Saturday, July 11, 2009

Ten Commandments for Aging Climbers Revised

Matt Samet, in the Sporting Life column in Climbing writes about the big elephant in the room of climbing, i.e. the problem of age. Readers of this blog know that this is an ongoing interest of mine, not least because everyone is an aging climber to some degree or another. Maybe age is just another name for gravity.

Anyway, while I admire Matt's writing (and really think he has done a lot to get Climbing back to where it should be editorially speaking) and think of him as a friend, I would like to address some issues, maybe even errors in his piece and suggest some alternative "commandments."

1. "Thou shalt have no other hobbies"
Climbing is not and never can be a hobby or even a pastime for an "aging" climber. If you are climbing past 30, you will probably keep at it to the bitter end and that's not a hobby, it's a passion. However, as you get older other passions can compete with climbing. That's a good thing, especially if you get injured. Take good care of your lower extremities, i.e. stay away from highballs, so you have an ambulatory option when things go pear-shaped.
2. "Thou shalt not display thy graven image shirtless in the rock gymnasion (past say 30)"
Sure there is some justice in this, though the placing seems a bit high, even if MS is following the original. However on reflection, which would you rather be, "a goggle-eyed man-child who's just discovered sprinklers in the park" or someone who's self-conscious and uptight about appearances. In Boulder you see all types and that's the way it goes. I'd rather be goofy, goggle-eyed, but inspired to climb better and not give a hoot about the rest of the crowd. But maybe I'm just not hairy enough.
3. "Thou shalt not say take in haste"
Again some justice in this one. Getting upset and angry about routes is a waste of time no matter what your age bracket. But on the flipside, "Thou shalt not be a weekend climbing tool and spend free time grimly pounding out the route mileage" is a good thing to consider. Balance, always balance.
4. "Thou shalt learn to use thy feet."
OK, but I would say if you haven't done this by now, you had better get as strong as possible instead.
5. "Remember rest days and keep them holy."
Good point except that older climbers have plenty of rest days enforced upon them by the demands of real life. No real need to worry about that one.
6. "Thou shalt not attempt routes thou onsighted in thy youth."
I would amend that to never go back to an onsighted route regardless of age unless you are going to be cool about the outcome. And good luck with that.
7. "Thou shalt not hate on the younger generations."
This is an important one. You can learn quite a lot from younger climbers and even if you have to work at it, make friendships with kids young enough to be (gulp) grandkids. It's good for them as well. They will be 30 before they know it.
8. "Thou shalt not wax poetic about "Back in the Day" (BITD) nor bear false witness on climbing forums."
Absolutely yes on this. Nothing traps you in the past like bad nostalgia.
9 "Thou shalt not tell other people how to rock climb"
Except when they are clearly committing a safety faux pas that will lead to the hospital and/or the morgue. Some experience might carry weight here.
10. "Thou shalt not wear socks with thy rock shoes"
Well I don't and never have but I would say if you're still climbing and having fun, wear whatever you want, however you want. Watch out for those old ratty harnesses and other obsolete gear though. Fashion is one thing, safety another.

Some replacements suggested
1. I'll keep it, reword
2. Replace with "Thou shalt be considerate of others"
3.Replace with "Thou shalt keep it fun, no matter what"
4. Replace with "Thou shalt always be learning to become a better climber"
5. Replace with "Thou shalt be committed to staying healthy and injury-free"
6. Replace with "Thou shalt pick thy battles carefully"
7. I'll keep it, maybe reword a bit
8. Yes as stated above.
9. Replace with, "Thou shalt be mindful in sharing thy experience"
10. Replace with "Thou shalt use climbing gear that helps you climb your best"

Oh and I almost forgot, weigh carefully any commandments for "aging" rock climbers from writers who are less than 40, however much they say they are "over the hill." Things are not as "confused" and "terrible" as you might think from Matt's intro. That state is reserved for your late 20s, when you are no longer young and still have no idea what to do with your life.


Chris said...

oh no... I'm in trouble on multiple counts!

Perhaps it's an indication of how young many readers must be since there are no other comments yet. As for some of the specifics, you won't catch me in the gym with my shirt off anytime soon. You can be glad of this unless I lose some more weight. No other hobbies?! As Peter says I'm a lifer but mixing it up with skiing, biking and other stuff is crucial for the mental and physical aspects. Not to mention eating and drinking.

The waxing poetic about BITD though, that's a crusher. Guess I'll give up climbing and stick to drinking and nostalgia.

Peter Beal said...

No problems with BITD by itself, the issue is the self-pity and bitterness that can emerge from memories of seemingly better times. As far as other hobbies, no problem, but climbing has always been way more than a hobby for me.

I was surprised not to see more comments on this piece. Oh well.

Julian said...

I'll join in! 'Course I'm only 29...

I guess I see all these types of lists as inherently nonsensical. I mean, no list will fit every "aging" climber. Just call it a not-that-funny bit of humor writing and be done with it.

And for me, the commandments basically boil down to: don't be an ass, respect people and nature, be careful.

Narc said...

Is it a bad sign if I'm "BITD Guy" and I'm only 25??

Dr. Regina E. Schulte-Ladbeck said...

Hi Peter:

I had this idea, last weekend, that I should do some writing about aging climbers... So little is being said on that topic. In my google search I came across your blog entry. Really fun stuff! Thanks for the laughs. I'll have to go get a copy of Climbing to also read what Matt said.

Climb on!