Can you rest on your laurels?


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Sierra Ledge Rat

Mountain climber
Old and Broken Down in Appalachia
Topic Author's Original Post - Dec 2, 2018 - 02:44am PT
Getting old has me thinking....

When I was young, I used to believe that my memories of youthful adventures would comfort me in my old age. Especially my exploits in the Valley, and climbing El Cap. The climber's life!


Now that I am here in my golden years, I am NOT finding any comfort in my memories of youth. In fact, my memories are having the opposite effect. I'm getting pissed off.

I used to run trail ultras, carry 100-pound backpacks, and ski off the summits of peaks. Now I can't even negotiate a flight of stairs. I am not f*#king happy.

Are your memories of youth & climbing helping you to cope with degenerating joints and advancing age?
mouse from merced

Trad climber
The finger of fate, my friends, is fickle.
Dec 2, 2018 - 04:01am PT
Deep subject, Doc.

Sometimes such memories exacerbate my cool, too.

I try not to mope or dwell too long and to seek the brighter side of life.*

I'm still here while many others ain't.

Small comfort, but it's all I got.

* Watch "Life of Brian" for details

[Click to View YouTube Video]Wish I had given up smoking or never started in the first place.

So, having said that, I don't have a real "right" to feel pissed off except at myself.

Dec 2, 2018 - 04:17am PT
You have to have laurels in the first place in order to rest on them. Plenty of folks get to your position without having done much more than slave away at dead end jobs forever. Hopefully that's some solace.

The state of quantum flux
Dec 2, 2018 - 04:37am PT
Time the Gift or Curse

When I was young
and carelessly bold
I rarely reflected
on the pain and cold

But as years went by
I mused somewhat
with a beer in hand
and stew in the pot

How the injuries felt
they took longer to heal
I’d contemplate this
while I ate my meal

Thought there’d be more days
‘for the next conquest
achieved but a tenth
what I’d planned at best

The days grew short
as well my spine
So I read more books
while remaining supine

‘Till one day I
could barely get up
to tie my shoe
or to eat my sup

So now I am lucky
though no longer a pup
and delegate labor
when my body gives up

I count the hours
the minutes the days
they’re all I’ve got left
in so many ways

As life goes by
as well goes our youth
our friends and our pets
we get long in the tooth

As the years do pass
‘twould be well to do
accept there’ll be loss
with your victories too


Trad climber
Dec 2, 2018 - 04:51am PT

[Click to View YouTube Video]

Changed my life!

Don Paul

Social climber
Washington DC
Dec 2, 2018 - 05:04am PT
+1 for paragliding. You can still fall hundreds of feet and die, but don't need much athletic ability. I've only been a passenger but plan to get into it when I don't have to live in an East Coast city and have more time and money. Looks like the best places to learn are Utah or the Karakoram (Adventure Travel Pakistan).

The one thing I never lose is my balance. Maybe take up slacklining one day, it doesn't look that hard.

Ice climber
Dec 2, 2018 - 07:05am PT
Torry Pines GliderPort

Looked, but I never have touched

Flip Flop

Earth Planet, Universe
Dec 2, 2018 - 07:22am PT
Could be the dickish attitude is causing your body to reject your brain. Spend more time thinking how to kill a man...maybe that will make you happy. Ass

4 Corners Area
Dec 2, 2018 - 07:22am PT
It took a while to admit it to myself, but there is no denying that my hardest routes are behind me.
In the last 10 years I have expanded my outdoor repertoire to include more hiking/backpacking, peak bagging, mountain biking, and river running. I have especially taken a liking to mountain biking.
Right now I am waiting to have my knee repaired, so hiking is out, but I can still ride without pain.
I'm planning a river trip for March, that's not too hard on the joints either. Hopefully, I'll be back to bagging some more peaks in the San Juans next summer.
I realize now just how much pressure I put on myself to climb harder and harder routes. I pushed myself on the rocks for 25 years or so. Now, I just want to continue knocking off classic moderates as long as I can. It is nice getting into new sports where I'm still on the steep part of the learning curve. I know I'm a noob, so there is no great pressure for incredible performance. Just having fun and staying healthy . . .

Social climber
portland, oregon
Dec 2, 2018 - 07:34am PT
I could never climb as much as I wanted to due to physical limitations and this often times sent me into a deep and dark depression---I thought climbing made me who I was. Many years later, and after several close calls while solo free climbing, and many come backs, I came to understand climbing as just an extension of who I am, not who I am. I also wasn't as humble as I had believed myself to be---I had this epiphany after an instant karma experience.

I heard a statistic that less than 1% of climbers solo free climb. I don't mention this to boost my ego; rather, as a point of how lucky I am to have survived my bone headed self. So many have died while still in their prime, while fate let me live another day.

Fate has also allowed me to live long enough to realize that I am not the horrible person I thought I was. The horrible me had been way overblown in my mind; just as my identifying with climbing had been.

For the most part I don't lament not being able to do what I can no longer do. I do feel fortunate for having been able to do what I did. So many never get the opportunity to choose, or live through, the intoxicating joy of the extreme.

To me climbing is completely meaningless. But I believe the psyche, to be healthy, has the instinctual need to struggle, to roll the stone uphill. For eons we have struggled to survive. Going to the supermarket doesn't quench that psychological need for challenge. Although some days it seems like it is. Har har.

I still enjoy some of the climbing community, the camaraderie. I met a beautiful being by just being available to give them a belay. It chokes me up just thinking how meeting this person over a few days helped me feel a richness to life again.

There are still challenges out their for you my friend. One could be just challenging you own beliefs. Another one might be to not challenge yourself for a day....Best wishes.

Bad Climber

Trad climber
The Lawless Border Regions
Dec 2, 2018 - 07:37am PT
Wow, Flip, you seem to beautifully represent the attitude you purport to despise. Well done.

