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Returning to Climbing at 49 - can I do it?


Original Post
Paul climber · · Toronto · Joined Nov 2018 · Points: 0

I am returning to climbing after a long stretch of barley ever climbing at all, (like decades).  I used to be good and did many walls in Yosemite, but now I"m over weight and weak.   Grr.   I was a regular climber through my 20's, but as is the usual problem, I ran out of on site'able routes within a 2 hour drive radius and had to start making trips.  Those trips got fewer and fewer until I just didn't go anymore.  And here I am now at the door step of 50 and wanting to make a significant effort to get into shape and attempt one more big route.   I had always wanted to do Salethe wall and after watching Free Solo, I just clued into the fact that Freerider is only a slight deviation of Salathe, so Freerider is high on my list of goals but its probably beyond where I can get to in 10 months, (and after the success of that movie, its probably going to be a mad house all season now).  So ...  My question to any climbers out there who've attempted to get back into climbing after years of zero climbing...

1.  With 10 months to get into shape including losing 50 lbs, what's the hardest climbing I could expect to get to in you opinions, ?
2.  Will my progression through the grades be much easier since I was once good?   Is it like a bike?
3.  With limited time to do much outdoor climbing, will my head space suffer on lead, or will that return advantaged by my experience?

I used to be solid 5.11c on site on any rock, but now I can only do one pull up. WEAK !!  But I'm running an hour a day and in the climbing gym 5-6 days a week so I'm BALLZ out for this mission.  Burst my bubble if you must, but I'm very interested in any similar experiences from anyone out there about this plan.    Cheers.

FrankPS · · Atascadero, CA · Joined Nov 2009 · Points: 275

I think you should just start climbing, regardless of the grade, and not try to predict what you can do in the future. Your answers will come, in due time.

beensandbagged · · smallest state · Joined Oct 2013 · Points: 10
FrankPS wrote: I think you should just start climbing, regardless of the grade, and not try to predict what you can do in the future. Your answers will come, in due time.

I will second this ..... do it you will have fun.

alpinist 47 · · Unknown Hometown · Joined Mar 2017 · Points: 0

i never stopped climbing but just a few months off really set me back.... i'm over 50 now and find the gym helps me get stronger...the stronger i feel the better my lead head is...
top rope and seconding help get mileage....experience is very help full as i no what to expect most of the time...boldness has suffered with age..."there are old climbers and there
are bold climbers but not old bold climbers".... i'm a lifer and grades don't matter that much any more...it's all about the process and the movement...you got this

wait for it

your gonna die

edelweiss · · Seattle, WA · Joined Jan 2017 · Points: 0

You owe it to yourself after all these years of no climbing. That's the best gift for your 50th birthday.

Andrew Rational · · Unknown Hometown · Joined Aug 2018 · Points: 10

Beckey climbed until he was 90 or so. I’d say you’ve a few more years in ya. Like 40 more.

GDavis Davis · · Unknown Hometown · Joined Aug 2008 · Points: 10

49 Degrees?

Too cold. No refund.

DaveBaker · · Durham, NC · Joined Jan 2015 · Points: 138

1.  With 10 months to get into shape including losing 50 lbs, what's the hardest climbing I could expect to get to in you opinions, ?

Start climbing, and you'll work it out.

2.  Will my progression through the grades be much easier since I was once good?   Is it like a bike?

Start climbing, and you'll work it out.

3.  With limited time to do much outdoor climbing, will my head space suffer on lead, or will that return advantaged by my experience?

Start climbing, and you'll work it out.

Joe Prescott · · Berlin Germany · Joined Apr 2013 · Points: 6
Paul climber wrote:  But I'm running an hour a day and in the climbing gym 5-6 days a week so I'm BALLZ out for this mission.  Burst my bubble if you must, but I'm very interested in any similar experiences from anyone out there about this plan.    Cheers.

