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.
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.
“There were times where I thought ‘Call it a day and go down’ but I knew I’d just come back.”
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.
“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.
“I don’t feel good if I don’t do something physically hard.”
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.
“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.’”