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Nervous Beginner

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Nervous Beginner

Postby otto6457 » Fri Nov 09, 2012 4:50 am

Not to make this too long winded, I'm a 55 year old guy that's never climbed anything higher than a step ladder. But I've been fascinated by mountaineering since I was a kid. I remember reading about Mallory and his attempt on Everest in my elementary school library and then his disappearance on the mountain without anyone knowing if he made the summit. Something clicked in my mind after reading the story and I knew that I wanted to climb mountains. Well, unfortunately growing up in West Texas that dream got over run by reality and I never pursued the idea of climbing.

Now, with my kids raised and me on my own, the dream sort of started creeping back in. I don't know why, but it's firmly back in my consciousness.

So, bear with me if I ask what may be the dumbest questions you've ever seen. But this Texan is absolutely clueless about everything in mountaineering.

My ultimate goal would be a climb in the Himalayas. I'm not talking Everest or any sort of climb that requires the sort of experience and knowledge I'll probably never acquire. maybe something more challenging than walking up Mera Peak, but not a truly technical climb. This is almost as much about just seeing such beauty in person since I've never even left the U.S. The mountains of Colorado/New Mexico as a snow skier is the only real experience I have in the mountains. I haven't even camped out since I was a kid. But the idea of traveling to such an exotic place like Nepal is exhilarating for this flat land living Texan.

I have looked at some mountaineering schools like Alpine Ascents and they seem like a good place to start and learn the right way to do things at the beginning. It makes sense to me to learn the skills in a controlled environment with people trained to teach beginners would be a safer and more efficient way to start my journey. But my lack of knowledge leaves me without any way to really judge that idea.

I guess what I'm asking is, am I crazy to even consider this idea? And if I'm not crazy, am I on the right track considering my age and complete lack of experience?

I have looked around the web for local climbing or hiking clubs and it seems that the High Plains of Texas is not a hotbed for mountain climbers, so seeking someone near me appears to be impossible. This will be an adventure I probably have to tackle alone.

Thanks in advance for any advice.
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Re: Nervous Beginner

Postby ScottHanson » Fri Nov 09, 2012 7:02 am

No, I don't think you are crazy to consider mountain climbing at age 55. I am 63 and have participated in the Sierra Challenge for the last eight years. That being said, a good first step might be to check-in with your physician and review your medical history. My history included six marathons in a previous life, so I have some background with an endurance activity. I ramp up hiking each year in the PNW. I start with some 5 mile hikes and ramp up to at least 15 or 20 mile hikes as spring turns into summer. Also, I ramp up elevation gain during a dayhike, to between 4000 and 5000 feet per outing over a couple of months period. For me with this preparation, I feel I am able to climb at least a modest class 1 or class 2 peak in the Sierra. Many of the best climbers I have met tend to be very thin folks, and they are not necessarily tall in stature.

I would advise the focused technical training you mention and planned Himalaya trips to come later.
Good luck!
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Re: Nervous Beginner

Postby Wastral » Fri Nov 09, 2012 8:37 am

1) Don't be nervous about the "technical aspect". That comes with experience like everything else. Most of it is simple common sense that becomes "obvious" once you do it once or twice.

2) Enjoyment of mountaineering is proportional to how good of shape you are in. This is especially true for those just starting I have found. Occasionally, when I have hauled a bunch of folks up a hill, some are appalled and others who are out of shape take a look around and are amazed and make the firm conviction to get into better shape. No, we are not talking Awesome run marathon shape either here. Just competent shape. If you want to climb super high in Himalaya, then yes, you better be running everyday.

Brings up 2a) I have no idea in what shape you are in. I do know that at your age, getting into shape will take far longer and staying in shape will take far more effort than younger "whipper snappers" :twisted:

3) Most "alpine" climbs don't require super high skills, high skills, or even medium skills. Nearly every mountain has an easy side.

Just get out and start doing.

You may live in Texas, but even Texas has mountains. Colorado/Wyoming are not all that far away, and it seems you have the time to use driving there. To get more rounded mountaineering experience you will have to go North, or to Europe to get better training. I can see one of the largest problems you may face is getting a buddy/partner to go with you. Especially in Texas. A partner/buddy helps tremendously in keeping one focused towards your goal. Those I have introduced into mountaineering, I have tried to take them out several times and introduce them to others of a like bent. Generally I haul them to the local climbing rock at Marymoor and tell them to go make friends and likewise post in partners wanted forums.

Enjoy and Good Luck.

PS. If there is a mountain out there it has probably been solo'd, so don't feel intimidated by being by yourself.