Good luck! My biggest concern would be the overtraining and injury aspectof 5-6 days/week climbing when stating from nothing. Maybe some can do that, but I see tendonitis, etc in your future? I'm injury prone maybe, but I went from weekend warrior/yearly climbing vacatons to moving to a town that had a climbing gym and going 2-4 times/week and suffered some bad shoulder problems and finger tendon and/or joint problems here and there. They snuck up on me all of the sudden after 2-3 months and really had to back off for a month or 2 and ramp up much more slowly. I felt really good at first and was climbing stronger than I had in many years, and that was providing me motivation to go more often and try harder routes and steeper problems. Mid-40s and climbing fairly regularly for 20+ years.

joe

Michael S. Catlett · · Middleburg, VA · Joined Oct 2014 · Points: 175

Embrace the love of climbing first; enjoy it for the sake of the act regardless of the grade. Do this ahead of all other things and you will be successful. Otherwise all those things in your plan will seem like punishment. That is my advice at 58 and still hit it hard.

mediocre · · Unknown Hometown · Joined Jul 2013 · Points: 0

No way. You’re washed up, a has-been.

Buy a boat.

Cory F · · San Francisco, CA · Joined Jun 2016 · Points: 25

I assume you'll be doing a lot of aiding on El Cap through the tough sections.  If so, I suspect that might help alleviate some of your concerns.

Dallas R · · Traveling the USA · Joined May 2013 · Points: 181

I started climbing when I was 58, retirement hobby, don't like golf. Overweight, weak, need to lose 30 pounds, shoulders are pretty well shot.  I may never be able to climb a 5.10.  62 now, it's been a great 4 years of climbing all over the US.  You may never reach your former glory, or you may surpass it.  

So get going.

plantmandan · · Brighton, CO · Joined Sep 2010 · Points: 50

Go for it! The Rolling Stones just announced another tour. They have been touring longer than you have been alive. 

Perry Norris · · Truckee · Joined Nov 2014 · Points: 45

I am in the same boat. My only suggestion is to find a young rope gun.  

Jaren Watson · · Idaho · Joined May 2010 · Points: 2,395
Dallas R wrote: I started climbing when I was 58, retirement hobby, don't like golf. Overweight, weak, need to lose 30 pounds, shoulders are pretty well shot.  I may never be able to climb a 5.10.  62 now, it's been a great 4 years of climbing all over the US.  You may never reach your former glory, or you may surpass it.  

So get going.

I love it!

Señor Arroz · · LA, CA · Joined Jan 2016 · Points: 10

Hardest part of this is going to be losing 50 lbs. Do that, the rest of it will fall into place.

Paul climber · · Toronto · Joined Nov 2018 · Points: 0

Thanks for all the advice.  Grades is not a critical thing really, except for the fact that having an informed idea from others experience what I might be able to get up to will help me clarify the particular route I can pick as a goal.   And keep in mind I'm in freezing Canada so I get zero climbing for 6 months, and then because of my life right now, I'll have little time to head out to the crag so I'm anticipating a day every other weekend maybe at best between June to Sept.  So not alot of time at the sharp end.   In other words, I need to get overly strong to compensate for that less than ideal head space prep.  

What I was really hoping for was a comentary on what people discover on their way back into climbing, especially if they were good in the past.  If my experience is as typical as I suspect, then I'm hoping to hear from people about how for the second time, they ran the gammut of all the lower grade classics in their area, and how it was on the second time around.  

The comment about "no old bold climbers" was a sad but predictable reality of getting older.  I was pretty bold back in the day.   Had my share of run outs and solo's.  I'm hoping that part won't be a tramatic experience.   I really enjoyed the thrill.  If I've lost that enjoyment its going to change everything.  

Healyje · · PDX · Joined Jan 2006 · Points: 456
Paul climber wrote: I am returning to climbing after a long stretch of barley ever climbing at all, (like decades).  I used to be good and did many walls in Yosemite, but now I"m over weight and weak.   Grr.   I was a regular climber through my 20's, but as is the usual problem, I ran out of on site'able routes within a 2 hour drive radius and had to start making trips.  Those trips got fewer and fewer until I just didn't go anymore.  And here I am now at the door step of 50 and wanting to make a significant effort to get into shape and attempt one more big route.   I had always wanted to do Salethe wall and after watching Free Solo, I just clued into the fact that Freerider is only a slight deviation of Salathe, so Freerider is high on my list of goals but its probably beyond where I can get to in 10 months, (and after the success of that movie, its probably going to be a mad house all season now).  So ...  My question to any climbers out there who've attempted to get back into climbing after years of zero climbing...

