/ Anno domini
While I’ve long believed that keeping on climbing is something that helps to stave off the inevitable ageing process, it is obvious that that process will adversely affect one’s climbing performance. During my 60s I didn’t notice much of a decline but now in my eighth decade, these are the things I notice:
1. Reduction in strength, so I tend to steer clear of strenuous routes.
2. Reduction in endurance, so in reality what I would once have thought of as a day’s climbing now requires two days.
3. Slower recovery from a hard day, making consecutive days on the crag less appealing. A leisurely approach, with good rests between routes also seems essential (see 2 above).
4. Much as I love mountain routes getting up to my favourites such as Gimmer becomes more of an issue. Being too tired to climb when you get to the crag is dispiriting.
5. Reduced willingness to carry a full pack (see 4), so ways of doing with less gear are always on the agenda.
6. Less bottle (not that I ever had that much).
If you are also no spring chicken, how is ageing affecting you and what ideas can you suggest?
Not in my 80th, but well done sir, good to keep going.
Point 2 intrigues me - one day's climbing now takes two days - are you often benighted?
As to your point 4 - have you considered bouldering - I'm sure the beanie with topless torso will go down a treat.
Eighth decade, not 80th year.
I'm only just in to my fourth decade, but have decided that I'm going to leave a lot of Mod-Severes to be done when I reach my latter years. I guess just being out on any rock should be considered a blessing
As point 4 ... cutting down on energy-sapping approaches!
All sounds about right to me Rog, but you can stave off the d ecline by purposeful training and diet - and rest days, the critical component for mt colleagues and I. 6b redpoint in Kalymnos this week and you don’t have to carry too much gear.
Injuries are more frequent and take forever to repair
As a relative youngster (in my 60s ie 7th decade), I have already started to notice many of the things on your list. However, I still get as much pleasure from climbing as I ever did, and am really enjoying the easier climbs which I tended to ignore in my youth. Classic Rock is now the go to book for inspiration!
Gerraway Mr K. You were legging it round the Peak like a teenager the other weekend
Like you, 80th decade....Its the emotional pain of regret. All those routes that were within my shabby compass even 20-30 years ago. Not done. Further back, those dreams of out-there, iconic climbs leering at me, smiling a 'come-on' smile. Not done. I do know that this is stuff of the First World Problems, of course. But leaving aside all those big issues that one should really be terrorised about in the 21st century, the big sense of missed opportunity sometimes drowns me.
In more optimistic times, notwithstanding my ancient bones, I am the tiger I always was. In those brief moments I'll impudently cast my geriatric gaze at Right Wall, Central Pillar, Dragon and/or Gob and many others as I hobble past. And I'll know full well that they're there for the taking. Keeps me sane it does...
Once upon a time I would have shared your regrets, maybe with a different tick list.
It doesn't take much to put all these things into perspective.
I've certainly got no experience of age but I must say that recent research I've read suggests that maintaining intensity (leaning towards endurance rather than power) is the best way to stave off the onset of performance drop.
With this in mind perhaps plenty of time spent on mildly pumpy but non-bouldery routes could be a good choice.
Regardless - keep up the good effort!
> I guess just being out on any rock should be considered a blessing
My sentiment entirely.
> Injuries are more frequent and take forever to repair
Indeed. This is why I use climbing walls only a little and when I'm there NEVER push the grades.
> However, I still get as much pleasure from climbing as I ever did, and am really enjoying the easier climbs which I tended to ignore in my youth. Classic Rock is now the go to book for inspiration!
That's the right approach, Mark. Don't waste time regretting what you can't do any more, just enjoy what you can still do.
Not much fun in regret, though, Tony.
Tried a new approach to this only two days ago. Resurrected my spare ropes and cut off 20m from both. Left half my wires and reduced the qds to 10. Parked at Honister, cheating I know. Walked and did Gillercombe Buttress. The sacs were just about manageable, but still pleased to get back to the road. Decided to go back to my Borrowdale guide from the 70s where the longest pitch is 60ft!
Did it aged 81, with a friend and led by his son, the square root of my age.
Bloody good going!
How do you find your flexibility has changed over time - can you still do high steps as well? I know some people with your life experience have trouble with their hips.
> Bloody good going!
> How do you find your flexibility has changed over time - can you still do high steps as well? I know some people with your life experience have trouble with their hips.
Not that good if compared to someone like jcw (see above).
I'm quite lucky with many bits of my body like knees and hips, which don't seem to have deteriorated much over the 20 years I've been taking glucosamine daily. I know all about the post hoc propter hoc fallacy, but I'm not daring to stop taking them!
