The Aging Climber and Why Working Full Time is a Great Thing

When I was in my 20’s, climbing every day didn’t impact me until I was deep into weeks of nonstop of pushing hard. I would start to fall on routes that I shouldn’t and I eventually decided that I should rest in order to be able to try hard again. Over the years, college switched to a real career and I had to fit climbing and training into the schedule. I would train 4 days a week after work (or get in after work sessions outside weather permitting) and then try hard on the weekend. Monday would be a rest day if I felt that I needed it and then I would focus on what I needed on Tuesday-Thursday. A Friday rest day again took me into the weekend where I would pitch it out and attempt to climb as many new routes as I could in the few precious nonworking hours that I had. There never seemed to be enough time and my body was never a limiting factor.

Fast forward 20 years to my life now. Still a full time high school teacher, but now a father of two boys and husband to a wonderful and motivated distance running wife. The hours that I used to spend at the gym are now replaced by swimming lessons, music lessons, birthday parties, sports practices, coaching, and everything else that parents do for their kids and each other. The time that used to be dedicated to me improving my climbing is now dedicated to everyone else. Now you might be thinking that this is a bad thing or a challenge or even negative to someone who has let climbing basically take over his life, but you are wrong. Here is why.

At 41, my body doesn’t feel like it was 20 anymore. That means that

  • I need more recovery time after really pushing hard whether I am training or climbing
  • my body doesn’t recover as fast as it used to
  • I now focus on quality over quantity
  • there are movements and sequences that I will choose to not even try in order to prevent injury or further injury
  • I am always focused on the long term
  • taking care of my body is not a goal, but a daily commitment
  • not every route must be climbed
  • the forced rests are ultimately allowing me to climb longer and stay psyched

So as you age and have decades of climbing under your belt, remember that your body needs the change in order to just stay healthy. Allow it in and make the most of the time that you do have outside and it will always be great!

On the contrary, I have been watching those folks who are “living the climbing dream”. They are either sponsored or self sponsored and living out of their vehicles for years on end and sleeping where ever the next great climb lies in the world. Each continued day outside is wearing them down, and making them look as if they have been run over by a truck. They are traveling alone, constantly seeking out partners, and only focused on one thing, the project. The stress from feeling the need to complete their one and only project (really only temporary and fleeting because there is another already planned) keeps them only talking about it. The time alone or with fleeting partners, gives them plenty of think time to continue being stressed since nothing, but climbing occupies their mind. I have watched them pass through climbing gyms that I have worked at or trained at for the last 15 years. It is always the same thing, people are excited to see them, the chat to everyone about climbs that we should know about and do their routine alone until they convince someone to belay them. Their bodies never recover from sleeping in a vehicle no matter what kind of bed they have made. Cold nights and going to the bathroom outside or in a bottle takes its toll. I commend them for doing it, but from my perspective the dark side of it overshadows all the “big sends”.

Happy Holidays


Juj Monster Beta: Kolob Canyon

Something that I established this spring with Mike B. For adventure climbing out roofs with a few bolts here and there where the crack disappears. Good times and wild exposure with comfortable ledge belays.

This route was named for a friend who passed too early. It was her nickname that her father gave her.

juj monster

My Work as a High School Teacher Video

R5 Pizem Interview

I teach at R-5 High School and work with high school learners who need a different style of education. It is the responsibility of the myself and the other teachers at my school to prepare our learners for life after high school be that college, career prep or straight to the workforce. Catch a glimpse at what I try to do on a daily basis.

If you want to help, be that positive role model to those teenage in your life!



Over Two Soon: Topo and Beta

I had been wanting to new route in the North Fork of the Taylor in Kolob Canyon for years. I recently noticed that the locals were establishing incredible lines on the perfect stone and knew that I blew my shot at the plums. So as it goes, I began to look for the more unique and adventurous possibilities. This spring I established Juj Monster (a route named for my best friends wife’s sister who passed away way too soon in her life) and this fall I established Over Two Soon which is ironically about death again. I don’t know if the wall has a name, but I could see it being called the Memorial Amphitheater or something like that. Anyway, I was drawn to the wall by the lure of giant huecos. As it turns out the whole wall is covered with them. I have a few more lines that I would like to establish now that the approach is dialed and relatively quick (the first time it took me 8 hours to get to the base). Now I can do it in under 2 hours.

So what should you expect on this bolted sport climb?

  1. Just cause the bolts are there it doesn’t mean that you will see them (the first pitch is obvious, don’t worry about finding the route). Sometimes the best rock was in the back of the hueco or on the bottom or side. You get the picture.
  2. The route is next to a giant waterfall. That means that sand and dirt may accumulate on the holds. I brushed with a snow scraper brush to clean things off.
  3. Loose rock. I hammered the big and obviously scary stuff off the wall, but more may fall. Pay attention when you climb the route, it is Zion after all. Helmets are a must!
  4. I left a draw on pitch 4, this is so you can clip it and lower down to reach the anchor. The pitch is overhung and you will dangle in space if you don’t clip into bolts on the pitch. Please leave it there so others can clip in.
  5. Full 35 meter rappels. Make sure you line up the rope ends exactly, otherwise you will have to adjust them just above the cave anchor belay.

The route topo is below and the route is in between the waterfall and the white spots on the far right of the image in the photo below. The route gets morning shade and plenty of wind so dress for success. Also we saw a rattle snake up near the base. Be aware.

Over Two Soon TopoDSC00626

Upcoming Slide Shows!!!

December 26 at Stone Age Climbing Gym in Albuquerque, New Mexico. This will be a good one and my first time speaking in New Mexico!!! Psyched!!

Jan 12, 2018 at Pine Needle Mountaineering in Durango, CO

Jan 17, 2018 at Grand Valley Climbing Gym in Grand Junction, CO

My goal in my presentations is to make your hands sweat, make you laugh, and finally to inspire you to plan, train and accomplish your dreams be them climbing related or not! I always have a little gear from my sponsors too. Arcteryx, SCARPA, CAMP-USA, Julbo, Sterling Rope

Rob Pizem-Zion-OTS-LoRes-1391


Halloween with the Boys

This is a great time of the year. The temperatures are cooler, there are many wonderful ways to celebrate life and of course, reasons to wear costumes. My boys love Halloween. They love dressing up, pumpkin carving, and they love wearing costumes. We went back to the pumpkin patch this fall to enjoy the sunshine and bouncing and sliding and the wagon rides.

I think that if I didn’t have my own kids that I would have continued skipping holidays and the joy that they bring people. I have been consumed with climbing for so long that holiday just means more time to climb. I never got into the festivities that the rest of the population thrives upon. My boys have allowed me to see what happiness holidays can bring and that fun is slowly creeping into my crusty ole brain. Thanks to my wonderful wife for teaming up with me for making and raising these incredible boys.DSC00795DSC00815DSC00791DSC00805