Climbing’s current fixation on youth teams and 12-year-olds crushing 5.14s has created a myth that the sport is purely the domain of adolescents and young adults. In this three-part series, we look at three Ontario-based climbers who destroy the popular notion that climbing is just a young person’s sport.
At age 76, Kit Moore is old enough to qualify for grandfather status in most climbing communities. But unlike most people his age, Moore is still actively climbing locally as well as travelling extensively in search of new climbing adventures.
We caught up with Moore and talked about travelling, weak ankles and climbing the Steck-Salathé route in Yosemite at the age of 60.
Kit Moore at the age of 75 climbing in the Gunks.
How did you get into climbing and how old were you at the time?
Kit Moore: In early 1985, when I was 44 years old, I decided to take four months off work. I had work to do on my house and farm, and some travels to do with my wife and children, but I had one month left to do anything I wanted. I saw an ad to join a group of people going to Africa for a one-month safari and ascent of Mount Kilimanjaro – something I wouldn’t normally have time to do. After Kilimanjaro, I decided to try a few other mountains – Aconcagua, Denali, Rainier, Mont Blanc; and I considered climbing Mount Kenya, which required a little rock-climbing to get to the top. I went on an Outward Bound trip to learn about rock-climbing among other things, and from the moment that I was five metres off the ground, I knew that rock-climbing was what I really wanted. And I never climbed Mount Kenya. In 1989, when I was 48 years old, I took a rock-climbing course with Brian Hibbert, Dave Moore and Harry Hoediono, and that course changed my life forever.
Kit Moore assisting in a rescue on Aconcagua (1989)
You’ve been climbing for almost three decades. What are some of the more interesting changes you’ve noticed in the sport?
Kit Moore: I’m now 76 and I’ve been rock-climbing for 28 years. When I first started, we used knotted tape slings for our draws, rigid-stemmed cams, 50-metre ropes and Firé climbing shoes from Boreal. Over the years, we moved up to sewn slings, flexible cams, longer ropes and much better climbing shoes. When we started, we were happy to climb any grade – we just wanted to climb a route clean without hanging or falling, but we often hung or fell anyway. As the equipment improved, so did our climbing, and the grades gradually went up, as did our expectations. With the development of climbing gyms in Toronto, which began soon after we took our 1989 course, climbers learn much faster and can hone their skills with very little risk of injury. Many more climbers are now leading 5.11, 5.12 and 5.13 than when I first started.
What is it about climbing that has kept you involved in the sport for so many years?
Kit Moore: For me, the attraction of climbing has always been the challenge of doing a route free, without hanging, falling or whining – and staying safe from start to finish. I remember reading Clouds from Both Sides by Julie Tullis, who talked about the feeling of freedom she felt when she went climbing, and how it helped her forget for a while the problems of daily work and life. Her book was an inspiration for me, and I still appreciate rock climbing for many of the same reasons she did. Another attraction of climbing has been the many wonderful people I’ve met through climbing; partners especially, but also other climbers I’ve met along the way. Many of these people I’d never have met otherwise, and several have become best friends.
Kit Moore rocking Boreal Firés, Wild Country ridged stem Friends and a Wild Country Gunfighter harness at Bon Echo (1990)
How do you stay fit for climbing? Do you have any specific training program?
Kit Moore: As we get older, it becomes more difficult to stay fit for climbing, but ever since I began climbing, I’ve simply climbed to stay fit for climbing. About 10 years before I began climbing, I had some serious problems with a herniated disc in my lower back. Since then, I’ve done exercises every morning to strengthen and stretch my back. As the years go by, I add other exercises to repair other parts of my body that have been injured through climbing or other physical activities. It now takes me an extra hour to get from bed to breakfast every morning, but it’s worth the additional time!
Why do you think many climbers drop out of the sport as they get older?
Kit Moore: As we get older, we tend to get weaker, no matter how much we train and work out. This weakness can lead to lack of confidence, which in turn increases the fear factor in climbing. I’ve also seen some older friends stop leading, or even stop climbing, because of their injuries. When I started climbing, I didn’t expect to be climbing beyond age 60, which as it turned out was my age when Ray Rutitis and I did the Steck-Salathé route on Sentinel Rock in Yosemite Valley. That route was the hardest and most sustained multi-pitch route that I’ve ever done, and probably the most satisfying as well. Even though we had an unplanned overnight bivy, I enjoyed the whole experience and have nothing but positive memories of that climb.
Kit Moore in Joshua Tree (2012)
You continue to travel quite a bit for climbing. What’s your favourite climbing area and why?
Kit Moore: It’s hard to pick a favourite area, but probably Joshua Tree National Park would be my favourite. Camping is wonderful and the desert environment there is amazing. When it’s too hot, we climb in the shade; when it’s too cold, we climb on the sunny faces. On my last visit to J-Tree six years ago, the temperature was 110°F at 8:15 a.m. on May 12th, but I enjoyed climbing every day even though I’d reached the ripe old age of 70. Other favourite areas for me include Bon Echo, Red Rocks, Gunks, Seneca Rocks, Yosemite Valley and Tuolomne Meadows.
Sport, trad or bouldering – what do you prefer and why?
Kit Moore: Without question, trad climbing is my favourite, especially long multi-pitch routes. I used to mix sport climbing with trad, but as I get older I find most sport climbs a little hard on my arthritic fingers. Bouldering has never appealed to me, as I’ve sprained my ankles many times over the last 60 years – playing football, jumping over fences, and a few ground falls. My ankles are so loose now, that even a small fall to the ground can re-sprain my ankles. Also, for me, one of the great appeals of climbing is the opportunity to go up high, not sideways.
Kit Moore on the summit of Aconcagua (1989)
Ok, what are your thoughts on climbing gyms?
Kit Moore: I still remember one night in the early 1990s, when we were in the Rattlesnake Point parking lot on our way home, one of the Bergman brothers came by and asked us if we would use a climbing gym if they built one. We all said we might use it in the winter, but that would be it. Of course, once Joe Rockhead’s gym opened, we all flocked to it and used it year round, then some of us moved on to TCA when it opened, and now I usually climb at my local gym, Rock Oasis, where I’ve been a member since it opened. Toronto is fortunate to have many good climbing gyms now, and most of us appreciate them as a way of staying in shape, climbing with friends, and meeting new climbing partners.
Kit Moore after completing Soler 5.7 at Seneca Rocks (2009)
Finally, do you have any climbing goals for this season?
Kit Moore: My main goal is to continue rock-climbing, which at this point in my life is an important objective. If possible, I’d like to have at least one trip this year to Red Rocks (already planned), one to the Gunks, several to Bon Echo, and perhaps one to Seneca Rocks. As far as grade is concerned, I’m happy now to climb up to 5.9 outdoors and up to 5.10 indoors, and I get lots of pleasure climbing some of the classic easier routes like Birdland, Frogland and Olive Oil in Red Rocks, High Exposure and Horseman in the Gunks, Ecstasy and Soler in Seneca Rocks, or Knob Hill and Boris’ Route at Bon Echo.
Kit Moore on the sharp end in the Gunks (2004)
Gus Alexandropoulos is a freelance writer who has been involved in the outdoor industry for over 25 years. During his career he has been the editor at Canada’s national climbing magazine, as well as the gear editor for a national cycling magazine, triathlon magazine and running magazine. His work has been published in Canada’s national newspaper, The Globe and Mail, and he has been a guest on television and radio broadcasts. His passion for climbing began in Ontario in the mid 80s and he continues to travel extensively in search of crisp conditions and steep rock.