/ Am i too old to start climbing?
I've been watching lots of videos of rock climbing lately and I really want to give it a try. I'm a 21 year old female, 5ft4 and naturally very muscular although need to lose a few pounds and have very little arm strength.
I am fairly fit, I try to go running and to the gym often but I really want to find a sport that I can get into and really enjoy.
I've never climbed before. Am I starting too old to be able to realistically become a great climber? Have I left it a few years too late?
No. Get out and give it a go, hope you love it...
Definitely not. I've only really started climbing in the last 2-3 years and I'm in my forties. Whilst I may wish I got into climbing when I was younger I think you should never regret not doing something. Just start doing it whatever your age. So my strong recommendation is get out and do it. There are lots of types of climbing (bouldering, sport, trad, alpine, winter etc) as well so worth experimenting with them to find out what you enjoy and what suits you - it maybe you end up focusing on one or do all of them.
As to whether you can become a great climber that depends what you mean by a great climber. The most important thing is to get out and enjoy yourself. One of the things I love about climbing is whether you are trying to get your first VS or sport 6A the experience is the same as someone trying to get their first E8 or sport 9A. There are also regular comments on the forums here of people in their 60s still climbing really hard so you have many years ahead. It is as much about psychology as fitness.
Worth watching this as well for a perspective on someone who thought they were late getting into climbing
Thank you! That's a great video.
I suppose by great, I'm really competitive so I'm thinking close to world-class level. But I think you have to have started as a kid or early teen to get to that level so its probably unrealistic.
Still, if I just enjoy it and it keeps me fit then it will still be a great sport for me to get into.
I suspect most world class climbers started young but in climbing world class can mean so many different things. You have world class competition climbers on the one hand and then world class alpinists and big wall climbers on the other with every possible variation in between. Competition climbing may be out for you but many world class outdoor climbers are climbing their best well into their forties.
Just get out and do it initially, enjoy it and see where it goes. If you get addicted then you can start being more focused with training etc but ultimately experience is the most important thing.
Where you live will (probably) make a big difference as well. Living close to good climbing conditions will maximise your time on the rock which is most important.
Also worth looking at
for info on the psychology and training (other blogs available).
No. Your probably the ideal age to get into it actually! As for being a great climber, well that's all relative to what you see as great. Most of the climbers I climb with, don't look at other climbers and think wow I wish I was as great as them! We climb because we enjoy it and feel a sense of accomplishment and achievement that spurs us on to the next climb. Why not just give it a go and I'm sure you'll love it. I would encourage you to join your local BMC affiliated club and try as many aspects of the sport as possible and now the summers here, get on rock!!
> I suppose by great, I'm really competitive so I'm thinking close to world-class level. But I think you have to have started as a kid or early teen to get to that level
For "world-class indoor competition climber aiming for the Olympics" -- nowadays, probably yeah. Though 21's not geriatric, and it's not impossible that someone born with exceptional genetics might be able to catch up.
But there are many many other facets of climbing, most of which aren't so dependent on physical training starting very young. Some of the world's greatest climbers don't do indoor comps at all.
And it's worth bearing in mind that only the tiniest fraction of climbers ever get to be "world-class" in any respect anyway. Even if you started at age 5, the chance of your being "world-class" would still be incredibly small.
Climbing's much more forgiving of age than a lot of sports -- and unless you're thinking only about indoor competitions -- 21 isn't remotely "too late" to start.
You could still be exceptional in one way or another, if you have the talent! Or you could find that you're average like most of us, and still have a wonderful time
I started at 33; by any objective standards, I'm thoroughly mediocre in the grades I climb. But I'm stronger than I ever ever imagined I could be, and climbing things I never imagined I could, and having a fantastic time.
You can still be competitive and enjoy pushing your own limits and climbing as hard as you can (and burning off your mates) whatever level you're climbing at, if that's how you enjoy approaching it. Or you can be mellower and do it purely for the experience, or a bit of both.
Anyway, give it a go! See if you fall in love!
get out there and enjoy I have just started to get back in to it, and I am fast coming up to 59 so no you're not to old it's just a number Tony
If 21 were too old to begin new things then life would be very dull indeed.
At 21 there's nothing you're not too old for.
I started climbing again at 48 after a long break. I'll never be a "great climber", but I'm happy with what I do. You could potentially be a great climber, or at the other end of the scale you could have decades of enjoyment while not being "great". Or somewhere in-between. Just go and climb and enjoy it and find out what you want to do. Have fun!
