87-Year-Old Climber Breaking Records At Devil’s Tower

By Stan Bush

LOVELAND, Colo. (CBS4)– Devil’s Tower in Wyoming is 800 feet of a nearly straight wall. It is one of climbing’s most iconic challenges.

Rob Kelman says he needed to complete it one more time, but not for notoriety.

“You have all sorts of emotions from being elated to thoroughly frightened,” says Kelman, who is 87 years old.

87yo climber 10pkg frame 0 87 Year Old Climber Breaking Records At Devils Tower

Devil’s Tower (credit: Rob Kelman)

Kelman made it to the top on Monday with the assistance of a professional guide.  That climb set records. It was a 5-hour journey up sheer rock in scorching heat with some handholds no bigger than a fingertip.

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(credit: Rob Kelman)

“There were times where I thought ‘Call it a day and go down’ but I knew I’d just come back.”

87yo climber 10pkg frame 652 87 Year Old Climber Breaking Records At Devils Tower

(credit: Rob Kelman)

Kelman had climbed Devil’s Tower more than a dozen times as a young man. He learned to climb at 41, when most retire from the sport. Two years ago he underwent open heart surgery and set his sights on a return up the tower as an objective to prove he had recovered.

87yo climber 10pkg frame 1047 87 Year Old Climber Breaking Records At Devils Tower

(credit: Rob Kelman)

“When I got to the top I had a feeling of thankfulness and I said a prayer of gratefulness.”

Kelman works twice as hard as most men half his age. He weight trains 2½ hours, 3 to 4 days a week. The mathematician says his physical gifts are equal parts genetics and determination.

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Rob Kelman (credit: CBS)

“I don’t feel good if I don’t do something physically hard.”

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Rob Kelman (credit: CBS)

Kelman says he didn’t climb to relive his glory days. As far as he’s concerned, his glory days haven’t passed him by.

87yo climber 10pkg frame 1994 87 Year Old Climber Breaking Records At Devils Tower

(credit: Rob Kelman)

“I’m not obsessed with this feeling young. I’m satisfied with my age. I feel okay with my age and there’s an ageism with this ‘doing it to feel young.’”

87yo climber 10pkg frame 592 87 Year Old Climber Breaking Records At Devils Tower

(credit: Rob Kelman)

Stan Bush is a general assignment reporter at CBS4. His stories can be seen on CBS4 News at 10. Read his bio and follow him on Twitter @StanBushTV.

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