Re. the OP: Yeah, better to have some laurels than none at all. I've had so many climbing-limiting injuries over the years that my laurels aren't too fancy, but I've done a few worthy ascents, but I've gotten pretty good at appreciating whatever I can do--biking, hiking, etc. Right now, I'm dealing with ANOTHER finger injury that will keep me off climbing for a good stack of weeks, probably a couple of months. Gah. But yesterday, I hiked in the shadow of the Mt. Humphreys with my wife and our happy crazy cattle pup. I'm working on another bike tour through the desert. We need to be more flexible in our satisfactions because they can too easily be taken away from us. And Ledge Rat, you really can't climb stairs? Whoa. That's a tough one. You have my sympathies. Books and ranting on Supertopo are still fun!


Social climber
Dec 2, 2018 - 07:41am PT
hey there say, Sierra Ledge Rat...

not sure if this will help, but, it is true...

i have seen it 'in action' ... though not many choose to do it:

you first, but realize, that all that you HAVE done, is part of you...
and be very thankful for the things you have already enjoyed, but:

then, realize, that the whole world 'runs on cycle's and seasons...
even, animals in nature...

cared and nurtured...
young and into life...
and old age to death...

the trick is to LEARN/TEACH YOURSELF to LOVE who you are...
and to love yourself, as a NEW person...

yes, all that you have done, is still you...
but-- there is a LOT MORE to you, than you know...

it is not all about 'having old joints now and injuries'...
keeping you from past pursuits...

it is about-- maturity and 'fine wine' (example) ...
fruitful youth was a gift to us (some used wrongly, others did not, and
some never had good choices) ...

now-- in maturity can be your best years-- WHY REST ON LAURELS:
when you can grow 'the rest of you' and-- forge new trails?

ask yourself, and look at yourself and make decisions...
what are thing you never tried before that can open
the 'you that was dorment' or, the 'you that was just SEEDS that WILL

look at all you know... you have so much to offer... find out
what and how... become:

THE REST OF YOU!!! don't let it never have known, the unknown...


*may sound goofy, but, folks that have life-changing injuries, have to,
(if they want to) do these thing, even in their youth, before they
have even become the 'fine wine' time of maturity...

some, little kids, even have to CHANGE trail completely--
and make they NEW self, into a future, while STILL BEING-- the same self
that they were born-to-be and are...

we are multi faceted... and, amazing creatures, if we let ourselfs
'let go' and 'latch on' (like vines) to the 'rest of our life'...

even us mom's that raised kids, go through this...
maybe dads, not as much... but, we, who carried the baby, and
were 'one with it' -- had to let go to 'phase of ourself' and:

go one to the next phase, and not rest on the laurels, or-- we'd
never know our 'next potentials'-- after the kids were adults...

it should not be about old age and wasting away...
it should be about -- how to 'til THIS 'last season' of our life...

what will we NOW grow?
with the tools that we have...

will we 'till alone' or, with friends or family...
each one of learn and decide-- and then, DO...

Mountain climber
The Other Monrovia- CA
Dec 2, 2018 - 09:29am PT
SLR, feeling you! Pretty sure those monstrous packs were not indicated. My primary
benefit of reminiscing is that I made some good survival decisions and I was lucky.

Trad climber
Dec 2, 2018 - 10:00am PT
I live in the past.

I like the life I chose for me.

My body is broken in many places. And its frustrating. The last ten years have been nothing but pain.

But I chose my path & I'm proud of it.

The only thing I would have done differently was not retire from racing at 26, I should have kept racing. I would not be walking to day if I had, but looking back I was faster then ever when I quit.

Dec 2, 2018 - 10:07am PT
Sierra Ledge Rat observed and asked:
"Getting old has me thinking....

When I was young, I used to believe that my memories of youthful adventures would comfort me in my old age. Especially my exploits in the Valley, and climbing El Cap. The climber's life!


Now that I am here in my golden years, I am NOT finding any comfort in my memories of youth. In fact, my memories are having the opposite effect. I'm getting pissed off.

I used to run trail ultras, carry 100-pound backpacks, and ski off the summits of peaks. Now I can't even negotiate a flight of stairs. I am not f*#king happy.

Are your memories of youth & climbing helping you to cope with degenerating joints and advancing age? "

No. When I look over at my 97 year old mom, and then at my knee, I have no solace nowhere:-) But I live in the richest country in the world at an amazing time...have no complaints. I will note that I always loved just getting out in the middle of nowhere, last 2 times I tried that I didn't get very far due to creeky knee issues, and that's a tad frustrating. Guess I'll have to like car camping a bit more?

Flip Flop noted:
"Could be the dickish attitude is causing your body to reject your brain. Spend more time thinking how to kill a man...maybe that will make you happy. Ass "

Lighten up Brook. The man is a Doctor. I'll bet you have no idea how many lives he's saved or how many folks he's helped.

Dec 2, 2018 - 10:23am PT
I think the most important pressure on our human psyche is finding some way to approve of ourselves and to motivate ourselves to be the one who survives in this survival of the fittest environment.

So if we need to create some attractive fiction that helps us believe how much superior we are to all those other mortals - go for it, doing that is our birthright. If that involves remembering how awesome we were in our youth, ok, that seems innocuous enough. I definitely prefer that to the way many other people do it.

For me personally, nah, not really. I just honestly am that awesome, so I don’t have to fake anything! I’ll bet the same is true of you.

Trad climber
Sierra Vista
Dec 2, 2018 - 10:25am PT
I think you're being too hard on yourself. I think it's a matter of perspective.

As a young man, in the 70s, I was rock climbing at what was a 'high' standard. While a mile behind the curve now (I'm nearly 63) I'm climbing as well if not better than then......... That's because of gyms, equipment and knowledge, and despite dodgy knees, operations on elbows and other random illnesses and injuries..

But even if I wasn't I would consider any level of activity in this game meaningful. I'm lucky to be able to challenge myself at all, never mind 'try hard'.

I do spend a lot of time reflecting on my past adventures and enjoy doing so. it motivates me to have more fun! I know from your posts you've done a ton of stuff climbing and flying. Enjoy the reminiscences and enjoy what you can do now, what you do now is a memory for tomorrow.- It's all worthwhile.