> At 21 there's nothing you're not too old for.
You might want to read about the story of Nick Bullock.
The path to world class starts by starting. Don't watch videos, go and do it. Get something organised right now! You'll be rubbish, we all were. Getting better is a blast
Don't worry about being great or not. As others here have said go out there and climb and enjoy it. I'm 60 now and didn't start until I was about 35 but had tried it as a kid at school when I was 12 and then again as a student at Uni but then did nothing until 35.
Climbing (inside or on rock) focused my mind many times after a bad day at work and made me feel great again. So for me it's like therapy sometimes. It's always fun but can also be frustrating when you can't get the grade you'd like on a particular day. But it doesn't matter just go out another day and you might get that grade.
I don't climb hard. VS is my limit on lead and then not often and 6a at sport is always a big effort. I've been dragged up HVS, E1/E2 and up to sport 7a but it's about having fun without injury.
I've climbed trad (UK), sport (UK, Spain, Morocco), Scottish Winter and a little Alpine and love it all. There are so many places to go subject to budget of course but the UK has so much to offer without going overseas.
I intend to climb for at least the next 10 to 20 years subject to health, longevity and desire of course.
It's all a big adventure so get out there and give it a go and NO 21 is not to old to start. You have decades ahead of you.
Give it a go and have fun : )
> ...I'm a 21 year old female, 5ft4 and naturally very muscular although need to lose a few pounds and have very little arm strength... Am I starting too old to be able to realistically become a great climber? Have I left it a few years too late?
Absolutely not too late. Wishing you all the best
Another vote for no. I started when I was 35... I see people nearly twice my age getting up stuff that's too hard for me to even try at the moment, but I'm still improving, so maybe by the time I'm their age?!
If you can move your arms and legs, you're not too old - the point of climbing is to enjoy going climbing.
'the best climber is the one having the most fun'
> I suppose by great, I'm really competitive so I'm thinking close to world-class level.
I'd suggest that, for the vast majority of climbers, it isn't a competitive sport (unlike team sports or athletics). Competition climbing is a recent, niche activity, that you might fit into.
The fact that it isn't competitive is one of the things that attracted me...
And no, 21 is not too old to start.
Forget it - you won't make it you've not got a hope in hell's chance to even come close to beating the wads at your local wall let alone making it to national or international level.
Competition in climbing is stupid anyway - learn to climb, get out there and enjoy yourself.
Sorry to be blunt, but your age isn't stopping you from being a "great" climber but your attitude is. Instead of asking the question, you should be out there feeding the rat that drives you to greatness.
You could still be a world-class climber, it depends more on what you were doing as a kid.
I'm sure the 2 lasses who won gold at the London Olympics rowing had only been doing it for a couple of years but they must have had a super strong physical foundation built with other sports when they were growing up.
All the important development happens before your mid-teens growth-spurt, and it doesn't necessarily have to be in the same discipline.
Seems a weird question though. Have you suddenly decided you want to be a professional climber having never done it? Otherwise, who cares how good you are at it?
As Alex Lowe said, "The best climber is the one having the most fun."
> I've been watching lots of videos of rock climbing lately and I really want to give it a try. I'm a 21 year old female
Nope, nowhere near too old. I didn't properly start until 33.
Thank you for the encouragement! I've signed up for an induction this evening and I can't wait!
I know of a couple of people who have begun climbing in their late 60' s / early 70's.
Ive heard this said before, why read about Nick Bullock? Did he start climbing later on life?
He started climbing fairly well into adulthood, comparatively speaking next to other people who have done notable things, but I don't know how old he was exactly. It was in 1993 either way.
Yep, started in his twenties by all accounts. So definitely one example of a world class climber who started in their twenties.
Assuming he left school at 16 then started climbing at 27.
If you are talking about world class - a mate of mine took up running in his early 30s, as a 14 stone smoker, rapidly became British Fellrunning Champion and was 10th in the Commonwealth marathon at the age of 41.
He had absolute determination and focus right from day one - but you need the genes too..
It may have already been mentioned, but find yourself someone to climb with who is at a similar level to you. otherwise one of you will always feel left behind or playing catch up. also don't try to do too much too soon.
Yes, you are definitely way too old! Maybe try lawn bowls instead, that should suit you much better.
Of course you're not too young, but you are DJ Viper and I claim my £5.
