High Exposure
Sure are a bunch of old farts on this forum ;)

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By Mingus
Mar 12, 2013
As Mark said there are plenty of folks climbing fairly hard in their 50's around the Front Range. At 54 I climbed the hardest I ever have last year and hopefully will be able to say the same this year. I will say that gaining strength is a slow process at this age. Gotta be smart about your workouts and stay after it - this is no age to let yourself go or you might never get it back!

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By Frank F
From Bend, OR
Mar 13, 2013
The OP's question wasn't whether or not there are older folks who climb hard, although that seems to be what many people are talking about here. The question was whether or not older climbers have seen signs of waning performance.

I'm 63 and, yes, there has been a gradual decay in my overall performance. For one, long approaches in alpine country kick me harder than they used to, so that I have somewhat less overall energy to put into my climbing effort. Secondly, I've acquired a few injuries over the years and those tend to subtract from performance.

But by the nominally measurable standard of route grades, I'm not climbing significantly less hard than I have in past years(10's and the odd 11), even though the effort going into the send seems to be greater. One factor is that I try to train (or at least practice) to offset the weaknesses mentioned above. Another is that I've tried to improve my technique by building on experience . Still another is that I keep up at least a minimal level of activity throughout the seasons, year after year. That's easy, because I love the sport. But I think it's important that you just don't stop or take long breaks from climbing if you think you want to do any climbing in your retirement years.

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By Peter Stokes
From Them Thar Hills
Mar 13, 2013
Wall Street, Moab, UT
I was climbing OK before I fell 30 feet off a building 2 years ago, breaking my back- that was right around age 50, and I've yet to fully get back to the way I was. I could go into the increased recovery time as people age, but the main difference between when I was younger and now is that I don't really care how hard I climb- there are so many worthwhile things to do in life, and every day is a gift from God. If it's still fun I'll still climb, whatever the grade... good foot placement, remembering to breathe and attention to diet seem to help me a bit.

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By Peter D.
Mar 13, 2013
I'm 56 and after a 2 year layoff I now have more time for working out in the climbing gym and running. In a year I think it possible to back leading mid to hard 5.10 trad and maybe work some harder sport climbs, my main area will be Red River Gorge within 6 months and I'm looking forward to climbing there. When I lived in Colorado there were opportunities to climb several times per week and thats what made the difference. Also my partners were stronger lead climbers (and younger), so I could follow a lot of hard stuff. In February or March of 2008 I led (ok screws were in place) Soul on Ice (or was it Stone Free) in Rifle, that was my buddy Tony's doing he led it, I did a lap on TR as soon as I untied he pulled the rope and said, "if you want you screws back its your lead", it was good,pushed me out of my comfort zone. We had been doing laps on it often so I had no excuse not to be on the sharp end. Then later in spring, I pulled off some hard crack climbs near Moab. Definitely need to rest more and not push the hard crimpy stuff too much. I'm bouldering more in the gym then roped climbing and really finding it enjoyable. Bottom line is I would like to be climbing for another 10 to 12 years and be able to enjoy moving comfortably and effieciently.

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By camhead
From Vandalia, Appalachia
Mar 13, 2013
You stay away from mah pig!
Jack Marshall is well into his 70s, and climbing solid 5.11 on good days.

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