I don't have much going in my favor here. 46, 18stone, 6'4", can't do one pull-up (or 3 press-ups), previously sprung clavicle and rotator cuff repair, and moderate symptoms of rheumatoid arthritis.
But I have a predilection for hills and mountains and a demon that won't go away - to climb.
Is there any hope of getting on a crag or a bolder before I'm on the wrong side of 50?
I know the simple answer to the first steps is to lose weight and get stronger but any words of wisdom would be welcome.
There are rock climbs for everyone. There will be people older, fatter, weaker and more injured than you, climbing every weekend. Get down to your local climbing wall and and get started on a course. You'll be fine.just gey stuck in 🙂
At 6' 4" you'll have a massive reach, which really helps.
Climbing is really about learning to use your legs. The arms are just there to keep you in balance while your legs propel you upwards. It's a very rare climber who gets up a route by lifting their bodyweight with their arms for every move.
Have a go, and enjoy it. Climbing doesn't have to be about conquering the hardest route in the world.
I'm a heavy climber, not 18 stone, but definately on the well insulated end of the scale. My humble advice would be, remember that climbing isn't something you need to learn. Its all the monkey-to-human bits of evolutionary refinement you need to unlearn, its all there inside you already. Start easy, warm up well, set realistic goals - play to your strengths, flexiblity and footwork will reward you well, focus on the enjoyment rather than the numbers and... tether your belayer. The beauty of climbing is that whatever grade you reach, there's a lifetime of high quality routes waiting.
Where are you based? If at all possible, get out onto real rock frequently (like after work a couple of nights a week as well as weekends) just get loads of easy mileage in. Losing some chub will help, but don't obsess about it.
Good advice from deacondeacon, of course you can do it, I suspect there's many a mountain route you can do right now.
My hints for losing weight... cut the alcohol... cut the carbs (unless you know you're about to do some exercise) and as Norman Tebbitt would have said "Get on your bike!" Cycling has helped me lose 50lbs in less than a year and I now feel like a new person. When I pick up my bag of climbing gear and realise I used to carry that weight everywhere... all of the time... it's little wonder I'm now climbing several grades harder. It's also done wonders for my mental health as well. Set yourself achievable goals and go for it... you only get one chance at life.
Thank you Boomer. Great to hear. 50lbs! Wow well done. I'll be using that as inspiration.
Thanks Andy, interesting I thought an indoor wall would be the best to start but you've got me thinking I live in North Somerset so plenty of rock around here.
Getting in to climbing when a tad overweight is great; you get a double boost from getting stronger and then from shedding some weight. It’s such a good way to train I seem to have returned to it in lockdown...
The more limiting issue might be the state of your tendons especially in your legs. Beware that muscles grow strong far faster than all the other bits they connect to, so if you don’t pace yourself and stretch there could be a world of hurt ahead. Wish I could tell my younger self that...
Plenty of highly rewarding climbs are all about footwork, balance and motion rather than upper body strength. Upper body strength will come when you start using it. Plenty of people are hindered in their climbing by an over reliance on being strong rather than good footwork and balance.
There’s nothing like watching a small child attack a tree, fence, rock or wall to drive home what DerwentDiluted said - this stuff is our genetic birthright, we instinctively know how to do it until a more mundane life drives it out of us. Much like cold water swimming and running, I find the exercise I enjoy the most is what’s in our DNA.
> My hints for losing weight... cut the alcohol... cut the carbs (unless you know you're about to do some exercise) and as Norman Tebbitt would have said "Get on your bike!" Cycling has helped me lose 50lbs in less than a year and I now feel like a new person. When I pick up my bag of climbing gear and realise I used to carry that weight everywhere... all of the time... it's little wonder I'm now climbing several grades harder. It's also done wonders for my mental health as well. Set yourself achievable goals and go for it... you only get one chance at life.
<This> I took up road and mtb cycling quite seriously last year, pounds and pounds have just disappeared. And as a bonus I weigh less too.