Give yourself a break. ;-)



Social climber
portland, oregon
Dec 2, 2018 - 10:31am PT
QuotAre your memories of youth & climbing helping you to cope with degenerating joints and advancing age? e Here

My answer is no to the above. My memories of coming back from sooo many low back and neck problems is helping me cope with my arthritic knees. Having felt like I was put through the wringer so many times may have twisted my sense of humor---I laugh at my own frailty. The joke is on me and I'm OK with it.

It sounds to me, and I don't want to sound presumptuous, like you got to soar really high, for the most part, without setbacks? If this is the case than you may be coming from, understandably, a much more difficult position than me. I have had years of groveling experience under my belt; so for me it's nothing new.

I'm assuming you haven't given up yet or you would not have posted this. I'm not being trite when I say, you are not alone my friend.
August West

Trad climber
Where the wind blows strange
Dec 2, 2018 - 11:00am PT
Are your memories of youth & climbing helping you to cope with degenerating joints and advancing age?

Well I figure without the memories, it would be worse.

When I was younger and still climbing, I would talk to myself and say that when I was old and retired I couldn't imagine I was going to regret climbing. I couldn't imagine that I would lay around wishing I had spent more time on the couch watching football.

And that is true.

I'm trying to do things like get out and see live music,as opposed to spending all the time on the couch while I still can.

Trad climber
South Pasadena, CA
Dec 2, 2018 - 11:38am PT
“Happiness is making a bouquet from flowers you can reach.”

I saw a version of that quote etched into concrete somewhere when I was in college, and it’s stuck with me after 27 more years.

The crux of the problem I think is not what you can or can’t do, but of adjusting your identity and sense of self to comport with your present reality. I had one semi-big crisis of that in my life, where I strongly identified myself as a smart high achiever, and in the midst of a few simultaneous life challenges I had to let that go a bit. Needing that identity was an obstacle to other choices I consciously wanted to make to deal with my circumstances. I felt anchorless, rudderless, but it was a necessary step to make progress in my life and embrace more possibilities and happiness. A good analogy might be like in an OW climb, where you are plugged in securely, but you have to let go of that to make upward progress.
Jim Clipper

Dec 2, 2018 - 12:07pm PT
There may not be much value in worrying about being someone you're not, unless it somehow makes you better.

Someone said something about Europeans who try to be the best they can at being their age. Cultural views on aging, as well as the value of the aged varies.

Insert your own trite statement here. Finally, the bar seems to be set pretty high on the taco. Who you consider a peer, or want consider a peer, may be very different than if you examination the American population in general.

get out there...

Sierra Ledge Rat

Mountain climber
Old and Broken Down in Appalachia
Topic Author's Reply - Dec 2, 2018 - 12:07pm PT
Wow, al lot of great stuff here. Good advice. Thanks everyone. Means more coming from climbers.

Pretty sure those monstrous packs were not indicated.

Carrying skis, boots, a comfy bed, and 2 weeks of food up to the Palisade Glacier every spring was most definitely indicated! :)

I think the most important pressure on our human psyche is finding some way to approve of ourselves... So if we need to create some attractive fiction that helps us believe how much superior we are to all those other mortals...
I won't lie and say that I never felt that way. When I was 18 years old, climbing was all about proving my self worth. I got into free soloing very young, but that taught me very quickly that I was climbing for the wrong reasons. You can't lie to yourself when you're 1,000 feet up, alone and gripped, and asking yourself "Is this what I really want?" However, I loved climbing so I listened to my inner self and changed my ways. I still went free-soloing, but I dialed it down, enjoyed the adventures, and never felt bad about backing down. It took another decade or two, after a failed marriage and personal and professional setbacks, to fully realize that you have to depend on an inner sense of self worth, and not external approval from others.

I never got into speed climbing because I enjoyed climbing so much that I liked to slow down and savour the experience. On all of my trips I always scheduled a "rest day" every 4th day, just to sit around and watch the mountains erode around me. I loved it so much...

The crux of the problem I think is not what you can or can’t do, but of adjusting your identity and sense of self to comport with your present reality.

Yes, that is the crux. I'm still looking for beta to figure out the sequence of moves to reach the next belay station.
ron gomez

Trad climber
Dec 2, 2018 - 12:28pm PT
I’m happy....had my day in the sun in my youth, have had and still maintain close relationships with my friends, relatively active for my age (60) and still have things I want to do. Have my health, but wish I was fitter. I’ve had a great career, still work in helping people....most proud of my marriage 38 years and our family, that’s what I’ll rest my laurels on. I guess I don’t look back on my past accomplishments too much to use those as a measuring stick.

Trad climber
Monrovia, California
Dec 2, 2018 - 12:37pm PT
These are the first few lines from a chapter of a book I'm working on. It's word for word...

“Do you want to climb again?”

“Yes of course, without a doubt.”

The doctor looked up at me from her notes. “You know, you might be able to climb, or you might not, or you might not climb well enough to satisfy yourself. It’s impossible to say. But it will be a shame if you paint yourself into a corner where, if you can’t climb, you let it ruin your life.”

I'm very happy with my memories. In fact I cherish them, they're what I'm made of. They aren't all good, I've done a lot of things I regret. One of the big one's is not keeping a climbing diary. I'd have a lot more memories if I had.

Big Wall climber
Dec 2, 2018 - 12:46pm PT
Get new goals. Lack of sense of purpose and direction is a major downer. Volunteer somewhare (whereever your physical capabilities allow). Hell, just go help a neighbor with company or menial tasks. It will be vastly more rewarding that sitting on your ass pining for the fjords.