On the other hand I've had a lot of trouble with adductors and lower back issues. At present, these are much less of a problem as I've been seeing a marvellous physio who has given me a lot of good advice on things like posture and endless exercises all of which have had very good results over the last 6 months. He has not actually done much manipulation or other "hands-on" treatment but those things have never really worked when other physios have got their hands on me.
I'm interested by your mention of diet. I'm a lifelong veggie and eat what I think is a healthy diet, but perhaps you mean more than that. If it means giving up a small glass of red most nights and the occasional pint of ale, I'll leave that for later.
Hi Rog ... I've not had a major decrease in strength or flexibility yet (69 today), but I haven't quite got the same stamina that I had ten years ago.
Now that I know that I'll never be able to improve my lead-grade (more training would be more likely to give injuries), I find that I'm happier to help beginners/learners than I was when I was going at a 'tick-list'. I've also been able to second friends on their leads of classic climbs which I've done in the past. I'm just grateful to be still climbing, and looking forward to (hopefully) many more years.
Good to hear you're still going well, Andy. Your views are very much in line with my own.
> Like you, 80th decade....
Bloody hell! Have you written to the Guiness Book of World Records? I think they've overlooked you.
They make 'em good, hard & long-lasting in Manchester
Currently enjoying a comeback after nearly 20 yrs not climbing, the knees are so much the weakest link after double popped cruciates. However it is still the most fun, last week did Ochre Slab 2 on Bosi one evening and can't think of a route I enjoyed more ever. Off to Lakes in a week with my son after his gcse ,hoping the weather and my knees hold out and we can get up to Gimmer for some Classic Rock ticking, these are the routes I was saving for my dotage, it seems odd to think its arrived so quickly.
To Rog and all the others still going strong: you are all a real inspiration for us other average climbers that there are many more years to come that combine travel and rock. I did climb with my father till he was aged 76, when dementia concluded all climbing. Did big major routes with him up to 5b/c (Badile, Albigna, Pordoi, Dachstein) ... and of course tried to have reasonable descents. Enjoyed it very much and hope for people to drag me out there later.
> I'm interested by your mention of diet. I'm a lifelong veggie and eat what I think is a healthy diet, but perhaps you mean more than that. If it means giving up a small glass of red most nights and the occasional pint of ale, I'll leave that for later.
Don't know what Stone Idle was thinking of, but there's a fair amount of evidence that older people may need a higher protein intake to build muscle/avoid muscle loss, e.g.:
Worth looking into, maybe, to make sure you're getting enough?
I think cycling is a real benefit to keeping the muscles to support knees etc as I've got older. As well as basic fitness.
Thanks for your contribution. What is the best way to increase one's protein intake without increasing your calorie intake significantly?
I share your view. Both of us enjoy road cycling though off-road now needs a higher work rate than we can manage these days. Rarely do more than 50 km, but it's hard to go that far around here without encountering significant hills.
I'm a fellow veggie/naughty vegan and a foodie. Most people are eating far more protein than they need anyway, and not enough veg.
I'm basically finding protein is in fricking every plant food I can think of. It's actually quite hard to cut it out without living on Guinness and Marmite or something else so ridiculous it could be a prank on Jackass. I'd actually find it more convenient if my hair and finger nails stopped growing so fast, but so far I've been unable to even deliberately bring about a protein deficiency, while still eating sensibly and healthily
> Thanks for your contribution. What is the best way to increase one's protein intake without increasing your calorie intake significantly?
Those disgusting supplements. Peas are fricking amazing, and you can get snackable ones. Or delicious baked Tofu, Tempe, Saitan, Edamame beans for snacking, Frozen protein options, Mycoprotein (Quorn), TVP, and pumpkin seeds are all the complete 'lower cal' proteins off the top of my head, but it's even in wheat and potatoes - check out Mock Duck, Mock Chicken and Mock Abalone in asian supermarkets if you're fine with gluten. After that you will soon learn to love gluten! Buckwheat is tastier than wheat, and wheat berries are unrefined and highly nutritious and delicious too. Chickpeas are great for protein but Hummus is stupendously calorific. Lentils and other pulses cooked down into Dahl have loads of protein, getting in the region of what steak has, but you're supposed to match grains then to get complete proteins, e.g. lentils and rice, rice and peas. check out different rice varieties - asian supermarkets have far more like red rice and black rice, and they're not so overpriced. But to be honest, the human body is used to shortages, and doesn't have to eat something from every possible arbitrary category, every day of its life, so just chill out and eat something different tomorrow. Oats even have some protein too, are filling complex carbs (good cals), and more importantly porridge is -the- source of climbing power and the breakfast of champions.
