People

Unsent: Back in My Day

Member Exclusive

Become a member to unlock this story and receive other great benefits.

Join

Already a member?

Sign In

Unsent /un-sent/ 1. To have failed so badly on a route you had previously climbed that you negate your redpoint. 2. A humor column.

None
\” I used to be a climber, but that was 30-40 days ago.\”Kelly Corrigan and Faceapp

Pardon me, young man. Are you a rock climber? I had a feeling—I saw the Access Fund sticker on the back window of your Subaru Outback.

I used to be a bit of a rock climber myself. I may not look like it now, but back in my day I was clipping the chains on 5.12s. Gosh, that was ages ago. I was just about to move into my car and setup camp at New Joe’s, then I tweaked my shoulder… Now I haven’t so much as touched a hold in—how long has it been?—four or five weeks. My how the time flies.

How old are you anyway? 35, huh? Back when I was your age I’d be climbing six days a week. Sport climbing, bouldering, big alpine days, heading to the gym after late nights at the office… You should’ve seen me when I was in my prime. I couldn’t reach into a No. 3 crack. My forearms wouldn’t fit, they were too thick. Now, with these pale, doughy, skinny things, I’d have to arm-bar a No. 2 crack. No, I’m not what I used to be. Such is life.

Tell me, is Fred Rouhling’s Akira still unrepeated? Seb Bouin climbed it? And he downgraded it? Incredible what your generation is capable of.

How old am I? I just turned a stately 35-and-a-half. Oh you’re sweet, offering to give me a belay. No, too much time has passed. I’d have to start all the way back on a 5.9, or maybe a soft 10. It’d be months before I was back at my peak redpoint fitness. Better for me to fade gracefully into the sunset. Maybe I’ll take up a sport that’s not so rough on the joints, like wingsuit BASE jumping.

I do miss it, of course I do. Those were some of the best days of my life. I still look back fondly on my last trip to Moab. My partner and I tried to aid the Tombstone—we had dreams of climbing the Nose—but I was young and naive. I ran out of gear a quarter of the way up the first pitch because I was making placements every three feet. Then we walked across the street and free climbed Abraxas Tower instead. I swear there’s still sand in my shoes from that one, ha-hah! That must’ve been—six, seven—eight weeks ago. It feels like only yesterday.

I never did climb the Nose. Maybe if I hadn’t gotten this bum shoulder right when I was starting to think about learning how to aid climb.

Say, has climbing been in the Olympics yet? It hasn’t? Shame. It nearly happened back in mid-2020 but then there was this big virus that shut everything down. Oh yeah, you’re right. That is the same one we have now. I’m a bit forgetful these days.

Thank you for taking the time to chat with this old geezer. It’s fun to reminisce. Sometimes I’ll even go into the garage, pull out the passenger seat of my wife’s Toyota Corolla, and sleep diagonally across the floor, for old times’ sake. Then my wife will do this cute thing where she comes in while I’m asleep and taps on the window with a flashlight, saying, “Sir, you can’t sleep here. I’m going to let you off with a warning, but I better not see you in this Walmart parking lot again.” It reminds me of my dirtbagging days, bumming around the northwest, way back in September. But those days are long behind me now.

You enjoy your youth, OK? Time goes by faster than you think. One week you’re preparing to go for a send burn on your latest proj. Next thing you know four or five weeks go by—maybe you got elbow tendinitis, a pulley strain, shoulder impingement—and you’re a feeble old man. You’ve lost 5-10% off your max hangs. Your endurance has gone to shit. Forget about doing a one-arm! You’d be lucky to go bolt to bolt on your project. But we can’t stay young forever. No you’re right, if I just did some training I would be back at my previous level pretty quickly.

Tell me, do all climbers wear helmets these days? Some do and some don’t? I guess some things never change.

Read more Unsent.