Sport climber
Dec 2, 2018 - 01:08pm PT

Albert Alvarez (A or Al Alvarez) is known mainly as a poetry critic, anthologist and novelist, but none of this would be apparent from this recent journal, which deals with his daily routine of swimming in the Hampstead and Highgate ponds. We learn a good deal about the vagaries of English weather, the various waterfowl that visit or are resident on the ponds and the fact that our author is an ardent poker player, but literary talk is kept to a minimum. The prose is disarmingly simple, largely restricted to facts about wildlife, the changing seasons and their effect on the writer. Hence on Saturday 10 May, 2008, after recuperating from a stroke: `A beautiful summer day - almost a week of them in fact - but better than summer because it's the beginning of May and everything is suddenly in bloom. The mayflowers are heavy with blossom and the chestnuts with candles, Queen Anne's lace is waist high, the great copper beech shines and shimmers with light, the air smells sweet and the whole world is green and young and fresh.'

The ponds, especially in winter, are frequently seen as a Paradise, and the daily swim, which becomes increasingly difficult for the geriatric Alvarez, is essential to his bodily and spiritual well-being. But this is a story not only about the delights of moving in water, but about the process of growing old, of facing up to failing powers and the author's ultimate demise.. With his eye open and his senses alert, Alvarez has described the water, the air and the natural world supported by these elements with precision and accuracy. Nature, especially water, has kept Alvarez literally and spiritually afloat in a world that is beautiful but sad - at least to we humans. As he struggles to swim a few yards, flanked by two faithful lifeguards who will help him to dress and hobble to his car, Alvarez begins to lose interest in reviewing, finds life literally a pain (he has been a cripple for years, after suffering from a mountaineering accident) and has to admit, `the truth is I really am falling apart depressingly fast.'

The reader, however, comes to admire the author's scrupulous honesty in recording this gradual process of decline and his heroic determination to carry on. We understand his anguish and anger - as when he is refused renewal of a disabled sticker because he can still walk. The getting into a car before a swim and doing up buttons after it become huge challenges. Thankfully the author still has a devoted wife, loyal friends, and, one trusts, many readers rooting for him.

[Click to View YouTube Video]

And yes, helping people often helps...

Trad climber
The state of confusion
Dec 2, 2018 - 01:11pm PT
Ron's got it right!
Rick A

Boulder, Colorado
Dec 2, 2018 - 01:25pm PT
Wonderful poem TIm!
norm larson

wilson, wyoming
Dec 2, 2018 - 02:22pm PT
Laurels as a climber? No. But my experiences and memories of some of my best days in the hills keep me proud of who I am and what all my partners and I accomplished or at least survived. Day to day we have to continue to build on who we want to be. Of course thats going to change with age. Look back, shake your head, and smile. Now look ahead, shake your head, and smile.

Mountain climber
Terence Wilson greeneck alleghenys,ny,
Dec 2, 2018 - 02:27pm PT
I have to say Harry ,this is surely a topic of interest here.

Not immune to it either,at 59 , I am feeling it as well. I like what has been said here. Some interesting perspective.

We all need that.

Pulling finger cracks,class 5 rapids,long slogs and epic ascents,Mtb crashes,whippers,swims in places you should not be,triggering large sloughs,rappelling that scared the phuck out of me,ice ...climbing,man , It was all worth it

45 years of Hockey,40 years of Carpentry,if I stop any of it , I will hurt,bad.

Have to keep going.My larurels don’t mean much to me ,but ,the memories of friends and places certainly are not going to kill me.

Mountain climber
Terence Wilson greeneck alleghenys,ny,
Dec 2, 2018 - 02:38pm PT
Norm Larson,your last two sentences are pure gold ,man.

Edit,This group ,right here,would make a hell of a happy hour.Laurels or not.

Dec 2, 2018 - 03:57pm PT
You should rest on who you actually are in your present state and NOT on who you were or thought/think you were/are ......

Mountain climber
Terence Wilson greeneck alleghenys,ny,
Dec 2, 2018 - 04:00pm PT
Yes, but I still have to shake my head,lol.

4 Corners Area
Dec 2, 2018 - 04:01pm PT
You should rest on who you are in your present state and NOT on who you were or thought you were ......

Perhaps the best WBraun quote I've heard yet . . .

Dude, you're like the next Yogi Berra

Trad climber
Wolfeboro, NH
Dec 2, 2018 - 05:18pm PT
Hey Norm,

I like those last 2 sentences of yours too.

I still remember that Elk jerky you gave us below Mid Summer Dome. Have a merry X'mas.

Ice climber
Dec 2, 2018 - 06:03pm PT
Herr Braun speaks the truth.

No harm in enjoying the memories of what you did before nor enjoying what you are doing now!

Social climber
Choss Creek, ID
Dec 2, 2018 - 07:36pm PT
First, let me assure the good climbers here, that by their standards, I was never a good climber. Despite that fact, from 1970 to about 1982, climbing defined my life, along with white-water boating, & relationships with good-looking women.

From 1983 to now, I stopped climbing waterfalls & alpine routes on big mountains, since I knew with some certainty that I had used my luck up. I kept doing rock climbing, but at a vastly reduced pace.

In 2000 I tore my right biceps muscle lunging for a hold on an under-protected 5.7, then a week later rowed our raft down a very low & rocky Middle Fork Salmon for 8 days of pain. Happily, there was a Doctor on the trip, who gave me what I needed to keep rowing, & rowing, & rowing.

In 2010, my “old” pal Jim Donini & I stated climbing together again for an annual week of fun punishment, for me, at City of Rocks.

Now at age 69, I still enjoy easy routes & even led a 5.6 last summer. However, I am no longer defined by climbing. My memories are pleasant & my un-climbed goals do not keep me awake at night. I’m pretty darn-mellow about resting on my laurels.

I’ve been writing about some of my more significant climbing adventures since about 2000, because I realized my stories were worth sharing. That sharing of stories is good for me & meanwhile, after getting a knee fixed in 2017, I’m hiking good again & totally enjoying the slices of life I have left. I have the love of a good woman & the best cat ever.

That could change tomorrow, with the Doctor who really wants to see me after a Cat-scan of my neck last Friday.