If I was trying to seriously go low carb, maybe the 'nutritionally poorer' grains like maize (corn), millet and especially pearl barley would help. You can't live on that stuff alone, but even though they're still tasty, noone in their right mind who eats healthily would ever want to live on those alone.
Source: I read the introduction to a vegetarian cook book, and from then to the present day I prepared food and ate it in order to stay alive.
Guess what? I'm still here everyone!!!! I didn't die, therefore, this is the absolute secret to a high performance high health diet that will work for everyone, regardless of what your gut biome or your current eating habits are used to. But hopefully you have some recipe and ingredient ideas.
It was a heavy hard back edition with a green cover. Therefore everything above is completely infallible and the absolute truth.
> Thanks for your contribution. What is the best way to increase one's protein intake without increasing your calorie intake significantly?
Disclaimer: I am not a nutritionist and don't play one on the internet; I just like geeking out about these things!
First thing I'd suggest is logging your food intake for a few typical days in one of those online calculators that'll list off total calories, protein, carbs, fat, vitamins, minerals, etc.. It's a good way to see where you are at the moment and if there are any obvious nutritional gaps.
I wouldn't go for just increasing protein without seeing where things are at already. You might find you're getting plenty of protein already -- or not.
If not: best option first off is to focus on getting extra protein in your diet, before you start thinking about supplements. In my experience, it can help to think about including a decent protein source in each meal. For a vegetarian, think yoghurt or cheese and eggs (if you're vegetarian not vegan), the classic pulses/grains combinations, tofu or tempeh, etc..
That will crowd out some other stuff, and also many people find protein-rich foods more satiating than carbohydrates, so it doesn't mean you're necessarily going to be adding calories overall.
If that isn't sufficient, you can get into the whole protein powder thing. They're generally not the tastiest, but protein shakes can be a decent and portable way of "topping up" your diet and getting some protein in right after climbing.
You can also make your own DIY protein bars/balls with protein powder and various combinations of nut butters and/or dried fruit and/or honey and/or oats.
> but you're supposed to match grains then to get complete proteins, e.g. lentils and rice, rice and peas
> But to be honest, the human body is used to shortages, and doesn't have to eat something from every possible arbitrary category, every day of its life, so just chill out and eat something different tomorrow.
I believe this is now largely supported by science!
People used to be very fixated on having to match grains and legumes to get complete protein (i.e. balanced amounts of all the essential amino acids) in a single meal, and I believe current research seems to suggest that as long as you're eating both in the course of a day, your body can sort it out fine.
On the other hand, combinations like beans and rice are classics for a reason.
Your doing great and still doing the routes and drinking the beer, I've seen you your good.
Well me in my late 60s Knees, Back, and Hips ache , well my knee collapses sometimes and as for dropped knees well thats going if not gone.
Anyway I'm still doing 2 month trips climbing nearly every day yes at a lower grade but finding good routes ( there's so many ) Just like your doing.
So keep doing what you love and keep enjoying it, I hope I can later in life.
Only one thing to add to the advice above: whatever you do, keep going. I'm not quite as old but I've found that after a series of operations - knee and hip replacements and hand surgery - and a whole array of back and other soft tissue problems, it's very easy to get to a point where even light exercise becomes a major issue. As in so many things it's a case of 'use it or lose it'.
I'm half way through my 8th decade and only over the last year or so have I noticed the points you mention. More and more now I find I lack the motivation to go cragging, but when I force myself to do it, I really enjoy it and starting thinking eagerly about the next outing. But when the next outing morning arrives, I find myself easily trying to dissuade myself
I still get an adrenaline kick from leading, but whilst fear of dying is there it's nothing like as worrying as the thought of breaking any bones at my age which would take so long to heal.
I do a lot more walking these days, although I do get very tired after a long day out. I have just completed the Nidderdale Way - 53 miles over 4 consecutive days and at the end felt utterly knackered! My joints ached and legs would hardly move afterwards, and I felt like an old man, which I suppose I am
Yet only 3 years ago I walked all of Offa's Dyke over two separate weeks without any problem.
The other problem is failing eyesight, particularly when descending a steep path, whereas I used to run down the hillside bounding from boulder to boulder, I now creep down anxiously peering ahead to see where to place my feet, and I just don't have the recoil absorption in my legs when jumping down. Walking poles help, but they can be a nuisance, particularly when scrambling, and if you are multi pitch climbing they are awkward to strap to your sack.
The onset also of deafness means that I sometimes get an unpleasant shock when I am overtaken when going down by Mountain Bikers who I just can't hear coming behind me.