PPS. It would seem you need to start with the basics. I would go to backpackinglight.com to get your basic info minus the part where a lot of them will try to steer to alcholol stoves and way too flimsy of gear(perfectly good for backpacking though, just not mountaineering). To post requires a payment for a lifetime membership or $10 for a year. Likewise cascadeclimbers.com in the newbie section under forums section is a great place to get some information. And sorry, you will have to sift a lot of internet BS on all websites. :D I will have to admit that this site is generally not all that great for basic information.

PPPS. Part of 2) and 2a) Get shoes/boots that fit. There is no perfect boot for all applications, so don't even try to find one. You will own at least 2 pairs before you are done if not more especially if you are going to the Himalaya and high.
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Re: Nervous Beginner

Postby rgg » Fri Nov 09, 2012 1:28 pm

I assume you know the saying: "Age is just a number". And unless you want to do record breaking stuff, that's quite true when applied to enjoying the great outdoors.

In 2000, at the age of 40, I wasn't particularly fit. I would go skiing once a year, that's it. Fortunately, I wasn't overweight or anything, I just wasn't physically active. I decided to exercise regularly to get fitter, doing some light weight training, and started hiking in the mountains in my holidays. Day hikes only. I didn't buy any gear at first. No hiking boots, just regular ones or sturdy shoes. And I learned that a cotton shirt gets drenched quickly but dries slowly. So I just changed clothes a lot and hiked in warm weather.

Two years later I was still exercising so I bought a home gym, figuring I was now committed enough so that it wouldn't just gather dust somewhere. Had bought proper hiking boots and socks, and quick drying clothes by now. I kept going on hiking trips, mostly organized now, both because I still wasn't experienced and because of the company. I hiked up and down easy mountains, and in 2003 scrambled up Mount Olympus in Greece - I consider that my first proper climb.

In 2004, I started doing cardio work at the gym. In a few months, I got a lot fitter. You don't have to go to a gym for that, you could go cycling or running, to name just a few possibilities. Being fit now, I went on an Alpine beginners course that summer.

Image
Even on big mountains, it's mostly hiking

Since then, I kept at it, exercising, hiking and climbing, alone and with others, gaining experience, taking courses now and then and buying more and more gear. I'm 52 now, and having a blast whenever I'm in the mountains. It doesn't have to be a hard route, or a fast climb, although occasionally I like to challenge myself that way as well, but most importantly it's all about having fun being out there, getting to the summit when I can, and letting it go when I don't like the risk involved - I want to get back home safe!

And no matter how old you are, or at what level you hike or climb, you can always enjoy being out there. When my body get's too old for difficult climbs or strenous hikes, I'll just scale back. I'm sure I'll still have fun. So, there is nothing wrong with starting at 55. Just get fit, start hiking and join others, for the company and to learn from them, then whenever you're ready, start climbing.

Have fun and be safe,
Cheers, Rob

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Now you're climbing!
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Re: Nervous Beginner

Postby pyerger » Fri Nov 09, 2012 4:03 pm

NOT CRAZY AT ALL. There is a benefit to starting at 55, your knees and joints aren't all worn out from decades of abuse, and many climbers find there peak in there 40s and 50s even -60s. although fitness is very important, There is a balance between fitness and wisdom, which only comes with age.

Start by hiking some moderate peaks like Wheeler Peak, In New Mexico, guadalupe peak in Texas, and some easy 14ers in Colorado. IF YOU LOVE IT, Then you can move on, and up from there.
If you have the time, there are many, many people out there that can teach you with out hiring a guide. Some good resources, join the Colorado mountain club (CMC). There are hundreds of people with different experience levels, that hike and climb almost every day, and is a good way to gain knowledge. There is also the Glacier mountaineering society,in Montana. many middle age folks climbing mountains in that group. Check out 14ers.com for Colorado peak beta. and to hook up with like minded people.

enjoy the journey!
Last edited by pyerger on Fri Nov 09, 2012 8:50 pm, edited 1 time in total.
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Re: Nervous Beginner

Postby TimB » Fri Nov 09, 2012 4:34 pm

-----
Last edited by TimB on Fri Nov 09, 2012 4:39 pm, edited 1 time in total.
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Re: Nervous Beginner

Postby TimB » Fri Nov 09, 2012 4:36 pm

otto6457 wrote:Not to make this too long winded, I'm a 55 year old guy that's never climbed anything higher than a step ladder. But I've been fascinated by mountaineering since I was a kid. I remember reading about Mallory and his attempt on Everest in my elementary school library and then his disappearance on the mountain without anyone knowing if he made the summit. Something clicked in my mind after reading the story and I knew that I wanted to climb mountains. Well, unfortunately growing up in West Texas that dream got over run by reality and I never pursued the idea of climbing.

Now, with my kids raised and me on my own, the dream sort of started creeping back in. I don't know why, but it's firmly back in my consciousness.

