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Meet Robert Kelman, the 87-Year-Old Who Climbed Devil’s Tower

Making that record-breaking climb was difficult, and there were times when Kelman wanted to quit. “But then I realized I’d come back,” he said. Kelman is living proof that motivation and effort outmatch age every time.

When many people retire, they move on to a more sedentary lifestyle. Not so for Robert Kelman, who is the oldest person to make it to the top of the iconic Devil’s Tower in Wyoming. At 87 years young, Kelman has been climbing for a long time.

Yet even he admits that the five-hour journey up the sheer rock of Devil’s Tower made him feel his age. The climb features 800 feet up a straight wall, many times with handholds no bigger than a fingertip. But even when Kelman feels his age catch up to him, he doesn’t let that get him down. “I don’t feel good if I don’t do something physically hard,” he says.

These records in climbing are not an attempt to relive his glory days. As far as he’s concerned, the glory days haven’t passed him by. He had done the Devil’s Tower climb more than a dozen times as a young man, but to do it now requires him to work twice as hard as most men half his age.

Making that record-breaking climb was difficult, and there were times when Kelman wanted to quit. “But then I realized I’d come back,” he said. Kelman is living proof that motivation and effort outmatch age every time.