“When he set a new record up Wyoming’s Devils Tower last month, Robert Kelman confirmed what experts say about aging and athletics: use it or lose it.
Figure it one way, and the news that Rob Kelman, who’s been climbing half his life, recently summited Wyoming’s iconic Devils Tower is unspectacular. Lots of experienced climbers bag the basalt-like, 900-foot monolith. But Kelman started climbing in 1971, at age 41.
Do the math. Kelman is now 87, and officially the oldest climber ever to bag Devils Tower. He’s a retired mathematician who worked in the Eisenhower Administration’s White House, in the 1950s. Kelman tore up his left knee and lost his entire meniscus before the invention of arthroscopic surgery. He lost his ACL in that same knee while bouldering in the 1970s. He had his first heart surgery 20 years ago. He had his second in 2015, and at age 85, Kelman emerged from that procedure with resolve. “I thought it would be nice to have a goal,” he says. “Devils Tower kind of popped up.”
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