Here’s to mellow! Sluuuuuup.
Gnome Ofthe Diabase

Out Of Bed
Dec 3, 2018 - 04:10am PT



Trad climber
Wolfeboro, NH
Dec 3, 2018 - 05:07am PT
Dec 3, 2018 - 04:10am PT


Sorry, but my computer skills suck, but that was incredibly poetic, and one of the best comments I've ever seen on the Taco! WOW!!
and Fritz,
I know a few former great alpinist who probably feel exactly like you, did their thing and now have gone on to new paths.
Don Paul

Social climber
Washington DC
Dec 3, 2018 - 05:11am PT
I knew ST was mostly geezers but now that you mention it, survivors is a good way to put it. When I was a beginner, I had lots of close calls, which I chalked up to inexperience. At my peak, I had to put my life on the line every time, otherwise it wasn't worth doing. Now I can look back and reflect on how lucky I was.

Trad climber
Wolfeboro, NH
Dec 3, 2018 - 06:07am PT
No wonder the majority of active climbers that are still out there getting after it, don't lurk here, with the exception of Donini, of course. Supertopo is kind of like an "old peoples home".
I went to the doctor yesterday, and the nurse said to me, " you look like you used your body hard." I admitted that I had.

Trad climber
Valles Marineris
Dec 3, 2018 - 06:41am PT
Surfing is the great equalizer. As I get older, I just surf a bigger board. The fun stays the same. But at 55 I still ride sub-6 foot boards when not wearing a heavy wetsuit. Even if you bodyboard, it's a blast.

Social climber
Wolf City, Wyoming
Dec 3, 2018 - 07:44am PT
did their thing and now have gone on to new paths.

Better to weave new laurels, whatever that may entail, than to live in the past. But don’t forget to cherish that past.

Amen tithe bigger surfboard!

Dec 3, 2018 - 08:55am PT
My pile of laurels is not big enough to rest on comfortably. The nice thing about climbing is that the decision to do something easier is usually an option.

Who wrote "The Art of Climbing Down Gracefully" or some similar title, Tom Patey? I think that it provides a lot of ready-made excuses for not doing hard routes.

Mountain climber
Anchorage, AK
Dec 3, 2018 - 10:16am PT

“My name is Ozymandias, king of kings;
Look on my works, ye Mighty, and despair!'
Nothing beside remains. Round the decay
Of that colossal wreck, boundless and bare
The lone and level sands stretch far away.”

I always thought Shelley’s poem captures one’s inevitable physical/mental decline and pretensions to greatness.


Dec 3, 2018 - 10:24am PT
I'm only 50 but keeping a consistent PT routine at the gym for the last decade and a half seems to allow me to rest on flexed laurels! Gym time is how I water and fertilize my laurels. Gotta have a PT routine for balance, strength and longevity for body and mind, at least that is my experience.

Social climber
portland, oregon
Dec 3, 2018 - 10:31am PT
QuoYou should rest on who you actually are in your present state and NOT on who you were or thought/think you were/are ...... te Here

Ha Ha Thank you WB. I already knew this but get lost going down my rabbit hole of me, me, me...
Bad Climber

Trad climber
The Lawless Border Regions
Dec 3, 2018 - 10:38am PT
Here are some laurels (and Hardys) from TODAY:


Big Wall climber
Denver, CO
Dec 3, 2018 - 10:57am PT
Rest? REST???

There's no rest until you're dead.
'Pass the Pitons' Pete

Big Wall climber
like Ontario, Canada, eh?
Dec 3, 2018 - 11:31am PT
Ha! Yer all a bunch of washed-up old farts!

I'm 59, so not quite as old as you guys. I will continue climbing big walls, until I can no longer climb big walls. Then I will take up sport climbing, until I can no longer sport climb. When I can no longer sport climb, I will take up hiking. When I can no longer hike, I will crawl. I still do lots of crawling in the cave.

You get the picture...

Look, I gotta tell yas, for most of yous, it's all in your head. You CAN do most anything you WANT, except you don't WANT it badly enough.

Everything hurts when I go climbing. But I have a pretty high tolerance for pain [and if you saw what I was married to for twelve years, you'd know why, fa-toop poop, KSH!]

Bottom line - shut up and climb, the best you can. Quit lamenting, start DOING.

Ya bunch of old farts!

Social climber
The internet
Dec 3, 2018 - 11:55am PT
I will continue climbing big walls, until I can no longer climb big walls. Then I will take up sport climbing
This is backwards. I'll get back to wall climbing when I can no longer hang on to anything with my arms and need slings to stand in instead.

Laurels - it's an accomplishment of note among peers - not just whatever the heck you went out and did.

IMO - a sense of peace or "rest" comes ONLY after knowing deep down I gave it my best - everything I had. I set aside the time, I trained and studied for it, I failed the first few times because it was in fact actually difficult - and one day I rose to at least the top quarter - so I know I wasn't in a closet somewhere faking it. I can not repeat very many of those feats in my life, but it feels pretty good to have done them.

Trad climber
Valles Marineris
Dec 3, 2018 - 05:11pm PT
JLP for the win...
This is backwards. I'll get back to wall climbing when I can no longer hang on to anything with my arms and need slings to stand in instead.

Trad climber
Mancos, CO & Bend, OR
Dec 3, 2018 - 09:26pm PT
Let's refocus on SLR's question:

"Are your memories of youth & climbing helping you to cope with degenerating joints and advancing age?"

which I will rephrase as, "Can you rest on your laurels?" and be happy about it?

Once restated, the answer is obvious.

Whether one is "happy" reflecting on memories, or "sad" is a personal choice.

It is not "written" that reflecting on memories" will be one or the other.

So, more important to be happy in the now at all times - and when your thoughts turn to the past, viola, you will be happy reflecting on your memories.

How is one happy at all times?

There is only one way; it's the same as succeeding in a free solo.

Be present in the now.

Or realize, "I am what I think." "I am single present moment thinking ONLY."

Given this is true, your can choose to be "single present moment thinking HAPPY or UNHAPPY."

Your choice.

So, Doc. I suggest you be happy.

Your past is gold. Think of it as treasure. And marvel in its beauty.

