How old are our boulderers?


Original Post
Ken Graf · · Unknown Hometown · Joined Aug 2016 · Points: 0

Seems that, in general, many of the younger folks you see climbing are boulder-centric and many of the older folks you see are wall-centric. I used to surf, and it seems a somewhat analogous to the short-boarder vs. long-boarder division. There are outliers, of course.

Anyhow, as someone who has just turned 40 and is hoping to maintain an enjoyable climbing practice for as long as possible,  I am looking for input on bouldering as a practice for "older" climbers. Some of this stems from the fact that a 50-something tradster saw me bouldering in the gym and told me I was "wasting my time", arguing that if I really wanted to extend my climbing practice and remain injury free I should stick with walls. 

So....thoughts? How old are our typical boulderers here? Any old dudes? And while we are here...




the schmuck · · Albuquerque, NM · Joined Feb 2012 · Points: 110

Bouldering is great, but at pushing 50, my joints don't think that repeated grounders are so great anymore. I still boulder couple days a year, but my knees and ankles are pissed for days afterwards. 

Baba Fats · · Philadelphia, PA · Joined Aug 2016 · Points: 0

I started at 29.  30 now.  My body has always been older than my age, though.  So I'll make the most of it while I can 

Mike Brady · · Van Diesel, OR · Joined Jul 2014 · Points: 681
Ken Graf wrote:

50-something tradster saw me bouldering in the gym and told me I was "wasting my time", arguing that if I really wanted to extend my climbing practice and remain injury free I should stick with walls. 




While there may be SOME truth to this it is also mostly BS. Sure, as an older practitioner of the boulder-craft you can be more susceptible to injury but with a little bit of common sense you can partake without breaking yourself. I am sure you probably already apply the same common sense when you are trying routes. 

I am only 35 but I have enjoyed 17 years of uninterrupted rock-licking and while a majority of it has been of the pad-sniffing variety I do enjoy balancing it out with some of the clanky metal stuff too. I feel that they can compliment one another pretty well. My mentor is 56 now, he came up as a route climber but has been devotely climbing the pebbles for the past 20 years at a fairly high level. He is by no means injury free but I don't think it would have been any less if he continue climbing routes at a high level.

the schmuck · · Albuquerque, NM · Joined Feb 2012 · Points: 110

Well, let's see. Arthritis in left foot, right ankle, both knees and right hip. All from bouldering falls. At mid 30s, I was still bouldering regularly.  I don't think that the incompatibility between age and bouldering is all BS. 

Bill Shubert · · Lexington, MA · Joined Jul 2012 · Points: 55

I'm 48. When I boulder hard for a few weeks, my climbing improves, but my tendons start hurting. Mostly, I don't boulder much.

John Barritt · · OKC · Joined Oct 2016 · Points: 1,053

I'm 53 (about to be 54), I've considered buying a pad.................for naps in the shade....... ;)

The only time I boulder now is if it's necessary to access a climb. JB

reboot · · . · Joined Jul 2006 · Points: 125
Ken Graf wrote:

hoping to maintain an enjoyable climbing practice for as long as possible

That all depends on how you enjoy climbing and what you see in bouldering, I suppose.

As someone of your age and having been bouldering a lot more (indoor & outdoor) in the last few years, I can attest it is a lot easier to get hurt in (typically) non life-threatening ways while bouldering. As someone who is into the movement and self-improvement aspects of climbing, the trade-off is worth it to me. But I do try to stay off of highballs...

Mike Brady · · Van Diesel, OR · Joined Jul 2014 · Points: 681
the schmuck wrote:

Well, let's see. Arthritis in left foot, right ankle, both knees and right hip. All from bouldering falls. At mid 30s, I was still bouldering regularly.  I don't think that the incompatibility between age and bouldering is all BS. 

Its ALL from bouldering falls? Sounds like you could some strength and mobility training. 

I didn't say it is ALL BS. Common sense applies to both bouldering and route climbing. Of course taking ground falls is not the most healthy activity but if you train for it the effects can be lessened. Just like how drop-knees or full crimps can be extremely unhealthy unless they are trained properly.

Baba Fats · · Philadelphia, PA · Joined Aug 2016 · Points: 0

I did see an old head at the gym a few months ago. He was probably in his 70's and only really climbing onto the starts if a few slab problems of lower grades,  but he was there nonetheless. 

My issues with aging will all be medical.   Fusing of my lumbar vertebrae, probably being the most sever

s.price · · PS,CO · Joined Dec 2010 · Points: 1,348

I'm 54 and boulder a couple of times a week. Sometimes more. Great way to get in an after work session. Blessed to have a stash of fun boulders a short bike ride from the house and multiple other options a short drive away. Have a couple of fat pads but rarely highball anymore unless it is easy (bad knee from skiing).

I have always loved bouldering and will keep doing so until my body says no more.

the schmuck · · Albuquerque, NM · Joined Feb 2012 · Points: 110
Mike Brady wrote:

Its ALL from bouldering falls? Sounds like you could some strength and mobility training. 