So, bear with me if I ask what may be the dumbest questions you've ever seen. But this Texan is absolutely clueless about everything in mountaineering.

My ultimate goal would be a climb in the Himalayas. I'm not talking Everest or any sort of climb that requires the sort of experience and knowledge I'll probably never acquire. maybe something more challenging than walking up Mera Peak, but not a truly technical climb. This is almost as much about just seeing such beauty in person since I've never even left the U.S. The mountains of Colorado/New Mexico as a snow skier is the only real experience I have in the mountains. I haven't even camped out since I was a kid. But the idea of traveling to such an exotic place like Nepal is exhilarating for this flat land living Texan.

I have looked at some mountaineering schools like Alpine Ascents and they seem like a good place to start and learn the right way to do things at the beginning. It makes sense to me to learn the skills in a controlled environment with people trained to teach beginners would be a safer and more efficient way to start my journey. But my lack of knowledge leaves me without any way to really judge that idea.

I guess what I'm asking is, am I crazy to even consider this idea? And if I'm not crazy, am I on the right track considering my age and complete lack of experience?

I have looked around the web for local climbing or hiking clubs and it seems that the High Plains of Texas is not a hotbed for mountain climbers, so seeking someone near me appears to be impossible. This will be an adventure I probably have to tackle alone.

Thanks in advance for any advice.



Otto,
Welcome to the club!
I finally started climbing last year(at 44 YO) and am loving it. I have wanted to mountain climb since I was in elementary school( reading the "White Spider" and drooling over the pics in some of Galen Rowell's books, did me in, so to speak).
What finally got me off my butt was a vacation to Switzerland a few years ago and seeing the Eiger in 'real time'.
Lots of good advice to be had here at Summitpost, and many of the posters here are more than willing to help out a 'noob'.

Best of luck to you on your journey!

Tim
Last edited by TimB on Fri Nov 09, 2012 9:09 pm, edited 1 time in total.
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Re: Nervous Beginner

Postby norco17 » Fri Nov 09, 2012 4:50 pm

otto6457 wrote: I haven't even camped out since I was a kid.

Go camping, and start hiking. Get yourself comfortable in the outdoors.

Wastral wrote:1) Don't be nervous about the "technical aspect". That comes with experience like everything else. Most of it is simple common sense that becomes "obvious" once you do it once or twice.

2) Enjoyment of mountaineering is proportional to how good of shape you are in. Just get out and start doing.



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Re: Nervous Beginner

Postby ty454 » Fri Nov 09, 2012 5:45 pm

+1 to the AAI class

I was in the same boat you're in just a few months ago. I live in Southern Maryland...I think the highest elevations here belong to the cell towers. Unlike you, I'm only 32 yo, though I doubt it makes all that much difference. My wife and I decided that we wanted to get into climbing - we started winter backpacking trips in the WV mountains a few years ago and it's just grown from there.

So early this year I sucked it up and signed us up for a September Alpine Ascents 6-day Mountaineering School on Mt. Baker. Ha ha, the best part about the whole experience (I kid, not really) was buying a shit-ton of fancy new climbing gear - crampons, sweet tent, biners, *boots*, etc...we already had most of the cold weather gear from camping, and Mt. Baker actually turned out to be ridiculously hot when we went. It was rather annoying on Summit day being so hot, especially on the descent. I was literally eating snow every few minutes just to try and stay cool.

But anyway, The AAI class was great and there's no reason I would be scared to do it as a beginner unless you were really afraid of heights or had some other outdoor camping phobia. We did all the standard stuff - crevasse rescue, crampon usage, arresting roped travel, etc. And obviously summit day was a lot of fun.

A word of advice. In my case I'm hardcore when it comes to training, normally bodybuilding. My wife is too, so starting about 3 months out we adapted our training regimen more toward climbing, increasing cardio and faux-hiking with our packs loaded up to 60lbs in our Baruntses. Being in S. MD and training in Jun-Aug, all our training was indoors due to the obscene heat and humidity this summer. But in any case, we kicked ass and came to the class in awesome shape. It made things so much better, and it proved that you don't *have* to have mountains nearby (or even train outside for that matter!) to get in shape for a trip like that.

One person had to drop out on the first day because he couldn't handle the approach with pack, but everyone else pulled through. We really appreciated the extra time in the gym on summit day, when after climbing around the glacier and living in a tent for 6 days on shitty camp food, we had to summon the energy to climb in 80 degree temps with beating sun.