Trad climber
Poughkeepsie, NY
Dec 3, 2018 - 11:16pm PT
I've mentioned this before, but it seems relevant again.

I was forced to face many of these issues in my prime (mid-thirties), when a viral inflammation of the spinal cord paralyzed me below the waist overnight. Up to that point, I defined myself by climbing and even said once that if I ever became disabled I'd probably kill myself.

My prognosis was uncertain. The docs said I would almost certainly have some recovery, but full recovery was by no means guaranteed. I had to think about a life with legs that might not be able to carry me much or at all. So I'm sitting in the neurology ward in a wheel chair, catheterized, staring out the window at a now impossibly-distant world of pedestrians hurrying about their business, and two realizations hit.

1. Literally everyone on this ward is a lot worse off than me.

2. I have absolutely no interest in killing myself.

A third realization was that I had a perfectly functional brain, and maybe I should consider using it for more than figuring out hand and foot sequences.

Fast-forward forty or so years, I'm now 75, retired from a happy career as a college math professor after getting a PhD in math. I have a wonderful wife and a wonderful daughter who is a professional musician. I was one of the fortunate ones who had a full recovery from my illness, and went back to a climbing career that has now spanned 61 years.

Except I never really went back.

I realized that I had been granted a reprieve, and it would somehow be ungrateful to return to the single-minded life of the dedicated athlete. When you've been paralyzed, just walking again is mighty wonderful---now you're so greedy you want all that other stuff too? So I kept on climbing and hiking and running, but dialed it back. And it may be that reducing the load and intensity and frequency is what has enabled me to keep going into what is now the beginning of old-old age. Or just as likely, I'm just fortunate to have genetics that have kept my joints in modestly good condition---I'm just starting to feel the little twinges many of my contemporaries were sensing fifteen years ago.

For a long time now, my interests have been family, friends, mathematics, photography, and climbing. They pull me in different directions; sometimes one or the other seems a bit neglected. I'd say I've lost around three full grades off my peak climbing ability, not precipitously, but as part of a slow decline in physical capacity. It is what it is, and I'm still really enjoying what I'm able to do.

As for those laurels, the leaves are prickly and resting on them is pretty uncomfortable. I think I was good in my day, but was blessed to be in the continual presence of people who were better, so the laurels never amounted to much anyway---not good for more than a time-out; fuhgettabout actual resting.

If I live long enough, the time will come when I can't or don't really want to climb any more, ditto for trail-running and hiking. I've had the enormous good fortune of having to face giving them all up forty years ago, which means I've had half a lifetime of extra enjoyment I had no particular right to expect, and have already practiced the mental adjustments and self-defining introspections required to cope with their loss. That paralysis was probably the single best thing that ever happened to me, and not to sound smug, but I'm happy with how I turned out. I don't feel bitter about lost capacities, although I'd surely love to have them back. I'm incredibly fortunate to have been able to experience some level of peak performance---so few people have that opportunity, and so many of us here have had the same incredibly good fortune.

I see my life as one sees the valley from the summit, tracing, mostly but not entirely with pleasure, the turns taken (right and wrong) and obstacles overcome or avoided. I can see what now appear, in the distance, to be minor defeats and minor triumphs. So many things that looked big are now revealed to be small! As I turn to head down the other side, I realize that I won't be going back to that valley, that the path before me will eventually be rough and the view restricted, and yet---honestly---I can't supress a smile for the journey it has been.

Trad climber
Sierra Vista
Dec 4, 2018 - 05:31am PT
that's a great post Rich...


Trad climber
Valles Marineris
Dec 4, 2018 - 05:38am PT
I'd say I've lost around three full grades off my peak climbing ability...

I'm going to say that you still climb Gunks 9's. That is awesome. But if I lose 3 full grades, I'm pink-pointing stairs.
Bad Climber

Trad climber
The Lawless Border Regions
Dec 4, 2018 - 06:39am PT
That's some gold right there, Rich. Well said. Thank you.


Social climber
The internet
Dec 4, 2018 - 08:32am PT
"Can you rest on your laurels?" and be happy about it?
Finding happiness is a separate and independent question, IMO. It doesn't take long to find people who appear to most to have accomplished quite a bit, yet report they are not happy.

Mountain climber
The Other Monrovia- CA
Dec 4, 2018 - 09:16am PT
SLR didn’t do too shabby outside the inbred climbing world. Respect!

From BBC:

In 2017, a note in which <Albert Einstein > gave advice on happy living sold for $1.56m in Jerusalem.
A single sentence, it reads: "A calm and humble life will bring more happiness than the pursuit of success and the constant restlessness that comes with it."

See how simple it is?

Sport climber
Sacramento, Ca
Dec 4, 2018 - 09:49am PT
At 74 I try the following. Don't tell me about yesterday, tell me about today or tomorrow. It may be not as grandiose as yesterday but it should be something till they bury you and if it isn't something, check your attitude. Attitude is one thing in life you have control over.
Mike Honcho

Trad climber
Glenwood Springs, CO
Dec 4, 2018 - 10:24am PT
Can you rest on your laurels?" and be happy about it?

Insane topic for me as it's been my focus for my whole life, and then more recently bringing my wife up to speed for the last 14 years.

I started "real climbing" in the summer between the 8th and 9th grade. By the time I was graduating high school I had spent all 4 spring breaks at Hueco Tanks, TX. Climbed 5.12 trad all over the place since the 11th grade and had about a dozen parachute jumps since my 16th birthday. Patrick Edlinger and Jerry Moffat were my idols. Rob Slater, Randy Leavitt and Xavier Bongard were alive and well and BASE jumping and climbing crazy sh#t all over the place. I only say/spray this to highlight that I totally had wild climbing and parachute dreams and fantasies that most 18 year olds would have. A true lifetime of adventure was my only wish in the whole world. That and smoking a ton of pot while doing it all. I was 18 after all..

I'm 49 now and have literally blown away every single climbing, BASE, sexual dream or fantasy I could have ever imagined. In fact I've had to renew that list again and again as staying in focus and in the zone for 30+ years has kept the goal post moving further and further away.

