Can you rest on your laurels?


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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.
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