I used to climb with a bloke your age, weight and reach (i was a skinny 10.5 stone, but I dont leave go of the rope when people fall off!). We spent a week climbing in Reiff (lovely sea cliffs, NW Scotland).
As others say, give it a try. However, traditionally, big guys are sometimes “slab climbers” (not quite vertical climbs, relying on footwork not to start sliding!!)...and that more often means climbing outside, so ask around, see if someone can take you. Be careful with that shoulder.
(indoor walls dont tend to have many slabs, as customers falling tend to scrape themselves, and blood on the tracks doesnt look great).
please update us...
> Is there any hope of getting on a crag or a bolder before I'm on the wrong side of 50?
> I know the simple answer to the first steps is to lose weight and get stronger but any words of wisdom would be welcome.
I'd say first steps is to do properly easy routes - the scrambles/easy climbs of the Lakes or Snowdonia to get all the fun/thrill of the exposure and using your hands and feet on rock, without having to worry about strength or weight. Only if you want to increase technical difficulty to you have to worry about that, it's by no means obligatory.
I often find myself having more fun on scrambles than stressing out on a hard (for me) route. Whatever floats your boat. Protein shakes, training indoors and hanging off tiny holds on your fingertips is only one aspect of climbing; another aspect is all about red socks and pints of bitter.
You can get on a crag or boulder before the wrong side of Wednesday let alone before you're 50! Find something to scramble around on. Take it steady. Dont do anything you can't easily reverse or escape. Have fun. Report back.
As you live in North Somerset I have a suggestion for you. The Climbing Academy (TCA) is a bouldering centre near Easton in Bristol. (If you don't know, bouldering is generally low level climbing with crash mats). They cater for all levels and you will find plenty of friendly punters willing to share their knowledge. You don't need any rope or climbing skills, just common sense and they even hire rock boots. (If you buy your own, buy comfortable, don't be talked into a pair too small... you just don't need or want that kind of pain at your level of climbing, snug and with no movement is fine).
I’ve heard lots of people say that they were worried about going to an indoor wall for the first time as they didn’t think they’d fit in. But honestly, you’d be surprised at the range of shape, size and age of so many people who are regulars.
And if your local wall is anything like mine you’ll be surprised at how welcoming climbers can be to new people.
Whether I’m cheering an absolute wad who just sent a really hard route, or a beginner who just did their first lead or sent their first V2 the buzz for me is the same as they both did the same thing, they tried super hard and achieved something the really wanted.
Whether you go indoor or out, or scrambles or boulders, be careful and start slowly, but get going enjoy yourself! You belong as there much as any of us.
Indoor walls are great but they are usually steep, or overhanging. Which is great for training but from your OP I'd say you'd benefit more from easy routes / scrambling outside. The steepness of most walls would be an injury risk if you're overweight / under strong with a dicky shoulder
Thanks Andy, food for thought there. I've done some scrambling so not starting from zero.
I'm well established with the red socks and pints of beer. Thanks for the advice Jon.
Brilliant! Thank you. I'll give them a call, get booked in.
I am 65 yo weigh 17.5 stone and climb regularly. Pick your climbs and just enjoy.
Wrong side of 50? Mate you could get out tomorrow if you have the time and the inclination. You don't have to put in hundreds of hours at the gym before you are allowed out (insert risk assessment disclaimer about how just buying some kit and heading off up a cliff is a BAD idea).
North Somerset - here's a couple of suggestions of outdoor venues you can visit by yourself/with a friend, but without oodles of kit and experience, to get some time clambering around on rock.
( Sand Point - head to Hope Cove on a low tide and investigate the area to the right of the beach looking out to sea. NB rock can be sharp, and holds can be friable so don't go high or pull too hard...but you'll get an instant surge of well being from being in a beautiful place getting a feel for 3D movement on rock.