Anyway, enough moaning. Growing old is something that happens to all of us. It's just something which we all tend to think is way in the future when we are younger. I am reluctantly coming to the conclusion that I need to start winding down, but I don't want to because I enjoy the hills and mountains so much.
Nothing for it but to keep going!
A relative youngster compared with yourself ( mid 60's) I am finding my motivation to going out climbing getting harder and harder, and I have started to feel some of the things on your list - particularly about bottle ( mortality thing perhaps?).
Really sympathise with you when you said that they couldn't get motivated for big days in the mountains. Living in the NE of Scotland I used to love big days out in the Cairngorms but recently I seem to have turned into a real lazy barsteward! ( although many of the walk ins were pretty gruesome at the best of times!)
The development of sport crags all over the world does, I think, increase the opportunities for older climbers to keep going.
Just need to adopt the attitude that at least we are still getting out and it is now more about a good day out and good craic with friends than the more extreme challenges that one craved in our youth.
Just need to let go of the ego and enjoy what time is left I think.
At 67 and 3/4 I can confirm you are right - getting old is no fun.
I had just about stopped climbing 10 years ago because of some odd medical condition that caused my joints (ankles and fingers mostly) to swell painfully.
A prof at the Hallamshire sorted me out and Sherri booked a month in Kalymnos - I haven't looked back.
Easy routes in nice places will (hopefully) keep me going for a few years yet,
That's me exactly. 75 was the turning point though I did manage to keep going a bit into my 9th decade. Kindred spirits
I'm kind of terrified of ageing and just sort of ignore it, so this thread is actually quite inspiring for me - cheers everyone. You're all are absolutely allowed to use the train up to Cloggy (and Aonach Mor and Cairngorm if they let you get out of the tourist sheep pen at the top).
Slightly cheeky but serious question - does the free bus pass help any of you get to many good crags? My folks and others in the ramblers occasionally make good use of it. ;-)
> Tried a new approach to this only two days ago. Resurrected my spare ropes and cut off 20m from both. Left half my wires and reduced the qds to 10. Parked at Honister, cheating I know. Walked and did Gillercombe Buttress.
Nice pic here: https://www.ukclimbing.com/images/dbpage.php?id=312273
> I'm only just in to my fourth decade, but have decided that I'm going to leave a lot of Mod-Severes to be done when I reach my latter years. I guess just being out on any rock should be considered a blessing
In reply to mrphilipoldham:
> I'm only just in to my fourth decade, but have decided that I'm going to leave a lot of Mod-Severes to be done when I reach my latter years.
I've done that Mr.
Trouble is all those wonderfully enticing saved-fer-me-old-age V Diffs and Severes and Mild VSs are on the high crags. Now that I'm, like the old codger who initiated this (no offence Rog), into my seventies I'm not sure I'll fancy the approaches for much longer. Days this year on Dow Gimmer Napes and Lining Crag have been encouraging in this regard - for now! Not sure about even a year ahead.
So beware leaving 'em too late. Currently wondering will I ever now do e.g. Great Eastern, Rib and Slab, Avalanche Red Wall etc??
You've just written down what I've been saying to any who'd listen for the last say 5 years Rog. Like minded as ever. I've noticed a huge difference between being 67 and my now almost 73. You're list puts my concerns in a nutshell.
Yes I fear I may fall in to that trap!
Recently did the long slog up to the Cairn of the Greyhound Bitch (love the imagery...) to do the long-awaited Left Edge. I must say my lad nodded-off before I did after our pint and a Bangor curry...I felt almighty as he snored quietly across the room. Life in the old dog (sic) yet.
> Slightly cheeky but serious question - does the free bus pass help any of you get to many good crags? My folks and others in the ramblers occasionally make good use of it. ;-)
Not for cragging, but I use the bus quite a lot for going walking because it enables me to do long linear walks rather than circular ones which you have to do if parking up the car.
And, yes the public bus down from or up to Pen y Pass was a freebe, even though I don't live in Wales!
Yes, the beer drinking bit still works OK.
