/ How many climbers stay in the sport?

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Voltemands - on 07 Jun 2012
Inspired by the 50 years of climbing thread.

A question for everyone really, but I guess the longer you've been in the sport, the more valid your opinion (maybe?) I guess. With the understanding that just like the - how many climbers are there in the UK? question, cannot be accurately or easily answered. In your own experience, roughly what % of the climbers that you've met and stayed loosely in contact with, or have knowledge of through other climbers -
A) are still regularly involved in the sport
B) participated in climbing for less than a year and gave it up
C) participated in the sport medium term (~5 years ) and gave it up
D) participated in the sport long term (~10 years) and gave it up
E) participated long term and now only dip in and out of the sport, very irregularly
F) sadly exited the sport in an unfortunately, involuntary way

I also understand that there are so many facets to our sport, from gym climbing too FA's of huge faces, in the back side of nowhere, but incorporating inter-sport movement would make things even more complicated...

Thanks for your opinions or tales
Gordon Stainforth - on 07 Jun 2012
In reply to Voltemands:

Am I being dim, but I'm not quite sure why you are not asking these questions directly to climbers here. Why this reference to 'climbers that you've met and stayed loosely in contact with'?

I belong to category G) philosophically exited the sport, voluntarily, when affects of age meant I could no longer enjoy it in the same way, after over 40 years as a happy activist. No probs.
The New NickB - on 07 Jun 2012
In reply to Voltemands:

About 50% of fell runners I meet used to be climbers.

I don't climb a huge amount these days, but I still consider myself a climber. My focus has changed though, I spend much less time in the quarries trying to tick E numbers and more time in the mountains climbing severes or climbing ice and mixed.
The New NickB - on 07 Jun 2012
In reply to The New NickB:

I should add that I have been climbing 20 years and that I am slightly hampered by a long term shoulder injury at the moment.
Landy_Dom on 07 Jun 2012
In reply to Voltemands:

Climbed a lot in my early twenties, petered out a bit and now back climbing regularly after a break of 10-15 years. Coming up to a year of climbing again and thoroughly enjoying it.
OMR - on 07 Jun 2012
In reply to Gordon Stainforth: If he asks only the people on this forum then - I presume - about 90-something per cent will still be involved in climbing to a greater or lesser degree. However if you think back over the years you've been climbing, how many people do you know who climbed for then drifted away from it? A completely different figure and the one I presume the OP is looking for.
I couldn't put a percentage on it because there are so many people I've lost contact with and don't know whether they climb or not, but as a general rule, whether climbing or hill walking, I'd say the vast majority of people who take up climbing/hillwalking lose interest after about five years or less. Thank goodness, too, otherwise you wouldn't be able to get moved out there.
Gordon Stainforth - on 07 Jun 2012
In reply to OMR:
> (In reply to Gordon Stainforth) If he asks only the people on this forum then - I presume - about 90-something per cent will still be involved in climbing to a greater or lesser degree. However if you think back over the years you've been climbing, how many people do you know who climbed for then drifted away from it? A completely different figure and the one I presume the OP is looking for.
> I couldn't put a percentage on it because there are so many people I've lost contact with and don't know whether they climb or not, but as a general rule, whether climbing or hill walking, I'd say the vast majority of people who take up climbing/hillwalking lose interest after about five years or less. Thank goodness, too, otherwise you wouldn't be able to get moved out there.

OK, fair enough. Yes, a huge number I know have left the sport ... mostly very wisely. In fact, I would say it's entirely natural. There's something rather sad about a lot of old climbers I know, pottering around still, pretending to be young. Of course there are some spectacular 'old age' exceptions, myself emphatically not included. My only remaining strength now is that I can still charge up and down hills at quite a reasonable pace.

andyathome - on 07 Jun 2012
In reply to Voltemands:
You need to refer to the Sport England Active People Survey. That showed last year that 'Mountaineering' was in the top four of sports for increasing and retaining participation.

And showed that the drop-off for 'mountaineering' between introduction at 16 and 40 was minuscule compared to football and rugby if I recall correctly.

'In your own experience, roughly what % of the climbers that you've met and stayed loosely in contact with, or have knowledge of through other climbers' doesn't really make sense to me. Unanswerable.

There are folks I climbed with 40 years ago who have given up. There are folks I climbed with 40 years ago who are still cranking hard. Percentages????