Hound Tor - a bit of a flog, but again you will be able to find bits that aren't high, that are much more solid than Sand Point and where you can clamber about above a nice grassy landing investigating your body in the vertical world. If you are there then Bonehill Rocks is worth a look in too. Again don't go higher than you'd like and make sure you suss out any landings.
Get yourself a guidebook - perhaps a selected Rockfax SW Climbs one? And start firing your imagination. Join a club (Avon Mountaineering was good when I was in) and start getting out there. Oh yeah, you'll benefit from boots too : ) and make sure they are clean before you step off the ground please.
Have fun and well done for acting on your desire to climb. It's a great pastime/obsession, or at least the bits when you aren't scared out of your wits promising you will never do this again!
I'm 5'7 and 11 with a bad cuff/shoulder - I lost about 2 stone over lockdown - walk a long way, eat mostly wholefoods (the book 'How not to die' inspired me). I've never climbed particularly hard or consistently, but I've been enjoying 'easier' grades for many years. I love good scrambles and multi-pitch routes - I like to think of it as being Indiana Jones :-D
My suggestion is to start with is be very wary of overhanging routes in bouldering walls and be careful climbing back down. Work on your balance and footwork, and as someone said to me recently if you use your arms don't rely on your tendons, engage the muscles.
Look after that shoulder, and enjoy :-D
Just do it.
If you know how to tie on and how to belay, great. If not, find someone to teach you these basics, either professionally or as a favour. It isn't difficult, many of our age are self taught. The pros will tell you how difficult it is to maintain their income.
Join your local climbing/mountaineering club and go on some meets. Given your circumstances, you will benefit more from climbing outdoors than going to a wall. It is also much more enjoyable.
Go out and enjoy it.
When reasonably "fighting fit" I'm physically the same as you in terms of size and ability to do pull ups (and only 5 years younger). With practice you should get up to roughly 5c/6a (indoor) or thereabouts without that much difficulty as that's what I can (normally) do. I've known blokes of a similar size do 6b/6b+ but they have good technique and I climb mostly like a thug.
One thing - if you're bouldering find a wall that doesn't set everything with a sit-start. Sit-starts (where you start sat on your backside or squatting to get more climb out of the wall height) are disproportionately hard if you're tall, heavy and long-legged and are a right off-putter to me. It's a bit like doing burpees, which good trainers (and anyone who has ever done any physics) realise are much more difficult if you're 6' 4" and 18 stone than if you're 5' nothing and 10 stone.
> Thanks Andy, interesting I thought an indoor wall would be the best to start but you've got me thinking I live in North Somerset so plenty of rock around here.
Trouble with indoor walls is they are mainly vertical or close to. I agree that doing some easy stuff outdoors might be a better intro and you wouldn’t spend your time seeing everyone around you looking, to your eye, skinny and honed and able to do the apparently impossible. Depending on your character and outlook, that could be really off-putting. Perhaps some nice person local to you could help. It could be the start of the rest of your life.
Climbing can be enjoyed at all levels and for a lot of different reasons. It doesn't have to be all about grades or pushing your limits. It's entirely possible to enjoy simply being outdoors in fantastic locations with good friends, enjoying your surroundings and solving problems of route-finding and unlocking moves. When I look back on nearly 50 years of climbing it's the people and places which I remember far more than individual climbs. Measured in terms of grades its not been very impressive, I've never led anything harder than VS, but that hasn't stopped me enjoying it, and my approach has enabled me to continue when more goal-driven mates have droppped out.
Just give it a try. You may find, like me, that you're content to climb within your physical and mental limits, or you may discover you relish the challenge and are willing to put in the effort to get stronger. I agree with the advice to stay away from indoor walls at the beginning. They are mostly steep or overhanging and you need to be strong or have good technique. I think you are likely to find climbing outdoors is far more rewarding, especially with your predilection for hills and mountains, and if you do want to make progress then you can use walls to train on, knowing then what you want to achieve. A local club can often be a good way in, and should give you the opportunity to meet climbing partners with a similar attitude to your own.
