Climbing leads to confidence, fitness & independence: Janet’s story

Janet onsighting Nightmare on Crude Street, 10d in the Black Corridor

Janet is another amazing climber breaking the 60+ barrier still leading 5.11s that we want to introduce you to.

She began climbing at the age of 44, and has been going non-stop for 18 years ever since. She is a mother to two step sons and still works a full-time job. Most weeks, she’s able to go climbing 2-3 times.

Her initial introduction to climbing left her less than impressed, but can you blame her? It was in a converted racquetball court at Oregon State University – under the bleachers! It wasn’t until she got to climb outside, at Carver, that she discovered what all the excitement was about!

Over the years Janet has noticed that her climbing has definitely improved as she ages – and not necessarily because she is climbing harder, but just climbing smarter, more efficiently. She also tells us there are more and more “older” climbers that are still pulling down hard.

Most significantly, with age has come a change in perspective towards climbing projects. Janet finds herself picking routes more selectively – routes she thinks she will enjoy instead of just throwing herself at routes simply because they are deemed “a classic.” As she said in our interview, “I’m still doing laps on 11’s in the gym and I think it’s an accomplishment to be where I am at my age.” We agree! Read on to see our interview with Janet!

Name:  Janet Linebarger
Age: 62
Years climbing:  18 years
Lead climb at: 5.11 sport
Mom: Two stepsons
Working: Yes!

Can you talk about your first climbing experience?
My first climbing experience was in the old gym under the bleachers in converted racquetball courts at Oregon State University.  I thought it was ok, but didn’t see what all the excitement was about.  Then I went outside to climb (at Carver) and found out what all the excitement was about!

Has your climbing improved with age?
My climbing has improved with age.  I don’t climb as hard, but I climb better.

How many days do you try to climb a week?
I climb 2-3 days a week.

What do you do on rest days?
On rest days I sometimes rest.  Or I will hike or work my legs in the gym.

What other activities and/or sports do you do? (Any cross training or cardio?)
I bike, mostly on the road these days due to lack of availability to trails; I love to cross-country ski or snowshoe; or train in the gym on the StairMaster or treadmill for a cardio and leg workout.  I love to read, play cards (bridge or 500), watch movies, and go out to eat.

How do you avoid injuries?
Well, I don’t know that I do avoid injuries.  I try to listen and pay attention to aches and pains but those seem to increase with age, and if you pay too close attention then you never do anything.  So, it’s a balancing act which sometimes pays off and sometimes not.

If you are injured, how do you deal with it?
If I am injured I try to rest and take care of the body part.  This doesn’t always work as a strategy.  Like with elbow tendinitis.  After 4 months rest and no improvement, I started using a Flexbar and started climbing again.  I think it will always be painful to some extent.  With knee and leg injuries I usually do what the PT tells me to do.  I haven’t had other types of injuries in a long time. Knock, knock.

As you’ve gotten older, how has your body changed as a climber?
As I’ve gotten older, my body has changed as a woman, not as a climber.  I still have a lot of muscle definition but I also have the requisite weight around the middle.  If I hadn’t continued to climb and stay active, that would be worse by far.

Who do you look up to as a mentor in the climbing world? (Or, who influences your climbing (if anyone)?)
I look up to all the older climbers that are still pulling down.  There are more and more of them.

What kinds of projects do you find yourself focusing on now? Is this different from what you worked at in the past?
I’m more modest and realistic about climbing projects now than I used to be.  I really wanted to climb 13’s but never got there.  I really wanted to do Chain Reaction and now I won’t.  But that’s OK.  One has to put things into perspective.  I’m still doing laps on 11’s in the gym and I think it’s an accomplishment to be where I am at my age.  So now I don’t do a route just because it’s a classic or a certain grade.  I really want to like the route for its ascetics and how much fun it is and how well it suits me.  I don’t throw myself at any route relentlessly like I used to.

What kind of training plan do you employ?
I have no formal training plan.  I take it one day at a time.  If I’m tired then so be it.  Some days are better than others.  That’s life.

Nutrition – how conscious are you of fueling your body for performance?
I use good nutrition and supplements but I don’t starve myself of fats.  If I lost the fat in my face I would look ten years older.  Older women with a single digit body fat number look like older, skinny women.  My opinion.

If you could offer one piece of advice to a woman in her 40s that has never tied into a rope before but is curious to try, what would it be?
I was 44 when I started climbing.  I was already pretty fit but climbing helped me get more fit.  And I have seen many women in the gym where I climb and teach that get more fit, more confident, more independent, and really, more beautiful, with each new hurdle passed in their climbing efforts.  It’s an amazing sport in many respects but I think the things that are hardest to see until you have tried it is that you are really alone in your efforts and struggles because of the focus it takes, but you are also part of a tight community that gives you total support and encouragement in whatever your goals are.  So it is very solitary and at the same time very social.  How can you resist?  Just try it!

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