Bouldering and older climbers


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Topic Author's Original Post - Oct 28, 2013 - 09:07am PT
I was curious how many older climbers still boulder, there seems to be some anecdotal evidence that we shouldn't past a certain age, I suppose the whole brittle bones thing but the crash pads being used today seem to work, provided of course you hit them. I'm 67 been at it thirty years and was never a boulderer, but we have an area that's just so appealing that I'm sorely tempted to buy a pad, it just looks like fun. So I would like the opinion of the older climbers.

Trad climber
Poughkeepsie, NY
Oct 28, 2013 - 09:32am PT
Everyone's body is different, and everyone pushes themselves in different ways and to different degrees, so there really can't be universal rules.

I did some bouldering, easier and easier and lower and lower, until I was 68, two years ago. I landed off-balance on a pad after a low jump which I thought was controlled, destroyed an ACL and tore a meniscus. I actually think the pad caused the injury, because my ankle rolled on the foam displacing my knee inward on impact.

The recovery process from surgery has been steady but slow. You don't heal as fast or as well when you are older, and I'm not willing to go through that again if I can help it, so I'm retired from bouldering at this point.

It's fair to say that the injury could have happened to someone at any age, and indeed I know at least two climbers who are much younger than me who have torn an ACL in a very similar way. But what is different is the healing process when you are older, and it is the specter of going through a long recovery again that now keeps me off the pebbles.
Alan Rubin

Oct 28, 2013 - 10:21am PT
Go to Fontainbleau most climbable days days, especially weekends, and you are likely to run into a good number of folks in their 70s and beyond climbing elegantly up problems (usually sans pads) that most of us can't even get off the ground on.Both humbling and inspiring.

Social climber
Moorpark, CA.
Oct 28, 2013 - 11:25am PT
I still crush.......

Sort of.

I still climb Hi-Ball problems at Stoney, but I don't think its really Bouldering... none of the stuff even gets to the "V" scale, more like 5.9 ish stuff.

I treat it like free soloing.... NO FALLs at all.

But a NEW place has been found and for the first time in years I am looking forward to going on trips with just the pad.

Credit: guyman

Big Wall climber
Crestline CA
Oct 28, 2013 - 11:38am PT
Certainly the most "dangerous" of rock climbing activities. I have seen a ton of friends get very nasty injuries from bouldering... and they are the young ones. Most older folks have wised up and figured out that the rewards don't justify the risks.

Mountain climber
Oct 28, 2013 - 11:46am PT
No sure how you are defining "older"..I'm 47 and when I go to the bouldering gym I am by far the oldest guy there.

With all my climbing - bouldering has been the only time that I have been injured; fractured heel, dislocated ankle, fractured heel/broken foot, permanently damaged finger.

Injuries do take a lot longer to heal now so I "play it safe" by only climbing stuff with flat landings, not too crimpy and rarely ever top out as the falls most times would be too much for me to absorb the impact (knees).

Oct 28, 2013 - 11:52am PT
Well I'm only in my mid-forties so can't really give personal account, but I have been bouldering for 25 years and don't feel any worse for the wear.

Bouldering doesn't necessarily mean that you have to push it to the limit, nor is falling a requirement. There are many many easy boulder problems, and downclimbing is always an option.

That said, I used to run into and boulder with the late Bob Kamps all the time. He bouldered well into his seventies, and I don't recall him ever sporting a crashpad.


Trad climber
AKA Dwain, from Apple Valley, Ca. and Vegas!
Oct 28, 2013 - 12:17pm PT
I haven't bouldered since 2000 when I broke my back on a highball boulder problem in Apple Valley.

Social climber
Moorpark, CA.
Oct 28, 2013 - 01:14pm PT
I used to run into and boulder with the late Bob Kamps all the time. He bouldered well into his seventies, and I don't recall him ever sporting a crashpad.

Bob... was the inventor of the "RUG", the prototype Crash Pad.


