A few weeks ago, I’d overheard someone say, “Climbing is a young man’s game.”

A slow panic crept in slowly as I started wondering what that meant. I mean, I’m not getting any younger over here, and in July I had broken my foot, which took me out of the game for three months. That was ninety some-odd days of thinking about climbing and not being able to. I half-jokingly said to my boyfriend many times, “I don’t think I’m a rock climber anymore!”

Climbing is a young man’s game—maybe, it’s true. I’ve often heard people say that they wished they had started climbing at Ashima Shiraishi’s age. (And maybe if you had, you too would have tendons made of kevlar.) I didn’t start climbing until my mid-twenties, and it never really felt like I found rock climbing; it always felt like it found me.

I spent a lot of my time since then searching for something. But lately, I don’t feel the same compulsive itch to be rushing off to go climbing as I used to—there isn’t a fire in my belly like before. Those are strange words to hear out loud because nothing in my life has replaced climbing, and I still love it, more than ever before. During my recovery, I felt like I had everything that a person should need to be happy.

Maybe it really is just a young man’s game, or maybe it’s obsession that is the young man’s game. Maybe I am getting older and further away from both, and what it means to me has changed—or I’m the one who is changing. I’m okay with either one being true. Maybe, it is just one of an infinite amount of avenues to a happy, well-tended life. I’m still climbing and still looking, and regardless of age, life should keep us pondering, dreaming, and constantly scheming. Because the big secret that nobody tells you is that the pursuit IS happiness.

8 thoughts

  1. I really liked this piece you wrote. Here’s my take on the subject. Hope you don’t mind.

    I suppose it helps to start climbing at a young age if your goal is to become a world class climber. I understand the motivation, having been a competitive runner from the 6th grade through age 60 when I retired from racing. Becoming the world’s oldest Gumby has been an exciting and challenging process and I’ve got a passion for climbing that mirrors my passion for running. So, I suppose I could be described as being young at heart. By that, I mean that I am open to new experiences, am a little naive and am very joyful. I’ve found out that there are several things I’ve acquired through running that are applicable towards climbing. The first is the willingness to suffer, for long periods of time without complaint. The second would be the deep bonds that are formed when people share experiences such as overcoming fear and dealing with failing. I believe that most people really don’t give “100%.” They say they do, but there is always a little something that they don’t do that provides a fallback excuse for failure. Because really giving something 100% and then failing is really painful. Some people never recover from this experience. Then they grow old and often bitter. For myself, it was running the best race of my life after having the best training I’ve ever done and still coming in 5th place. Yes, it was really painful for a long time especially when people would ask why wasn’t I an Olympian. But then, I realized that I really had found out what my absolute best effort was. Since then, I’ve never rationed my passion and am still young or at least young at heart! Being willing to give our absolute best and risk failure is one of the ways of staying young. It’s one of the things that makes climbing special.

  2. Is the climb in the pic at Cherokee rock village? Looks just like one I climbed between white gold and on the left side next to knob wall.

  3. Hey ive only been climbing for 2 years and im also super young but i understand this completely every day i realize my body is slower and less responsive to my stupidity, i have already had a couple of injurys and each one makes me more cautious of every move, i love climbing and i love this article and i would hate to not be able to climb any more

  4. While it’s often true that age can make things difficult with our outdoor hobby, I think it’s not a reason to stop. I know a guy (my high school wall climbing mentor) who is well over thirty who still climbs. He’s kind of mad. When I asked him why he still climbs even after having a kid and family, he answered that he couldn’t explain it. Instead he asked me to tag along and see it for myself.

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