One other piece of advice - invest in quality blue-bags. The last night my wife and I were in our tent and all of a sudden things just started to smell, bad. I guess from being out in the warm weather our blue bags started "venting". I tried double-bagging the 10lbs or so worth of blue-bags from both of us in a trash bag for the hike out but it just didn't work. Any time the wind blew from behind me all I could smell was my own crap. And it wasn't too pleasant for anybody we passed on the trail either! I'll be trying the poo-powder bags on the next trip. I don't think it would have been as big of an issue had it been colder or if the trip was only 3 days instead of 6...less volume and all you know.

Now we really want to climb Eldorado Peak and I'm doing my best to determine whether we could do a winter or early spring ascent is the weather is ok. I don't want to have to wait until next summer for another climb. Just got our 60m rope and snow pickets delivered yesterday so we can practice our crevasse rescues this weekend!
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Re: Nervous Beginner

Postby moonspots » Fri Nov 09, 2012 8:43 pm

otto6457 wrote:Not to make this too long winded, I'm a 55 year old guy that's never climbed anything higher than a step ladder...I guess what I'm asking is, am I crazy to even consider this idea? And if I'm not crazy, am I on the right track considering my age and complete lack of experience?
...Thanks in advance for any advice.


No, you are not crazy! And no, you are not too old! I've never summited anything remotely resembling a peak in my life, yet this summer (1 day past my 61st birthday), I made the summit of Mt Rainier. And I'm not your basic fitness example either, my entire professional life has been electronics, and that doesn't lend itself to much physical fitness.

But, what I DID have is perseverance. I first envisioned a hike up Rainier (I picked the biggest mountain in the PNW because it is the closest to the grandkids) maybe 8-9 years ago, and gradually worked myself up to believing I could do it. This past January I started working out 3-5 days/week, eventually figuring out what seemed to be useful vs what wasn't really going to be helpful, and by July I'd dropped between 22 and 25 lbs. A physical exam and doctor said "go for it", and in August I did.

Go for it. Get a physical to see where your physical self is, then put your mental self where you want to go... And happy trails!
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Re: Nervous Beginner

Postby moonspots » Fri Nov 09, 2012 8:57 pm



Yup...but just don't slip... :shock:
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Re: Nervous Beginner

Postby lcarreau » Sat Nov 10, 2012 12:27 am

Depends upon your definition of CRAZY.

You would be CRAZY to post in the OFF-ROUTE forum ... it'd be a complete and TOTAL WASTE of your TIME.

Then again, I personally believe in FREE CHOICE, so the choice is YOURS ... but just remember ...

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Re: Nervous Beginner

Postby otto6457 » Sat Nov 10, 2012 2:07 am

Thanks for the advice and support folks. I'm going for it. I am in a good time in my life with my kids on their own and my health is still excellent. I'm in good shape (not mountaineering shape) and getting really fit is a matter of dedication and commitment and not necessarily talent. So I don't feel quite so overwhelmed.

You guys have given me that little bit of confidence that I can do this in spite of my age. Which may not seem like much to most people, but it's pretty scary to try something so beyond my everyday experience that it's hard to even imagine myself doing it. Add that to not being a spring chicken anymore with absolutely no experience or even real concept of what is really involved and the challenge can look really intimidating.

Thanks again guys. I hope I don't drive you all nuts with dumb questions.
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Re: Nervous Beginner

Postby moonspots » Sat Nov 10, 2012 2:51 am

otto6457 wrote:Thanks for the advice and support folks. I'm going for it. ...

Thanks again guys. I hope I don't drive you all nuts with dumb questions.


If you do (drive us "nuts"), then it'll be a short trip... :lol:

Truthfully, go for it. The "whole thing" might seem a bit overwhelming, but you don't do it all at once, so don't think about it all at once.

Start walking, use a stair-climber at the gym, or use stairs wherever you find 'em (this is actually better than the gym machine as you'll get some toning of the "downhill" muscles also), load up a backpack (doesn't have to be a "hiking" pack either, just an old bookbag type will be fine) with weights and go up/down stairs, hills, etc. Work on increasing your distance a bit maybe every other week or so. Get some leg weights (I found some at Target) and they'll give you a good workout. Initially, go until your legs are sore, then wait a couple of days, let the muscle fibers re-build, then go again.

Start reading the various trip report or training/conditioning sections in the hiking forums (http://www.summitpost.org, cascadeclimbers.com, http://www.nwhikers.net are 3 that come to mind). See what others have to say. You should be fine, and 55 is as good a time as any to start.
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Re: Nervous Beginner

Postby lcarreau » Sat Nov 10, 2012 2:55 am

otto6457 wrote:
Thanks again guys. I hope I don't drive you all nuts with dumb questions.


HEY -- THEM ARE FIGHTIN' WORDS! --- Who says we're not ALREADY NUTS ??? :D

Step by step process ... first you need a good pair of boots --- best of luck ... :wink:
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