Oh and it might help if you actually put up a profile so we know(ish) who is asking the questions.
danm - on 07 Jun 2012
In reply to Gordon Stainforth:

I'd imagine, that just like everything else, different individuals motivations and aspirations for an activity will vary, and this will be reflected in their response to a downturn in performance with age.

I know many climbers who have quit as soon as they hit their first major injury, or realised they were never going to get any better. There are many others though, who probably get more out of just being outdoors, having the craic and so on, who will quite happily bimble on until they drop. Isn't it rather presumptous of you to disparage them for that?
In reply to Gordon Stainforth:>

> There's something rather sad about a lot of old climbers I know, pottering around still, pretending to be young. Of course there are some spectacular 'old age' exceptions, myself emphatically not included.

I find that a bit of an odd attitude, I have been going downhill for well over 20 years but still love getting out climbing. The key is to choose stuff that is a) not very hard and b) not very steep!


Chris
mark s - on 07 Jun 2012
In reply to Voltemands: E) for me.been twice this year,i shall still go for a potter around doing the hvs/e1 clssics but nothing more.
prefer other things that i get more out of now.
pebbles - on 07 Jun 2012
In reply to Gordon Stainforth:
> (In reply to OMR)
> [...]
>
> There's something rather sad about a lot of old climbers I know, pottering around still, pretending to be young.

In what way? trying to sneak onto trains with expired young persons railcards?

franksnb - on 07 Jun 2012
In reply to pebbles: hey, apparently he had his rail card and was experiencing a diabetic episode!
David Kay - on 07 Jun 2012
In reply to Voltemands: I don't enjoy anything else as much as climbing at the moment, and can't imagine ever not doing it. A few people I've spoken to say that family gets in the way so maybe I'll try to avoid that...
deepstar - on 07 Jun 2012
In reply to andyathome:
> (In reply to Voltemands)
>
>
> Oh and it might help if you actually put up a profile so we know(ish) who is asking the questions.
I have to agree with andyathome in wondering who you are and why you want to know about us old climbers,but as you`re asking I am 60 and have been climbing since I was 13 and seem to be doing about 5 routes a week lately.Out of a pool of about 15 mates that I climbed with I am the only one still climbing,some are dead and some just got old.
Gordon Stainforth - on 07 Jun 2012
In reply to Chris Craggs:
> (In reply to Gordon Stainforth)>
>
> [...]
>
> I find that a bit of an odd attitude, I have been going downhill for well over 20 years but still love getting out climbing. The key is to choose stuff that is a) not very hard and b) not very steep!
>

Personally, I don't like climbing very badly. For me the joy was always about climbing well (or trying to), almost more than what I actually climbed. My eyesight - a macular pucker problem - now prevents me from being able to climb with any kind of confident flow whatever. Best to move on. Life is just so full of other great challenges that I almost regret continuing to climb for as long as I did. Because it's very time-consuming and very myopic. Lots of other v interesting things now opening up in life. Cheers.

Gordon Stainforth - on 07 Jun 2012
In reply to pebbles:
> (In reply to Gordon Stainforth)
> [...]
>
> In what way? trying to sneak onto trains with expired young persons railcards?

On that theme: I now have a bus pass, and it's great.

Gordon Stainforth - on 07 Jun 2012
In reply to Chris Craggs:

PS. Had a huge amount of joy two weekends ago scrambling up the Hall's Fell Ridge on Blencathra for the umpteenth time, following the crest as closely as possible. Seemed better than ever.
pebbles - on 07 Jun 2012
In reply to deepstar:
> (some just got old.

some of the hardest climbers I actually know (as opposed to nails hard famous ones I'v heard of) are well into their 60s! I look forward to getting old if getting thsat good comes with the territory...;-D

deepstar - on 07 Jun 2012
In reply to pebbles: No! I meant getting old in the head ie pipe and slippers and golf type old.
ads.ukclimbing.com
Jamie B - on 08 Jun 2012
In reply to Voltemands:

My experience is that relatively few "climbers" ditch the sport for good but a great number do it less and less. This seems to have increased in recent years with the emergence of the "Outdoor Lifestyler" for whom climbing is only one of a portfolio of leisure activities.