I think I may be heading that way again.
> If you are talking about world class - a mate of mine took up running in his early 30s, as a 14 stone smoker, rapidly became British Fellrunning Champion and was 10th in the Commonwealth marathon at the age of 41.
> He had absolute determination and focus right from day one - but you need the genes too..
What's his name Jonathan, if you don't mind? It would be interesting to learn about him if possible. That's a more than impressive turnaround..
Firstly, no you aren't too old to start and achieve highly. I started at 43 and climb harder than most.
Secondly, be prepared to find you may not have the minerals to be a great climber but you may end thinking climbing is great. It works that way for about 93.76%** of us who stick with it. **unofficial, made up, fictitious information, but possibly thereabouts right.
Thirdly, if your ambition to be great is put into action, you will need to prepare to change your life drastically. Trying to go running won't cut it as an attitude. Whilst you will spend much of the first year or two learning and mastering the basics. Once sufficiently strong, you will need to commit to two or three training sessions a day, get your rest and diet on point and sacrifice a chunk of your social life. You will need to cultivate an attitude where you constantly want to try hard things until they yield. Going back again and again when all you are experiencing is failure and not allowing that to kill your desire.
Fourthly, get expert advice. Don't rely on the opinions of people at the wall unless they have proven to train year in year out and are getting somewhere. It isn't because less motivated climbers aren't aware of the drills and schedules involved (although most aren't), it is because a seasoned climber who trains religiously (e.g. Jim Pope, Shauna or Steve Mac) has the mental fortitude to get through it all, but they also understand how to piece it together and train constantly. On a psychological level, those who stop and start will only tell you ultimately, how they came to stop and start. The passion and desire to train constantly is what you need to find. As Dan Turner says, "it's all about keep turning up".
I wish you the very best of luck..
> Steve Way?
If that isn't the guy he's phenominal anyway. From weighing 100kg and smoking 20 a day to breaking the British 100km record and running a 2:15 marathon in 7 years. Most interesting thing I've seen in ages. Thanks Gaz. Apologies to OP for going off post!
Definitely not. It's the age I started.
Incidentally one of the keenest climbers I know started at the age of 57 and 5 years later he is better than most climbers I know and, more importantly, is loving it.
People have started in their 70s! The great thing about climbing is that it can become engrossing whatever your ability. If you do start don't get hung up on grades and post back with your experiences.
Also ignore the dislikes, the site has a few judgemental children who seem to struggle to understand the rules of the Starting Out forum.
> Keith Anderson
Thanks Jonathan, like Steve Way another smoker to superstar runner. My understanding regarding smoking and exercise is that it makes your lungs smaller but much stronger. It may have something to do with the way they were both able to garner that never stop, never say die attitude. Highly impressive!
Realistically, you are enormously unlikely to become world class (depending on where you decide world class starts), but starting at 21 you could certainly become a very strong climber. I started right when I turned 21 and have absolutely loved it ever since, and while I am never going to get anywhere near what one might consider 'world-class', I have trained hard and would like to think I am reasonably strong.
After seeing what the local wads at the wall are capable of, then realising that they are no where near on the level of world class, you might start to understand the level you are referring to. This is an important revelation to have, because it draws your mind away from trying to compete with others and focuses it on simply trying to achieve something personally motivating, such as a particular route or boulder.
You absolutely should start climbing, it's the best thing I ever did and I wish I had done it sooner. Good luck!
I started at about age 24 (female, similar build). Was quite unfit and didn’t do any sports.
I got quite physically strong fairly quickly but climbing is also skill based. I struggled translating my indoor grade outdoors and also struggled learning rope work and other skills that are completely necessary.
Now at 29 I’m starting to get better outdoors and most of that is confidence (I’m probably weaker than I was at 27, for instance!)
I’ve found a nice balance with other sports (particularly running, where I can run more for competition/time).
I don’t personally think you can decide to become world class. Can certainly train to a level to make you regional class but becoming world class in anything is more about genetics. At least that’s my experience..
I genuinely thought you would be saying that you were in your 60s or older. Not that being in your 60s, 70s, 80s or older would stop you. It's just about how well your body works and even then that's not a blocker.
Give it a go and hope you enjoy.
I base this opinion on absolutely no science whatsoever, but I have a suspicion that climbing to a world class/cutting edge level really is only possible starting from a young age. Most of the top climbers had climber parents, or were encouraged into it early. This gave them the ability to build their finger tendon strength when their body weight was low, and their tendons more flexible. For me, tendon strength is my main limiting factor, and I can't really ever imagine getting them strong enough to do bodyweight monos without hearing the *pop*.
