It’s hard to scroll through climbing news headlines these days without seeing mention of some young gun sending yet another hard line. And while these accomplishments are certainly worth celebrating, (and I don’t mean to sound like a hater here, because I’m not) I’m just not that impressed. Sure, it’s amazing these young climbers can reach that level so quickly, but they also have stacks of things in their favor. They have no responsibilities, their tendons and muscles heal quickly, they need few rest days, they have access to mega-gyms, and they have small fingers, which make grabbing small holds easier.
What does impress me is the opposite side of the spectrum. The “older” climbers pushing into new levels, the guys and gals who have persevered through a lifetime of other commitments, like family, work, health issues, injuries, etc. The lifers who love it so much that they’ve stayed with it through thick and thin, and continue to refine their craft well past what was once thought to be the prime sending years.
I think it’s an incredibly inspiring time to be a climber because we are finally moving past the stigma that you have to climb your hardest when you are “young” or it’s not going to happen. This is being proven wrong on daily basis, and almost without exception all the climbers I know over 35 continue to climb their hardest routes with each progressing year (sorry JT, your theory is crap.)
While they may not have the advantages of youth, older climbers have a lot going for them: They are smarter, they are more efficient with their time, they know they need to get it done in the least amount of time possible. They take their training seriously, they eat well, they have years of technique acquired from countless hours on the rock. There may be a rare individual who has all these factors line up when they are in their twenties, but it seems highly unlikely for most.
So what’s the point? Simply the good news that you have the rest of your climbing life ahead of you. You can continue to refine your technique, train smarter, climb more efficiently and get stronger along the way. And even if you get hurt, as Dave MacLeod says in 9 Out of 10 Climbers, you have time to recover from injuries and still get better at climbing.
At some point, your best sends as far as numbers go will indeed be behind you. When you reach this moment will likely be at a much higher age than you previously thought, and even after that, you can still become a better climber. And those two things give me a lot to look forward to.