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Maggie Odette, 49, Climbs 5.14b “T-Rex”

Odette sent her hardest grade yet at 49 years old, having done her first 5.14a at the age of 44.

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Maggie Odette has climbed her hardest route to date—T-Rex in Maple Canyon, Utah—just three months shy of her 50th birthday.

T-Rex is located in Maple Canyon’s Pipe Dream cave, where Maggie and her husband Chuck—who live on the road and follow the weather to climb year-round—have both sent numerous difficult climbs. T-Rex itself is an extension of a route called Millennium, a 5.14a which Odette began working last summer and sent in September. She then began working on a different Millennium extension, a 5.14a called Eulogy; it didn’t go that season, but she returned to it and sent it in May.

About a month after completing Eulogy, she decided to try T-Rex. Having spent so much time in the Pipe Dream, she’d seen a few people climb it over the years, but, she said, “I always thought that it was so hard that there was no way I would ever be the one up there on it.”

T-Rex is rife with large, dynamic moves—a particular challenge for the 5’2” Odette, who can’t use the “standard beta” for the crux and consequently came up with her own creative solutions. She jokes that she became a “kneebarologist” to compensate for her height and relative lack of strength: “I kind of climb with my knees more than my hands sometimes.”

Photo: Zoltan Papp.

Odette describes herself as an incredibly patient climber, who sometimes pushes through two weeks of working on a project before she even manages to clip the chains. Before sending T-Rex, she had fully repeated Millennium three times on the way up, and had one-hung T-Rex twice.

On the day that she sent, it was hot in Maple Canyon. The temperature might have put off other climbers, but Odette was happy. “I just feel like I’m taller,” she said. “When it’s warm, I can reach further. When it’s cold, my arms don’t want to leave my sides.”

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Different guidebooks list T-Rex as either a 5.14a or a 5.14b. Odette (along with many others) feels that it belongs in the latter category, in comparison to the four previous 5.14a routes that she has completed.

Either way, T-Rex marked her second 5.14 of the season and her hardest route so far. There are other routes on her tick list in Pipe Dream cave, but she expects them to take so much work that she may leave them until next season and spend the fall finishing some easier routes that she hasn’t yet done. She and her husband joke that the Pipe Dream is the “retirement home” of climbers. “It’s generally pretty decent holds, it’s well-bolted, and it’s really just all about gymnastic, core-intensive movement,” which she and Chuck both enjoy. “It’s not as easy to get hurt climbing there as it is in a lot of other places.”

Photo: Zoltan Papp.

Maggie started climbing at the age of 28, at a gym near her home in Michigan. She soon became a regular at the Red River Gorge in Kentucky, where she first met her future husband and fellow climber, Chuck Odette, in 2007. They began dating in 2009, and in 2015, the couple retired to travel and climb full-time. Chuck has made news for sending numerous 5.14s over the age of 60. This year, at 63, he repeated a 5.14a just “so that he could increase the age record on it.”

In response to congratulations on her send, Maggie said, “Thank you! It’s not 5.15, though…. Maybe someday.”

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