Regardless of my crock scientific theory, you should climb anyway, but simply because you want to. Being *great* is a vacuous hole of self doubt and never-ending pressure. Do it because you love it, love the problem solving, and pushing your limits.
I didn't start until I was 34 and have lead up to E3 and seconded upto E5. A large part of climbing is head games, the physical fitness part is relatively easy to work on with a proper training schedule. Flexibility may be easier to work on if younger but it has never really held me back until now (I am in my 60's)
> I've signed up for an induction this evening and I can't wait!
How did it go (assuming you're not D J Viper)?
I think a lot depends on natural ability (combined with a suitable physique). Having seen you soloing at the Roaches, Duncan, I know that you are a complete natural. One of those people whom it's a joy to watch climbing.
To some extent it will depend upon the discipline you want to follow. Indoors, competition, outdoor sport, trad, ice climbing, alpine climbing, greater ranges. I would say that for competition climbing, and the way it seems to be mimicking other sports, you are probably past it by your mid twenties but IMO the reason climbing has always been superior to these other activities is the lack of overt competition. Only indoor and to a lesser extent outdoor sport climbing lend themselves to this competitive approach as they can be followed in relative safety. Despite what you may be told about other disciplines they are dangerous and there is an increased risk of serious injury or death which is why it would be wise to approach these with a less competitive attitude. With that in mind you should be able to achieve a very high standard if you are dedicated enough but it's not really about being the best. That is very hard to measure and many of "the best" in these disciplines tend to have short lives. Viewed in that light the best are those who climb to a high standard and survive and that balancing act can be difficult to achieve.
Cheers Gordon. You are very kind
im 43..i started wall climbing two weeks ago...im useless with no upper body strength, but ill get better as time goes on...(i hope!!)
A friend starting climbing in her 60's and she's even managed to get her mother to go climbing (indoors).
Wow, when I read the title of the the thread I was expecting the age to be far, far higher than 21!
We seem to live in a society obsessed with age. What does it matter? Even if you said 81, if you're able to, just get out and try it.
I was 54 when i started! i knew i wouldnt be a Alex Honnold but then who is. i just love the outdoors and climbing in particular. I have lead E1 5b onsight but am happy on HS/VS nowadays.
Just started climbing last year and I'm 52. Loving it and had my first outdoor lead at Benny Beg and Moy Rock last week. Wish I'd started at 21!!
Its such a stupid question..yes you are to old to try to attempt anything new after 20 years old just pack life in and give up
Out of interest, who was that? Sounds very much like Steve Way, but he was never British Fell Champion.
You're never too old, to do most things, especially climbing, but it also depends what you want to achieve.
Climbing is pretty much unique, in that, you can enjoy the same joy, frustrations, fear and sense of achievement at what ever level you are, as the top climbers in the game.
Someone conquering their first VS lead gets as much out of it as someone conquering their first E1.
You get as much out of it as you put in, and can have a great time, finding your own level and climbing at that, if that's what you want.
I started when I was 44 if that helps, I wish I'd started earlier, but I might well be dead as I was a little more reckless in my younger days, now I know I'm not invincible.
Do people bother to read the op’s actual post and her follow up post She is asking whether it’s worth her while taking up climbing and her chances of being able to compete at the highest level. Not whether at 30, 40, 50 or even 60 years old she will be able to climb severe, vs, E1 or even the stairs.
Very sad that you should apparently think it's only worth taking up climbing if you can become a "great" one.
The worst thing my father tried to instill in me was "If a thing is worth doing it's worth doing well." It took me many years to come up with my own version of that rather negative injunction: "If a thing is worth doing it's worth doing badly" is a much better motto.
I think it's a shame that your apparent reason for taking up climbing is that it's something you aim to become world class at (because you are really competitive). Unlike most areas of athletics, which are directly competitive and deadly boring as activities in themselves, climbing is intrinsically interesting, exhilarating and satisfying. Becoming world class at it has usually been a by-product of the sheer love of doing it, and this rather sets it apart from your mainstream sports which, let's face it, are dull as ditchwater. The conscious objective of becoming world-class is a recipe for disappointment and dissatisfaction in an activity that has an almost unique capacity to provide a lifetime of pleasure.
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