I think with regard to indoor grades 6a is where to aim for, as indoor walls have huge numbers of routes in the high 5s and 6a. It'll feel impossible to start with but it won't take you long. Then if you want to get "good" beyond that that's up to you.
To start with most walls have enough slabby stuff on the roped walls (as selling taster sessions to kids on those walls is what makes a lot of their money). It's bouldering that tends to be harder.
> I think with regard to indoor grades 6a is where to aim for, as indoor walls have huge numbers of routes in the high 5s and 6a. It'll feel impossible to start with but it won't take you long.
Not long for some, perhaps. If they're overweight, unfit and lacking upper body strength then a beginner will simply find steep 6as off-putting. They put me off, and I'm a committed climber (I just don't like training). The slabby stuff tends to be fairly limited - OK to learn to belay and to get started, but there's usually not enough to sustain interest for long.
The OP needs an introduction to climbing which will give him the confidence that it is something he is able to do, and that will satisfy his itch to climb. In my view he will find far more opportunties for this outdoors. If he then gets the bug and wants to climb harder, and is prepared to make the effort to get stronger, then certainly an indoor wall is a good place to do this. But for someone with the OP's age and fitness profile, whose urge to climb appears to be linked to his predilection for hills and mountains, I don't think they're a good place to start, unless of course there is no alternative.
My point was that it is entirely possible to enjoy climbing even if you can't get up 6as.
> My point was that it is entirely possible to enjoy climbing even if you can't get up 6as.
Yes, true - and decent walls have plenty in the 5s as well.
> I know the simple answer to the first steps is to lose weight and get stronger but any words of wisdom would be welcome.
You can do it tomorrow if you want, no need to do anything first. Just start very easy, if you enjoy it you'll work at it and improve.
Of course there is every chance... The best place to start anything is at the beginning
1) There are plenty of easy grade mountain climbs where you are keeping weight on feet 99% and using hands for balance. Hardcore climbers will debate the difference between scrambling and climbing but there is plenty of scope for having a ******* great day out in a great settings and feeling the exposure of height. On routes I'm sure you would consider rock climbing too. It may not be the ultimate grade climbing but it is an immediate start and an enjoyable one too
2) You can get fitter and improve, both your climbing and your physique
3) I reckon Don Whillans weighed at least 18 stone when he did this and a few years older than you youtube.com/watch?v=-m_P_RzrQu4& he was still climbing! (he's seconding up an E1 5c) --> so never say never. Stop looking for reasons why you can't do it, because you can
I'm 41. 6ft3. For the last 4 years or so, I've averaged about 116kg (18st6). I can lead Sev/HS, sport 5's, second HVS/E1 & do some caving. It's definitely possible to climb when you're heavy.
I have to be careful choosing partners for belaying. Either big people, very experienced or use ground bags at the wall. I also use a big wall harness (Petzl Calidris) because it doesn't dig into my thighs too much and stiff shoes to help with small foot holds (Anasazi Guide / La Sportiva TC Pros).
Anyway, I'm fed up with being heavy so started doing Couch-5k at the start of March. Embarrassingly knackered running 8 x 1min jogs, with a walking rest in between. 8 weeks later, I now weigh 110kg and can run 5k in 33min without stopping. I'd advise that to anyone that not carrying an injury. It's slightly hard on day 1, and doesn't get much harder if you stick with it and take the rest days. It's already made a huge difference to my fitness walking up hills. It's like a triple win - stronger leg muscles & tendons, better cardio & I just weigh less.
Just go for it on the climbing, you'll never look back.
Hi and welcome. I'm 6ft 4 and was17 1/2 stone when I came back to walking/climbing 5 years ago aged 54 years young. I lost 2 1/2 stone and jogged the Dartmoor Marathon in 2019. You can do it. As you say the desire is there. Most difficult thing I have found is finding a regular climbing partner and staying climb fit through lock down. If your able to get down to North Dartmoor then there are plenty of places to learn the basics in relative safety. Hound tor or Leigh tor in particular. I don't think there is actually that much at Bone hill rocks for the tall beginner, but it's a great place to enjoy the company of like minded folk. The local climbing community is so friendly and accepting people of all ages sizes and abilities.
