Climbing Into Old Age: 7 Senior Climbers Share Their Experience and Advice

Originally published on July 11th, 2018 for Climbing Magazine

Unlike many sports, climbing has a vibrant community of participants in their 60s and 70s. The Ironworks gym in Berkeley, California, calls these veteran climbers the Geriatric Crew. Others refer to them as “old guns” (like young guns). On the ground, they may walk gingerly to avoid tweaking a sore knee or a bad back, but once they tie in, they leave behind their timid gait for smooth and efficient movement on the wall. Some, like Chuck Odette and Lee Sheftel, are elite climbers. In 2017 at age 61, Odette became the oldest person to claim a 5.14 first ascent with Utah’s Bulletproof Monk. Others are happy just sending 5.11s on toprope in the gym.

“Normally what keeps older athletes out of sports are weight-bearing compressive loads,” says climber and physical therapist Dr. Jared Vagy. “Climbing doesn’t have large compressive forces. It’s a technique-based sport that doesn’t have to involve fast-twitch muscle. As we get older, we need to find things that challenge us physically and mentally. It’s hard to find sports that are low risk for injury, but high in those mental and physical demands. Climbing is one of those perfect balances where you can challenge your physicality in a slow and controlled way.”

Read the rest at Climbing Magazine


  1. Hi Jesse. I saw your article and am interested in older climbers being one myself. I am 59, climb 5.13, alpine to grade 6, ice to grade 6, mixed to M12 and am a university professor and department head and specialist in children’s intensive care in Calgary, Canada. I think the upcoming generation can be even more active than I am into old age if they are thoughtful and can maintain their passion. I have had an elbow injury this summer that has slowed me a bit. Keep up the articles on older active people as it is really important. Regards, Simon Parsons

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