1.  With 10 months to get into shape including losing 50 lbs, what's the hardest climbing I could expect to get to in you opinions, ?
2.  Will my progression through the grades be much easier since I was once good?   Is it like a bike?
3.  With limited time to do much outdoor climbing, will my head space suffer on lead, or will that return advantaged by my experience?

I used to be solid 5.11c on site on any rock, but now I can only do one pull up. WEAK !!  But I'm running an hour a day and in the climbing gym 5-6 days a week so I'm BALLZ out for this mission.  Burst my bubble if you must, but I'm very interested in any similar experiences from anyone out there about this plan.    Cheers.

Paul, I was running a business and was way out of shape when I turned 50. A friend took me out locally and to the Valley and kicked my ass up and down for a couple of weeks. By the time he was done, I figured I either needed to get back in shape or find a hypnotist who could make me forget I'd ever been a climber. I chose the former and it took about a year to lose the weight and get back in shape and now it's sixteen years later and I've been climbing steadily ever since and can still climb 5.11 multipitch trad and do a ton of multipitch trad rope soloing.

The first year I'd say don't worry much about the climbing, do whatever you can do. Instead, focus on losing the weight and getting in good aerobic shape again. For me it was a matter of non-climbing workouts, running and swimming, and basically shutting the cake hole by cutting portions in half and watching what I ate. You might look at the phone app called MyFitnessPal from UnderArmor, it's good for keeping you on track. And get a scale if you don't have one. Again, forget about grades for now and really even for that second year once you're back in shape - stay focused on your fitness and health.

Trust me, if you used to be solid on 5.11c in the past then there is absolutely no reason you can't climb at that same level again.
Señor Arroz · · LA, CA · Joined Jan 2016 · Points: 10
Paul climber wrote: Thanks for all the advice.  Grades is not a critical thing really, except for the fact that having an informed idea from others experience what I might be able to get up to will help me clarify the particular route I can pick as a goal.   And keep in mind I'm in freezing Canada so I get zero climbing for 6 months, and then because of my life right now, I'll have little time to head out to the crag so I'm anticipating a day every other weekend maybe at best between June to Sept.  So not alot of time at the sharp end.   In other words, I need to get overly strong to compensate for that less than ideal head space prep.  

What I was really hoping for was a comentary on what people discover on their way back into climbing, especially if they were good in the past.  If my experience is as typical as I suspect, then I'm hoping to hear from people about how for the second time, they ran the gammut of all the lower grade classics in their area, and how it was on the second time around.  

The comment about "no old bold climbers" was a sad but predictable reality of getting older.  I was pretty bold back in the day.   Had my share of run outs and solo's.  I'm hoping that part won't be a tramatic experience.   I really enjoyed the thrill.  If I've lost that enjoyment its going to change everything.  

You're theoretically too young but I invite you to participate in the Over 50 Climbers Forum. I think you'll get a lot of good info there. 

Harumpfster Boondoggle · · Between yesterday and today. · Joined Apr 2018 · Points: 113

Having recently returned after a decade off I got a few tips for ya':

1. Cardio cardio cardio but be advised you are in "Widow Maker" days...so light stuff and be patient. But this is where the weight will come off but no need to drop dead on us with your first MI, k? Take it easy and start slow. You are gonna feel shockingly bad on simple hikes.

2. DO NOT over do it in the gym, be completely recovered before your next hard workout. Tendonitis will set you back months to years.

3. But, the climbing gyms are your friends. Nothing will get you back in climbing shape (basically the needed finger and upper body strength) than climbing and the gyms are awesome for that.

Yer gonna die, so you might as well get living and the man out on stone is living a lot larger than most.

Guideline #1: Don't be a jerk.

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