Of those who do ditch it for good, emergence of family seems to be the overwhelmingly most common cause. Be warned!
pog100 - on 08 Jun 2012
In reply to Voltemands:
I am 56 and 3/4 and have climbed/bumbled since I was 16. Most intensively while doing a PhD and since climbing with my then teenage sons 6 years ago. Always maintained a sort of outdoors life style, but climbing has never been central to it or my life. Really a whole range of experiences from friends but probably majority not staying very involved.
Al Randall on 08 Jun 2012
In reply to Voltemands: I've been climbing since 1964. I've had a few breaks which typically only lasted a couple of months at a time. When I was young I climbed every weekend but family and career took priority in later years but I still managed to get out regularly. Don't seem to get out much these days but that's because I'm struggling to find anyone to climb with around the area that I live who is of a similar age and climbing standard. I'm still keen but I would be lying if I said I was as motivated. I do get very motivated when abroad because it's all new rock as I often feel that I have done all I can in the UK. I'm still climbing at the same standard that I did in the late 60's although I did excel myself in the late 90's but went downhill again after that. At the moment it looks like E3 and F6c is likely to be my upper limit for the foreseeable future but that's respectable at 64 IMO.

Al
IanMcC - on 08 Jun 2012
In reply to Al Randall:
I didn't get in to climbing until my mid thirties- about 25 years ago. I have bumbled along quite happily ever since. I'm unsure why it continues to play such an important role in my life, but it does. I hope to keep climbing at the same mediocre standard for many years to come!
Skyfall - on 08 Jun 2012
In reply to Chris Craggs:

> The key is to choose stuff that is a) not very hard and b) not very steep!

Chris, a lot of us do that anyway and regardless as to age!
Kafoozalem - on 08 Jun 2012
In reply to Voltemands:

Of the thirty over 45's I was climbing with in the seventies and eighties the breakdown is as follows...

Died - Two

Poor health forced to give up - One

Voluntarily gave up - Ten (nearly all were college climbers who only racked up two to five years climbing)

Dabblers - Nine still occasionally hit the crag or climbing wall. They tend to be drawn to the less serious aspects of climbing. Some have become boulderers.

Still going strong - Eight
Voltemands - on 11 Jun 2012
In reply to deepstar:
> (In reply to andyathome)
> [...]
> I have to agree with andyathome in wondering who you are and why you want to know about us old climbers,but as you`re asking I am 60 and have been climbing since I was 13 and seem to be doing about 5 routes a week lately.Out of a pool of about 15 mates that I climbed with I am the only one still climbing,some are dead and some just got old.

I can respect that you'd like too see a more complete profile. But I don't really want to advertise exactly who I am, because like many people using the forums, I do so at times during work when I probably shouldn't. However, I can assure you that I am not some sort of sly deviant, who's out to get you old climbers. In fact whenever I've mailed ukc users privately or vice versa, my full name is displayed attached to my emails. Several of those people I've met through ukc then went on to find me on fb.

Thanks for the responses. I was aware it was a kind of silly way of going about asking the question but was in a rush at the time and probably should have given it more thought than I did. I was simply trying to get an idea of peoples experiences regarding the topic.
Voltemands - on 11 Jun 2012
In reply to Voltemands: Also, in respect to the privacy thing. If you were to look through my post history, I really don't keep my cards close to my chest.
Jim at Work on 13 Jun 2012
In reply to Al Randall: Very respectable!
I started in 67 and thank goodness for indoor walls, cos I live in London. The erosion of regular climbing partners was the main reason (plus a very happy marriage) for my only getting on outdoors rock a few times a year, plus work of course. Most comtempories gave up I think, but there are lots of mates becoming available at Westway, so roll on retirement. I'd say a decent proportion of the baby boomers are probably carrying on regardless, and I still think I can improve, so I tend to you & Chris's view rather than Gordon's (glad you can still have fun sir!).
John Rushby - on 13 Jun 2012
In reply to Voltemands:

A sort of cyclical sine wave sort of affair for me in espect of rock

I can go a year with little or no climbing, then go mad for it climb out of my skin then get bored or injured and potter off and do ther things.

Winter and Alpine - much as I can, but I think for many, they stop and start depnding on a lot of factors, but climbing is interesting in that it is a constant. That is to say, a great many people may not actively participate but it has been such an important part of their lives, informing a greater part of who they are that they always retain an interst.
A Longleat Boulderer - on 13 Jun 2012
In reply to Voltemands:

Definitely category D. Fell out of love with it (excuse the pun) and now climb very rarely.
Flatus Vetus - on 13 Jun 2012
In reply to Voltemands:

I left the 'sport' many years ago, now I only climb as a pastime.
SARS on 13 Jun 2012
In reply to Voltemands:

A) although have time out every so often.

