Lou Renner and Leon Kaatz are two very special climbing buddies of mine. I’m sure that if you’re following my blog, you’ve read about the Bozeman Six several times now. It’s not just the Bozeman Six as a project, though. There’s a real chemistry between the three of us. Lou says that Leon really turns it on when I’m part of the team and he accomplishes amazing feats, let me tell you! For being 77 years old, you’d never know it! Age is a mindset. So is motivation. Lou and Leon both are amazing men in their own fields. Leon is still a practicing criminal defense attorney. Lou is an artist and international mountain guide. Lou is in his early 60’s and I’m in my late 30’s. As a team, you’d never think we were formidable to look at us in comparison to other more likely candidates. It’s that chemistry, though – that mindset that we have when we’re together as climbers– that makes all the difference.
Let me demonstrate this to you with a few examples. The first year that Lou, Leon, and I did the Bozeman Six, Leon had a black eye and a splinted thumb when he showed up. That was the first time I’d met Leon, and I was wondering what we were in for, honestly. When I saw Lou and Leon climb, though, I was amazed. Of the three of us, Lou is in, by far, the best physical shape. Leon is next, followed by my short, robust self. Lou gave a little coaching here and a little coaching there, but Leon was literally willing himself up the wall somehow in the gym as we got to know each other! I don’t know how to describe Leon’s character. He has a tenacity and a perseverance and an absolute belief that gets him to the top of any climb, no matter what. If Leon decides to climb something, it’s getting climbed! He’s not afraid. There is no fear in that man. The next year, Leon showed up for the Bozeman Six after having had heart surgery. Again, I wasn’t sure what to expect, but I was so glad to see my friend well and ready to climb! We blew our first year’s record out of the water! All three of us climbed well that second year. I was finally developing some skills and I felt great about the day!
This year, during our third bid on the Bozeman Six, it was me who was less than 100%. I had been in that motor vehicle accident in October and broken my wrist, and then I tweaked my knee on the fourth boulder and ended up sitting out fully half of the Bozeman Six, but that didn’t mean that I couldn’t cheer Lou and Leon on! I laid on my back on the ground with my leg stretched out above my head against trees at each boulder to try to increase bloodflow to my injured left knee while Lou and Leon mounted their attacks on the boulders. I checked in with them now and then to make sure they were doing okay and carried the bouldering pad for them since I wasn’t good for much other than morale checks and pack-muling. Leon was on a mission! Even without me on the last three boulders, Lou and Leon and I blew our record out of the water again! Had I been able to continue climbing, we would’ve had an even more remarkable outcome! At the end of the day, we were all happy, despite my misadventure. I was happy because I had repeated my V3 dihedral with only the polished dime edges as hand and footholds. I still had it, even after breaking my scaphoid in my wrist! That, to me, meant that there are still no limits for me in climbing! Lou and Leon both accomplished more than 100 ascents each, which was spectacular! I had the same goal until my knee gave, but our next bid will be better yet – I just know it!
So, through the ups and downs of the days and the years, remember that age and motivation are mindsets. You are only as old as you allow yourself to think you are, and you are limited only by your mind – what and how you think of the challenges set before you. Lou and Leon are two of my very best friends and climbing buddies, and I feel so incredible when I’m with these guys. Their mindsets are contagious, and we keep each others’ morale high, inspiring greater and greater feats each time we meet to climb. I can’t wait until I get to climb with Lou and Leon again!