I've never been the best at any of those things, that was never the dream for me anyways. I just wanted to be in the mix. I've never dreamed about doing things that are simply just not ever going to happen, mine have always been attainable dreams, to some extent at least. As I'm approaching 50 in 4-5 months I look back and really can't believe I have to still keep going as soooo many of my best friends, good good friends have died along the way. I've been busted up and had so many injuries I feel like I've lived 3 lifetimes before I'm 50 and just can't fully stop just yet.

Being happily married for over 10 years, almost paying cash for the castle we live in here in Glenwood Springs, ridiculously good health insurance, having two careers that could fully support my wife and I(even though she now makes sooo much money) are all things that were never on any list I ever had in my head. Landing even remotely on my feet was never any type of guarantee, but I fought like f*#k to end up where I am never knowing if it would pan out at all. So I sit here surprised as hell that it all ended up this way up to this point.

The wife and I skipped any notion of kids when we got together with almost the sole purpose of climbing, BASE jumping and sportf*#king as much as possible in the US. We've now been around the United States and World doing all that more times than I can easily count. We get in at least 2 if not 3 International trips a year these days. I never thought I'd ever do any of that either, especially with a chick. BASE jumping is a shitty idea, it is, so the thought of the love of my life doing any of that was unthinkable. I did everything in my power to negotiate, trick or straight out threaten her into not getting anywhere near the idea. We've now made over 300 BASE jumps together all over, and many times after we climbed the route of our choice to get there. Watching your Wife run off a building in downtown Las Vegas at 1am is still the most nerve racking of most anything I've done but I wouldn't change any of it now, especially since it all makes her so happy.

Hell we even adopted 2 donkeys to do all the Pack Burro Races they have here in Colorado just to be really f*#kin' weird. We trail run in a ridiculous manner. We also just got memberships to our new local rock gym up here in the mountains. My body is worked, fried and I'm constantly in pain from all those damned "good times". The doctors are either fusing or amputating my left foot in the next 10 years as it's just perma-broken and never going to heal or be right. I'll choose the amputation for my reasons, but I use that ankle like hell as often as I can, which is very often. Stretching is a lifestyle for the both of us, expensive running shoes and layer after layer of clothes is a premium for us and stacking the deck of cards in our favor in every situation is almost my #1 priority.

My Wife is 42 and has only been injured once in her entire life. I had been really ready to retire from almost everything 12 years or so ago, I was truly proud and placated with my accomplishments at the time and truly ready to take my foot off the pedal finally, but she inspired a second wind in me that I still can't believe I've pulled off to this day, and it keeps going, no clue how this will truly all pan out in the end for us. I just wrote all of this as we totally understand we're going to be in wheelchairs pooping in diapers together, or get whacked together or separately in some grisly fashion, or some version or combination of it at some point soon enough. We really think that all of this effort and dedication to this lifestyle is going to make us happier as we reflect back on our life as the inevitable draws more closely. And that's my exact point of this long winded story.

This topic was like a punch to the chest to even see it listed in the Forums! Reading Sierra Ledge Rat's thoughts and the replies has been surreal. It's like SLR was actually in my head with this. Exactly in our head. I'm not now doubting my/our path at all, but I just can't get around the fact that nothing f*#ks you like time and I'm fully aware that it eventually has it's way with all of us at some point. My thought's are not "was it all worth it?" as it's not over yet, but will we have that peaceful and reassuring feeling that we gave it 100% and feel satisfied with it all in the end? To rest on our laurels, laurels that only matter to us is what I can't stop wondering.


Trad climber
Dec 4, 2018 - 04:59pm PT
I think it is awesome that I can go out after dark at 5:30 into a blizzard and shuffle like a homeless waif for a few miles then take the trail up behind the first/Second flat irons, Brew a hot tea under a wet rock, get hella cold stumbling down (the most painful, technical and dangerous part of course), be sweat and snow soaked, come home steaming, struggle up the stairs, barely have the flexibility to get my shoes off, languish in a hot shower for five or even six minutes before someone screams the hot water is gone, start a glass of tequilla but then fall asleep before it is emptied, wake up on the couch at 2am not having to choose between peeing in a waterbottle or getting the chills to go out of the tent and finally then, to wake up a 5am feeling like I just spent a week in the Bugaboos, climbed 2,000 ft every day and drank my way home through Montana !

I also think it is cool not that I have factually done 93 or 96 of those manly things but that the ones I haven't done are weightlifting things and giving CPR to anyone in the field (save a cat which, long story here, survived) and the snakebites all worked out fine for the dogs and horses or didn't envenomate.

Getting old sucks but We all know friends who didn't get to, so here's to those poor Bastards...

Steve Grossman

Trad climber
Seattle, WA
Dec 4, 2018 - 05:09pm PT
Lynne Leichtfuss

Sport climber
moving thru
Dec 4, 2018 - 05:20pm PT
Love the poet Longfellow and his Psalm of Life.

Trust no Future, howe’er pleasant!
Let the dead Past bury its dead!
Act,— act in the living Present!
Heart within, and God o’erhead!

Lives of great men all remind us
We can make our lives sublime,
And, departing, leave behind us
Footprints on the sands of time;

Footprints, that perhaps another,
Sailing o’er life’s solemn main,
A forlorn and shipwrecked brother,
Seeing, shall take heart again.

Let us, then, be up and doing,
With a heart for any fate;
Still achieving, still pursuing,
Learn to labor and to wait.


If we are breathing we have so much still to live for. Dust off the dreams and make them a reality. lrl
August West

Trad climber
Where the wind blows strange
Dec 4, 2018 - 05:39pm PT
I gotta tell yas, for most of yous, it's all in your head. You CAN do most anything you WANT, except you don't WANT it badly enough.

Nothing personal, but it irks me when there is some glowing press coverage about, say, a 70 year old still cranking hard and the focus is all on what a bad ass they are for still having the will power to push themselves.

As if crippling back and knee problems would go away if I ignored them and pushed hard enough.