Don't see why it's necessary to not improve over time. Met plenty of over 50s climbing 7 and 8 sport routes in Japan. Sports science has shown that you can keep getting stronger right up until around 70. Plus rock climbing is a hugely movement dependent sport which means skill can offset physical declines.

Age is just a number. It's all about the mental attitude.
jkarran - on 13 Jun 2012
In reply to Voltemands:

About half the 'climbers' I know were 'into it' for 5 years less, the other half are still in it on a 10yr+ timeframe. I don't know many who've quit after many years, were maimed or killed.

jk
Lord of Starkness - on 14 Jun 2012
In reply to Voltemands:

Definitely an 'E'

I never climbed at particularly great level -- competent VS leader and steady HVS / E1 second at best, and regret that I never did make that trip to the Alps. Was lucky enough to be involved with a lot of exploratory stuff in the UAE, and got spoiled rotten by being able to climb every weekend on warm dry unclimbed rock.

Coming back to scruffy quarries or sweaty indoor walls in the UK never had the same appeal, and I couldn't devote the dime in to developing regular climbing partners for trips to the Lakes or Wales. Persistent shoulder and elbow injuries persuaded me that perhaps it was time to cut back on climbing, and I've since rediscovered the joys of road biking. I still love being out in the hills, and need to start thinking about getting back to the wall in preparation for next summers Canada trip -- (my daughter and her partner both climb).
pasbury on 14 Jun 2012
In reply to Voltemands:

I'm an E. 25 years since I started and now confined to indoor (and occasional outdoor) bouldering and very rarely a route.
A couple of weeks ago I did my first route for about 6 years (a big diff on Lliwedd) and it was massive fun. Great to do it in the company of another team too. I'd almost forgotten the quality banter that climbers can come up with.
I just can't quite get climbing out of my system and hopefully it won't be 6 years till the next route. I'm going to stick to big easy stuff too, I'm not in it to scare myself at the mo.
Howard J - on 14 Jun 2012
In reply to Voltemands: I began climbing in 1972 at university, and still carry on. However it's fair to say that (so far as I am aware) many of my climbing friends from back then are not still climbing, for various reasons - family being the main one. Some continue with hill-walking.

Of my more recent climbing friends, again the main reason most have given up (at least temporarily) is having small kids. However there are some who appeared to give up when they found they could no longer climb to their former standard. As I've always been a bumbly and quite content to climb for pleasure rather than with an eye on grades, that's never been a concern for me.
PATTISON Bill - on 14 Jun 2012
In reply to Voltemands: Definately an A.Im a young 78 years and been at it for 61 years now.Manage 6b at Keswick wall ,6a+ sport and E1 ish outside .Off to Northumberland for a week tomorrow El Chorro Sept.Theres a lot of us old farts about .Re another thread Im sure the Glucosamine helps.
markez on 14 Jun 2012
In reply to Gordon Stainforth: Ahhh.. those poor old fellows that think they still charge up and down hills at quite a reasonable pace.
Gordon Stainforth - on 14 Jun 2012
In reply to markez:

I have no problem still charging up and down hills at quite a reasonable pace (but not nearly as fast as I used to). My problem is quite simply a serious eyesight one that prevents me from doing any rock climb that uses very/small footholds, and has slowed me down on rock climbs to such an extent that it is just not enjoyable any more.
henwardian - on 14 Jun 2012
In reply to Voltemands:
> A) are still regularly involved in the sport
Depends what you mean by "regularly", sadly so many have fallen by the wayside (not literally). Changes of location, gf, marriage, children, work, the multitudinous clamour that dissolves your climbing time like caustic acid. So sad :(

> B) participated in climbing for less than a year and gave it up
None really that I can think of. I think I only remember people who I see quite a few times, so they tend to be pretty keen on the sport. Its worth bearing in mind that I probably wouldn't trust someone who had been climbing for a few weeks to hold my rope(s) on anything outside. I think people who try out a new sport every 6 months are also perhaps outside of my social circle so I wouldn't bump into them so much.

