Senior Athletes :  Jerry Dodgen  2007

Jerry passed away 5 December 2011
RIP  Jerry

Birthday Climb - Age 70

Pingora Peak   1996

Jerry Dodgen


Section A.          

1. Year of birth:  1931

2. Height & weight (now and at younger age): 
  Now  5'7"  and  153 lbs.   165lbs. for 40 years before climbing

3. Year you began rock climbing and/or bodyweight athletics: 1988

4. Are you retired? Still working?: Work part time

5. Is your family supportive of your rock climbing and/or bodyweight athletics: Yes

6. How important is the social aspect of the sport for you?:  Very important, second only to the activity itself.  I am known as and consider myself a rock climber.  Work is just something I do. There is nothing like sharing stories around a campfire, speciallywith a glass of wine.

Section B.

1. Type of rock climbing (or bodyweight athletics) you now enjoy:  
Trad Lead.  Putting up new routes, or getting high on established multi-pitch routes.

2. Type you enjoyed at a younger age?: Same

3. Do you engage in auxilliary training or associated athletics?:  No, I'm much too fond of wine and chocolate.

4. How often do you climb or exercise now? At a younger age?:  
Currently getting out about 2x a month.  This is temporary because of job.  I expect to have every weekend free again soon.>

5. Length of climbing (or exercise) sessions now?:
All day or days--but I don't get in 5-7 climbs like I used to.

6. How long does it take for fairly complete physical recovery?:
It always astonishes me how quickly the body disintegrates with non-use and how long it takes to get back what is lost. We are physical beings and our bodies are meant to be used. I think getting old is just learning to live with pain.

7. At what level of difficulty do you now climb (exercise)? Past levels?:
Lead 5.9, or an occasional 5.10 when I'm really psyched.  5.11c was my best effort some years ago.  Put up "my 5.12" at 70--really 5.10bc.
8.  What changes have you observed in strength and endurance over the years? Grip strength?  Arm & upper body strength? Legs? :

Both have declined.(Strength and endurance)Grip strength--down because of injuries. Arm and upper body--down. Legs--down due to arthritis and sciatica.

Section C.

1. Any injuries or illnesses since age 65 affecting your climbing/exercising?  How have you coped?  NSAIDs or other medication? :
Ruptured Achilles tendon, Missing cartilege in knee from pre-arthroscopic surgery, Chronic Rotator Cuff. Cope mostly with swearing and Vitamin I (Ibuprophen) when needed.
2.  What kind of diet do you follow, if any? Vitamins? Stimulants?:
Some meat - pork, chicken, fish, veggies, salad, nuts, vitamins, 1-2 coffees/day, and of course red wine and some kind of dessert - mostly chocolate.

3. Special food or drink after a workout?:

Water, followed by wine at dinner. (I'm beginning to sound like a wino - maybe I'll learn to climb as well as Warren Harding)

4. Water or fluid intake? High? Low?: Low!  I have to force myself to drink much water.  Even on a full day of climbing I seldom drink more than a quart.  I know that is not too good.

Section D.

1. What is your current philosophy of your sport? Has this changed with age? :

When talking about Rock Climbing, particularly starting at age 58, people would often say:  "You must have a Death-wish."  I explained it was really a "Life-wish" and while that is accurate I never felt it conveyed enough--so here is my answer: What's occurring is a conscious act of craziness.  What you are seeing is pinpoint focus combined with mad abandon in such a way as to cause spectres of death and the exaltations of life collide at some kind of crossroad.  The sparks that fly from that collision are like little shards of God.  If you can hold them in your mind for more than 5 seconds, you can understand everything that ever was, or will be.  Climbing is physical, but more than that, it's mental. Sometimes the joy is in calling on your body to make a desperate
move--and you succeed.  But before you make that move you have to get up the courage to go for it.  It takes focus and commitment, and in that instant all problems, complexities, or concerns about your life fall away.  Life becomes simple.  There is just you and the rock.  You either go up or you go down--or you fall in the attempt. It isn't easy even after 1,000 times, but the adrenaline rush, the feeling of well being, and the camaraderie generated  after a day of hard climbing make it so worthwhile.  A sense of adventure and a feeling of awe are generated every time you get high on the rock and it never seems to diminish, even on familiar routes. You experience beauty that you have earned, but it's not beauty per se that makes climbing Zen or makes it art.  It's the extremity of the risks that are assumed by each exquisite gesture, each impossible move.  It's a more extreme version of the dangerous beauty of normal every day decisions--whether to speed or not, whether to lie or not, whether to forgive or not.   We can  rise above mediocrity only when there is something at stake, and I mean something more consequential than money or reputation.  Rock climbing is a useless activity if all you consider is getting to the top.  While getting there has its rewards, like everything else in life--it is the journey that counts.

2. What are your current goals and personal rewards from the sport? Has this changed with age?:
5.12 was about the top grade when I started so my goal was to reach that level.  I think I could have if my desire had been strong enough to make me workout and train, but I have always been relatively good at most sports without training and I moved up to 5.9 climbing immediately so I thought 5.12 would be possible with a little more technique--or a new pair of shoes.  Little did I know!!!!

3. What is your opinion: Is rock climbing (bodyweight exercises)performance - at any age - influenced more strongly by genetic attributes or training and experience? (Nature or nurture?) Is it even possible to generalize?:
I believe training and experience are more important--but that's probably because I don't do it.  I know I could do better with regimented training--just can't get myself to do it.  I'd rather go climb and I get the same joy from being on the rock even if I'm mostly doing moderate stuff.

4. What are your predictions for the future of rock climbing?:

I think we are approaching the limit of human capability with overhanging mono-digit 5.15+ Sport climbs and I believe we will see more climbers trending back to Trad.  As a friend once told me:  "I sport climb for the joy of making hard moves.  I Trad climb for the Adventure."

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