I for one would be delighted to join you, if you can get down that way.
I've only ever been a below average climber but really enjoyed it. The times I didn't enjoy it was when I took it and myself too seriously. I once climbed with a VERY good well known climber right at the top of the game. He said that low grade climbers have more fun because wherever you go there of plenty of good routes within your comfort level and also plenty to stretch yourself on.
I too ate all the pies, have dodgy joints and very little technique. Doesn't matter. I still enjoy it when I get out on the crag. My tip would be (and I expect a good number of disagreements) find a local club and/or experienced partner and spend time on rock, at least initially. Indoor walls are great but inevitably focus on the technique and athleticism and can be intimidating for newbies. And the view from the top isn't as good.
Where are you based?
I'm in London and family illness means I can't get out in immeduate future , but when longarmedmonkey gives his location, someone take him out climbing please!
This UKC article might be interesting/inspiring.
"An interview with a Fat, Old Climber"
Short answer is it doesn't matter what physical state you are in, go have fun
my wife has been climbing for over twenty-five years and still can't do a pull-up.
You may not be up for soloing El Cap but there is plenty of interesting stuff out there to climb that doesn't require an Avengers physic
> My tip would be (and I expect a good number of disagreements) find a local club and/or experienced partner and spend time on rock, at least initially.
While I agree that joining a club is a good idea, you may need some recommendations. Some clubs are much more encouraging to all and sundry than some others. Also, you need to realise that clubs are not climbing schools and you may be expected to have some, albeit very limited, experience before a club will accept you. This is partly for reasons of liability. If you can afford it and are sufficiently mobile, it would be a great start to book a day or a weekend with a guide/instructor in North Wales and you might have your first climbing experience somewhere like this.
There are some quite inspiring pictures on that page.
Great video as a 65 yo and 17. 5 stone climber it just shows that if we put our minds to things we can still go out and enjoy.👍👍
My weight has always varied between 17 - 19 stone, it’s never stopped me, I’ve done tons of shit.
Just start and get out there it’s not that difficult to work out.
If you end up in the Peak / Lancs at lose end get in touch for a chubby day out
Do it mate,
Like other comments here, go to the Bristol Bouldering gyms for a taste, feel your Monkey Genetics come flooding back, talk with folks most are cool and helpful, then if you feel like you want to climb on rock/with rope I would suggest getting a taster session at an indoor Gym, then an indoor lead course.
This will get you familiar with the basic gear so outside won't feel as intimadating when you first start to venture out.
Climb to put a smile on your face, not to impress others, you'll naturally progress through the grades so try to climb well at grades below your max, for example I would rather climb a 6b and make it look like im climbing a 5b, than Climb a 7A badly, this way it won't feel desperate and you'll enjoy the flow much more.
I am 48 by the way and have only climbed for around 4 years, it is far from being to late for you, if you are concerned about your size, don't be just bouldering a couple of times a week will shift loads, and to be honest your current padding can also be looking on as a training aid as the extra weight is only the same as the skinny guys using weight vests.
Good luck mate
Although I have nothing against TCA in Bristol, I find Redpoint to be a much friendlier place, and due to its size, it has boulder and roped areas for all abilities. Its probably easier to get to if your coming from North Somerset.
I would also highly recommend Avon Mountaineering Club, as a place to meet and learn from friendly people who climb in the local areas at all grades, so ability is not important, although it does help if you can learn to belay first.
> Just go for it on the climbing, you'll never look back.
Also as you get into it, climbing becomes its own motivation for your body/fitness generally, and you will enjoy doing it.
Yeah....go climbing. Doesn't matter on age or weight. Grade you climb doesn't matter its all relative. The best climber in the world is the one who is having the most fun....Read it in a book😂. So if you're a v diff climber having fun you're a good climber.