Tried that. Ended up bed ridden.
Lynne Leichtfuss

Sport climber
moving thru
Dec 4, 2018 - 06:01pm PT
Agree, August West. But there are talents we possess and goals we've never tackled. Time to leave the known "laurels" and launch out into the unknown. So many choices to make our lives count, to have fun, to help the earth and others as we explore our options.

For me the biggest challenge has been to learn to not measure my life by the prescribed standards of our civilization. Forget numbers, age and all the entanglements of these two things that society deems important. Listen to your heart and use your mind and eyes to see the world around you and all it has to offer. I work hard at this every day.

Trad climber
Santa Cruz/New Zealand/South Pacific
Dec 4, 2018 - 06:21pm PT
Thus is the simple fallacy of putting all your eggs in one basket and the problems inherent of one passion in life. Branch out, when things get old and you get old find some other distractions. Create different goals, not so important the discipline just go for it.

New passions new laurels.

My problem is too many passions to deal with and too little time.

As Tony Jesson, aka, the Wretch said one day many years ago in Camp 4, circa early 60s:

"So little to do and so much time to do it in." Climber, surfer, sailor, gun collector, arrowhead collector and now cycling maniac.

Tap dancing anyone?
McHale's Navy

Trad climber
From Panorama City, CA
Dec 4, 2018 - 06:40pm PT
When I think about 'what if' I can no longer do much of anything I think of Stephen Hawking. It's all about being practical and not being tied to any particular activity. It's probably more about keeping the mind happy more than the body. When I say mind I don't mean ego either, but to satisfy the innate urge to understand things. Sure, the mind and body go together, but as Hawking has proven, there's a whole universe inside our heads. Tap into that, or totally empty it out - there is lots of in between.

Dec 5, 2018 - 09:24am PT
As a rule. always try to be doing two things. When one is down, the other will be doing the better.

Don't get injured. Past the age of 18, healing is never complete.

Trad climber
Portland, Oregon
Dec 5, 2018 - 09:56am PT
Had I any laurels to rest on, I'm sure they would be as intolerant of my resting on them as my wife is.

Dec 5, 2018 - 10:06am PT
All old fookers really need is an armrest on their easy chair to rest their laurels on ......
Rick A

Boulder, Colorado
Dec 5, 2018 - 10:50am PT

Thanks for that wise poem. It reminded me of a passage from one of my favorite authors, PG Wodehouse. Here is a bit of dialogue from Jeeves in the Morning. The young, dim master Bertie Wooster is chatting with his brilliant and very well-read butler, Jeeves.

"Odd's boddikins, Jeeves," I said, "I am in rare fettle this a.m. Talk about exulting in youth! I feel up and doing, with a heart for any fate, as Tennyson says."

"Longfellow, sir."

"Or, if you prefer it, Longfellow. I am in no mood to split hairs."

Sometimes in the morning--after coffee--I have "a heart for any fate".

Other mornings, not so much.


Mountain climber
The Other Monrovia- CA
Dec 5, 2018 - 11:05am PT
I have a fart for any hate, almost. I think that was Mr Bean.
Lynne Leichtfuss

Sport climber
moving thru
Dec 5, 2018 - 04:27pm PT
Love your posts, dear friends! Gracias from the heart for your inspiration!

Ricky A and Gerry, you two always give grace to life.

Cheers to all!!! lynnie

Trad climber
Auberry, CA
Dec 5, 2018 - 04:51pm PT
bit'er ol' guy

the past
Dec 6, 2018 - 10:25am PT
Part of the B.O.G policies and proceedures.
i.e its OK if they're legit.

Trad climber
Ouray, Colorado
Dec 6, 2018 - 11:19am PT
What laurels? I’m no longer the man I never was.
norm larson

wilson, wyoming
Dec 6, 2018 - 04:31pm PT
Jim, it appears your laurels are still growing and not quite matured yet. Good on ya.
Sierra Ledge Rat

Mountain climber
Old and Broken Down in Appalachia
Topic Author's Reply - Dec 6, 2018 - 05:59pm PT
I guess my predicament could be worse....


Social climber
Choss Creek, ID
Dec 6, 2018 - 08:21pm PT
I keep writing down my old adventures & new ones, & a humorous short story every now & then. And sharing them.

Tom Lopez, author of the wonderful book on Idaho’s mountains, “IDAHO A CLIMBING GUIDE,” also has the book online. For years he has been adding more information on Idaho’s mountains & the history of climbing in those mountains to his free web-site.

I’ve been writing down some of my 1970’s Idaho climbing adventures as well as more recent climbing, rafting, adventures & humorous stories for the last few years. Idaho Magazine has published 17 of those stories, but you have to pay to read them. Tom has 3 of my best stories on his website, for free.

May I suggest the one in my link as a great read for fans of the Sawtooth Range, adventure, & lost treasures. It is 29 pages long, but has lots of historic photos, mostly from the early 1970’s, & moves right along.

Tom & I spent Dec 2nd, finding lost pages, adding new photos, & cleaning up typos on it. I think it’s as good as anything I’ve ever written.

Pursuit of “Bluebonnet Tower and the Search for the “Crystal Cave.”


Trad climber
Upland, CA
Dec 7, 2018 - 09:13am PT
Sierra Ledge Rat, I am really sorry to hear you are feeling unhappy about certain aspects of your present situation, especially some deterioration in your body.

I'm not sure I have any wise words to say about it, but I am also older and a bit broken down, but I am also really very, very happy.

I hope you find a path that leads you to happiness again. Life is so precious and so short! Love every day.


Dec 7, 2018 - 11:00am PT
Please be so kind as to let others make their own decisions without interference. If you are happy with your past decisions, just let it be. If you are now unhappy, just know it was your choice.

As regards laurels, I have observed some of them can be found on ledges.

Sport climber
Dec 7, 2018 - 11:54am PT

Happiness is held in too high regard. Happiness is stupid. Meaning is closer to the real thing...

When all meaning is absorbed you have reached your inner point zero and will soon stop spinning...
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