> C) participated in the sport medium term (~5 years ) and gave it up
Perhaps not "gave it up" but certainly I know plenty of people whose commitment waned and they went back down the grades until they only climb very rarely. When you get weak and crap after not going for a while and can't climb hard, it makes it harder to motivate yourself to climb at all... a vicious circle that is all too common :(

> D) participated in the sport long term (~10 years) and gave it up
I think most people I know who have climbed for 10 years are still climbing. After 10 years, if you do take a break, I think perhaps all that time makes you a bit more resilient to dropping down the grades like a stone and getting depressed about it.
I have spoken to people who have given up because they were too old or got a serious injury that destroyed climbing for them.

> E) participated long term and now only dip in and out of the sport, very irregularly
I don't know many, though I'm sure there are plenty. My regular partners tend to be similar in grade to me (or at least able to second) and similar or a bit younger in age. Guys in their 60s who enjoy vs/hs/vdif occasionally are not really in my peer group.

> F) sadly exited the sport in an unfortunately, involuntary way
Havn't yet known a climber well who was IRL permabanned due to the sport(knock on wood).
Know masses of people who have had very serious injuries but it rarely seems to stop them. Generally they might drop some grades or go for safer routes or take a while recovering but they always come back for more.


> I also understand that there are so many facets to our sport, from gym climbing too FA's of huge faces, in the back side of nowhere, but incorporating inter-sport movement would make things even more complicated...
>
> Thanks for your opinions or tales


I'm not sure you will get a useful body of information from this thread. Different groups of climbers are going to have very different replies and it's worth bearing in mind a few things which will massively bias your results:
- Longtime climbers who only participate rarely now might well be in their 60s as may be most of their partners and peer group. This demographic is not known for their time spent hanging out in online forums! :D
- People who take up the sport for less than a year may well never get involved with many regular and more experienced climbers so people who reply on this forum (who are likely quite into the sport) will not know these short term climbers even though there may be plenty out there.
- Having been a climbing instructor I would say there are masses and MASSES of people who do one taster/beginners course at an indoor wall and never climb again (big up for our teaching, huzzah! :D ) and a similarly large number who come a handfull of times and stop after that. I didn't really include them in my answers because I couldn't say that I really "knew" them well and I wouldn't consider them to be climbers, just people who have climbed a couple of times.

Hey, there is a good question - how many times do you have to climb to be a climber? Or is it a state of mind? ;D
markez on 14 Jun 2012
In reply to Gordon Stainforth: I first read that you find those not very good at something and unlikely to get any better, sad; while those who are still very good in your opinion and still unlikely to get better, not sad.

After I posted, I wondered if you must have found better things in life to do, rather than suffer climbing longer than your health offered; and have seen others carry it too far.

Sadly, most of the topics I read were baiting and I unfortunately replied to it that way. Sorry.

However, I'm happy to hear you're enjoying the hills. You must be very fit to briskly go up and down them, well done.
Gordon Stainforth - on 14 Jun 2012
In reply to markez:
> (In reply to Gordon Stainforth) I first read that you find those not very good at something and unlikely to get any better, sad; while those who are still very good in your opinion and still unlikely to get better, not sad.

Ouch, did I say that? (Still sounds about right though :-)
>
> After I posted, I wondered if you must have found better things in life to do, rather than suffer climbing longer than your health offered; and have seen others carry it too far.

Yes, loads of things (but I think I've always known that). But the choice about stopping climbing was very simple: if you can't see your feet properly and judge exactly how far away potential footholds are, you can't really climb properly. It becomes desperately slow, static and tentative, with no flow at all. Which to me - as I've said many times, here and in print - is mostly what it's about.
>
> Sadly, most of the topics I read were baiting and I unfortunately replied to it that way. Sorry.
>
> However, I'm happy to hear you're enjoying the hills. You must be very fit to briskly go up and down them, well done.

Gordon Stainforth - on 14 Jun 2012
In reply to markez:

> However, I'm happy to hear you're enjoying the hills. You must be very fit to briskly go up and down them, well done.

Oh, didn't answer your last point. Yes, still love the hills, and scrambling of all kinds. Considering how much time I now have to sit in front of my desk/computer, surprised how strong I still feel on the hill.

Darron - on 14 Jun 2012
In reply to Chris Craggs:
Yes, I agree with you Chris - if you still enjoy it do it.
I started in 1974 and have been doing it without a break ever since and I'm climbing as well this year as I ever have. What really amazes me is how fantastic it is to have a hobby that still motivates you after all these years.
Tim Sparrow on 14 Jun 2012
In reply to Voltemands: I believe it was Joe Brown that once said that the average length of a climbing career was 7 years. So between C and D in your list.

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