I didn't say it is ALL BS. Common sense applies to both bouldering and route climbing. Of course taking ground falls is not the most healthy activity but if you train for it the effects can be lessened. Just like how drop-knees or full crimps can be extremely unhealthy unless they are trained properly.

Well, I did spend almost every winter weekend in Hueco before the new (1998) management plan went into effect. Most of this was also before the days of pads (had some foam with duct taped carpet), and the constant pounding as well as the occasional missed "pad" did its number. I don't think that mobility/strength training would have alleviated broken bones. 

Mike Brady · · Van Diesel, OR · Joined Jul 2014 · Points: 681
the schmuck wrote:

Well, I did spend almost every winter weekend in Hueco before the new (1998) management plan went into effect. Most of this was also before the days of pads (had some foam with duct taped carpet), and the constant pounding as well as the occasional missed "pad" did its number. I don't think that mobility/strength training would have alleviated broken bones. 

Haha! Yeah broken bones are hard to remedy with lifting. You are making me feel very grateful that I have been able to avoid any acute lasting injuries!

John Wilder · · Las Vegas, NV · Joined Feb 2004 · Points: 1,530

I've got several friends in their 50s that still boulder double digits outside, but they seem to be the exception to the rule. Most people I know above 40 boulder in the gym exclusively, and only climb on ropes outside. Those above 55 or so move to ropes for the most part, although with the newer flooring in alot of gyms, many older folks are bouldering more than they used to since the falls don't hurt as much. 

I'm turning 40 this year and I spent my last day ever bouldering outside earlier this year. When every fall is a ground fall, the appeal just isn't there for me anymore. I want to climb for a few more decades, so trad and sport for me from now on. 

Emil Briggs · · Unknown Hometown · Joined Sep 2013 · Points: 105
Bill Shubert wrote:

I'm 48. When I boulder hard for a few weeks, my climbing improves, but my tendons start hurting. Mostly, I don't boulder much.

This. I'm 56 and I've found that a short period of hard bouldering can be beneficial but doing it for very long is a bad idea for me. This also extends to weight training which I've done pretty continuously since my early teens. When I was in my 20's I could thrive doing several hard workouts per week. If I try that now I just get hurt.

Richard Vogt · · Chicago, IL · Joined May 2017 · Points: 0

Have fun bouldering - it is a great workout - but only get on problems you think you can flash or the crux is right off the deck. Younger boulderers will peel with abandon and try problems past the limit of their ability. And they'll take lots and lots of falls. It's these repeated falls you're trying to avoid. Your body doesn't need the stress. That won't make you stronger. You can do 4 x 4 bouldering circuits and develop great power endurance without having to take tons of falls. I'm in the camp that believes you get stronger by pulling on holds, not falling off them. If you want to fall off hard V grades go sport climbing with a stretchy rope and light belayer -- that will be a softer landing and the difficulty is all there.

Nivel Egres · · New York, NY · Joined Dec 2014 · Points: 130

Last few years, i exclusively boulder outside - that's what I enjoy the most, it gives me most hard moves per session and it readily accessible even on weekdays. I avoid highballs unless it's a king line that I can't live without. I have a couple large pads. So far no issues with knees and ankles...

Indoors Iclimb with a rope a lot unless I am at an boulder-only gym. I'd boulder more indoors if we had a Moon board. Unfortunately there is a strong trend by NYC route setters to add cruxes up high and I find that the boulder route setting became too much of a freak show lately too. So instead I either jump on a rope climb and try to work on stuff that's beyond my limit and requires power or work partial moves on boulders close to the floor. 

Ps. all my  bouldering partners are half my age or less

Nivel Egres · · New York, NY · Joined Dec 2014 · Points: 130
John Wilder wrote:

I've got several friends in their 50s that still boulder double digits outside, but they seem to be the exception to the rule. 

That's impressive. I have literally met maybe one or two people my age (and I am not at 50 handle yet) that like bouldering, less so the ones that boulder double digits. 

Jake Jones · · Richmond, VA · Joined Jul 2011 · Points: 1,420

I'm 41.  42 this fall.  I have arthritis in both hands and fingers and in my hips (mildly noticeable elsewhere).  I still do it all.  I usually climb ropes outside bolts and gear, but that's usually because of the company.  I love bouldering outside especially on eastern sandstone. I don't pull that hard (comparatively) but I do pull at my limit when I go.  I don't usually consider the fall all that much unless it's a highball.  And I have taken a few hard falls on ropes too, so there's that.  If you love it enough, fear of injury won't keep you from doing it and neither will pain.

Joe Garibay · · Ventura, Ca · Joined Apr 2014 · Points: 80
Bill Shubert wrote:

I'm 48. When I boulder hard for a few weeks, my climbing improves, but my tendons start hurting. Mostly, I don't boulder much.

I'm 35 and feel the same way. Though I long boarder through my youth and switched to short boarding later on. 

the schmuck · · Albuquerque, NM · Joined Feb 2012 · Points: 110

There is also Tim Fairfield. He's 48 or 49 and recently sent an unrepeated v15 at priest draw.   Ben Moon is in his 50s, has a colostomy bag, and climbs v14. 

Guideline #1: Don't be a jerk.

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