Trad climber
Oct 28, 2013 - 01:25pm PT
I think some of you are mistaking soloing for bouldering.

beneath the valley of ultravegans
Oct 28, 2013 - 01:29pm PT
Age doesn't slow down the French...
'Balance' at Bas Cuvier.
'Balance' at Bas Cuvier.
Credit: marty(r)

A long way from where I started
Oct 28, 2013 - 01:34pm PT
Elderhood has not made me give up bouldering...

...but that's only because I never bouldered in the first place.

Trad climber
Nothing creative to say
Oct 28, 2013 - 01:59pm PT
Ruthlessly wire everything so that you don't ever fall. No problem.

I don't think I would stop when I'm older, but pushing hard problems where I know I may repeatedly fall is what to watch out for.

Crash pad is a worthy investment for various reasons, not least of which is absorbing shock from landing.

Downclimbing skills used to be mandatory for climbers.

Gold Canyon, AZ
Oct 28, 2013 - 02:11pm PT
I'm in my mid-late 50's and still boulder, but like others I have dialed the difficulty down quite a bit. I used to work on V9/10 problems and warm up on V5/6. Now, I work on V5/6 problems and warm up on much easier stuff. I have no reason to believe this trend won't continue--and eventually, I'll be bouldering 10s again, but they'll be 5.10s instead of V10s.


beyond the sun
Oct 28, 2013 - 02:13pm PT
I'm 45. I started climbing again a year ago after a 10 year layoff.

Before I quit I was huge into bouldering.

These days however, I have a hip that is pretty arthritic and will probably need replacing at some point. I am trying to get as much milage out of it as I can.

I split my time about equally between the gym and outdoors. In the gym, I only boulder. I can't be bothered to tie in there, plus I like bouldering to build finger power. The many extremely cushy pads in the gym allow me to mostly go for it without worry.

However, outside I don't boulder at all, because landing wrong (or even right, but on only one pad) could badly exacerbate my hip problem.

I'd only consider bouldering outdoors if I was with a group of people where we had a nice pile of pads, a lot of spotters, and a fairly predictable landing.


Boulder climber
Oct 28, 2013 - 03:18pm PT
I'd only consider bouldering outdoors if I was with a group of people where we had a nice pile of pads, a lot of spotters, and a fairly predictable landing

Or use the old-fashioned, unpopular approach and don a top-rope.

Gold Canyon, AZ
Oct 28, 2013 - 03:46pm PT
^^^^ Yes. It's amazing how much easier it is to carry 50 feet of rope and a couple of carabiners compared to several large bouldering pads.


Trad climber
Fresno CA
Oct 28, 2013 - 03:48pm PT
I'm only 62, but I still boulder outdoors, but like everyone else, I've had to dial it down a lot. Although I still don't own a crash pad, I really don't think that's the real reason for my increased caution.

Jgill has been my bouldering hero and inspiration ever since I read his article in Summit about 45 years ago, and when he said that he had to stop bouldering, it gave me pause.

I got even more pause when I ruptured my Achilles tendon on a fall of about 8 feet in the gym, with pads, a couple of years ago. While I healed very quickly (according to the physical therapists, much more quickly than patients half my age), that accident caused me to give up on highball problems without a top rope.

Bouldering was my first love, and the main reason I got into climbing in the first place, but love cannot substitute for judgment.


Trad climber
Oct 28, 2013 - 04:22pm PT
Traverses - Kamps bouldered hard till the day he died. He was a master of hard traverses & low mantles. Which allowed him to stay powerful on climbs.
McHale's Navy

Trad climber
From Panorama City, CA
Oct 28, 2013 - 04:49pm PT
I think my bones are still pretty tough but I learned the hard way about the beginnings of sport climbs. I'm 61 and managed to break my ankle badly on a route in the Alabama Hills last week called UNKOWN (rated 10b). Any of you KNOW of it? It's a very intriguing looking climb to me but I approached it badly, sloppily, impulsively, and it bit me badly, being above that big slab and all. I totally spaced out on getting the second clip like I was bouldering or something. It was truly 'somekind' of senior moment. I even had a plan to make sure I got the second clip before doing anything else but totally forgot about it. Unkown maybe, but it won't be forgotten!!!!!

Anyway, I still boulder and certainly builder, or did,.......... :>)
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