Regarding all the aches and pains – the physio I mentioned has really made me see the light. I think when we’re younger and very active we think everything’s OK, but we don’t realise that we are abusing our bodies, and getting away with it when we are still young. I have come to understand that we fall into bad habits and are not doing anything to help ourselves. The muscles of the body are a brilliantly designed single system, rather than a series of sub-systems operating independently. It is really easy to use the wrong muscles, leaving the ones you should be using to become lazy and even atrophy. Apparently, until I began my recent life-changing exercise routine, my glutes were not functioning properly and a lot of their work was taken over by lower back muscles, though they didn’t like it. This had the further effect of stressing adductor muscles which became so inflamed at times that I could only walk at a snail’s pace and in serious pain and cycling merely exacerbated the pain. In addition, my posture was very poor and my upper back was in bad order which meant that the correct curves of the spine in the lumbar and cervical regions were absent, with further painful results. Contributory factors in causing these upper back problems include climbing, cycling, rucsac carrying, and car driving, all of which lead to round shoulders and resultant complaints from a range of muscles. It is possible to alleviate these issues by, for example, in the car and at the dining table sitting on a wedge and having a suitable lumbar support cushion and by regular corrective exercises. Unfortunately, there’s no magic bullet, and at times progress may seem slow, but I really feel I’ve turned a massive corner – even a U-turn – having been travelling in the wrong direction for many years and putting up with pain which I attributed to age. It is important to realise, however, that this rehab programme I’m going through is aimed at muscular rather than skeletal issues such as hips.
All this has been a revelation to me as over many years I have tried many different practitioners of all stripes none of whom have really got beyond treating the symptoms rather than the cause. As a result, I feel much more positive about the future whereas only 9 months ago I was thinking I might never cycle again and was wondering who I might be employing to look after the garden.
It’s still a long way up to Grey Crag, though.
> So beware leaving 'em too late. Currently wondering will I ever now do e.g. Great Eastern, Rib and Slab, Avalanche Red Wall etc??
I've now found two routes you've not done that I have, Martin. But if you want a partner to get on Lliwedd I could be tempted, especially if we could find a sherpa.
> Apparently, until I began my recent life-changing exercise routine, my glutes were not functioning properly
I've heard this described with the glorious term "gluteal amnesia".
Apparently it's not uncommon -- your body forgets to activate the glutes when it should, so other muscles get roped in instead.
> Recently did the long slog up to the Cairn of the Greyhound Bitch (love the imagery...) to do the long-awaited Left Edge.
Since I've mislaid my English to Welsh dictionary, could you translate to a crag name i might recognise please?
Carnedd y filiast, I believe.
Getting stronger is possible but avoiding injury is key and exploring every avenue to deal with stuff like arthritis pays dividends. I have a good relationship with a physio and make his suggestions work for me. I also do some work with weights which helps me. My select coterie includes clmbers from 65 to 85 and grades from f5 to f7. Its the fire in the belly that counts. Use it or lose it and the grade you enjoy is the grade you should be climbing- until you realise you are still ambitious!
Thanks, yes Carnedd y Filiast - a monumental slog. Chuffed that I got my head down and got up to it at my stage in life. Great once you're there - climbing for folks of advanced years! Perfect...
I'm putting it on my wishlist.
So glad to hear turning things around with your body pains great news.
I now do more of what you are saying and going for a sauna and swim which makes my muscles relaxed in fact just going now.
Hope to catch up in person soon been too long.
Well done Rog, you have emphasised not overusing the body in youth, I agree, or it just wears out.
Also as we age the back adjusts and we shrink, it's usually a one-time experience and can be very painful - then it subsides.
I lost an inch in height and the back spasms were a killer.
Maybe too much driving and sitting at a desk or pounding from fell-running.
Wrist thumb and finger arthritis are very bad for reducing strength of hands esp in cold weather and if you play a guitar for example.
Can be mitigated with massage, gentle stretching and not overuse.
Posture is crucial - to age and stoop or shuffle is fatal. Core strength and being upright keep everything together.
Diet - I believe everyone needs protein fat carbohydrate minerals vitamins and water. I replace the water with beer which is good for the soul and 96% water anyway.
Most dietary prejudice is in the head apart from a tiny number of people who have problems with certain things like gluten or cholesterol.
I think it is important to eat some meat and fish etc amongst other things and I seriously doubt how a vegan can exist long-term. Vegetarians maybe can it seems.
Massage, gym for neck, shoulder back and arm strength (upper body), pilates, perhaps yoga/stretching and a varied healthy diet and mental strength are what keeps us fit and strong as we get older.
Cross training always helps, bikes, rope ladders, climbing wall without over extension.
Keeping weight down helps - most alcoholics are skinny - it's not the booze we should fear (in moderation of course) but the food!
Other things keep us young: There is a great story about Maurice Herzog. He became the President of Triton Oil. A tall man, with only one finger. It was noticed he always had a very pretty young madamoiselle on his arm. It was rumoured he had the busiest finger in France.
Who's the physio you've been seeing? I've been getting physio for a variety of quite similar ailments (including the opting-out glutes) and had some improvement but I don't feel I've really got an integrated exercise programme sorted out.
Google Steve Irwin in Windermere and you'll find him.
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