At 68 years old, Lee Sheftel continues to climb hard, having just sent Eulogy (5.13b) in Rifle, Colorado. Sheftel says he climbed the route on his 18th attempt spread over two months, but insists that the route was "not his style."
"I expected to accomplish the route in 10 attempts or less but it's a particularly bouldery route which is NOT my strength," wrote Sheftel in an e-mail exchange with Rock and Ice.
Sheftel attributes his recent success to technique and not strength, explaining that he is still learning how to move on rock.
"I have learned to make better use of my feet and how I pressure and articulate them when making certain challenging moves," explained Sheftel. "It's basically how to make my entire body work together in unison."
He also credits his climbing partners, specifically Lynn Hill, for his continued improvements, stating that he learns to climb more efficiently "just by watching her."
Sheftel started climbing at the age of 33, transitioning from running marathons to the sport after he realized that training for running was something he "just wanted to get over with."
"I also tried tennis, which I loved, but it didn't provide the adventure I wanted," says Sheftel. "After fooling around and almost killing myself scrambling up rocks one day, I got hooked-up with a young kid who took me out roped climbing."
An accountant by trade, Sheftel—who climbed his hardest route (Maple Canyon's The Whole Shot [5.13d/5.14a]) at age 59 — is still infatuated with climbing.
"Climbing engages me physically, mentally and is such a multi-faceted sport that it continues to be both challenging and interesting and satisfying," he says.
And according to Sheftel, who still has a few 5.12ds and 5.13as he'd like to finish off this season, he is just now learning to how to "flow" on the rock.
"I have learned to flow more with my movements," he says. "As I have lost some of my strength at this point, I have to think about these techniques more than ever."