FLATHEAD VALLEY — With an endless stream of beautiful mountains, Montana is home to some of the best rock climbing in the country, and one group of guys from the Flathead Valley is proving that it is truly a sport for all ages.
"We’re all the same age roughly, actually I’m the youngest one, I’m 64 and you know we all have a great time," said former astronaut John Herrington. "We come out here, we enjoy each others company. It’s not a competitive thing, it’s just come out and enjoy the rocks, enjoy being outside."
After living in Idaho for 10 years Herrington moved to Montana in 2019 and found this group almost immediately.
"I met them out at Kila cliffs, I was riding my bike, I heard the distinct clinking of climbing gear and I thought, oh probably a bunch of young guys," said Herrington with a chuckle. "And I walked up and here’s a bunch of folks my age and was like, ‘can I start climbing with you guys?’"
Four years later the rest is history and the group of five guys continue to climb together every single week.
"It’s really important not to stop moving, you know inertia is a big deal in the world, and if you stop being active that’s it, you’re gonna stop being active," said former rock climbing instructor Link Neimark. "And I have no desire to sit in a rocking chair."
And as for what it means to have a group of people all within the same age range.
"It’s great, we encourage each other and it’s just really motivating," said Neimark with a smile. "I can watch Gary climb, he’s 80 years old and I know maybe I got a few years left in me so I wanna work hard and keep that going."
A former nuclear testing mechanic, Gary Simonsic didn’t start climbing until he was 65. 15 years later he couldn’t be happier he started when he did.
"The guys I hung out with took a course, all about the same age, and I really didn’t have an interest at first," said Simonsic. "Then I tried it and got hooked."
At 80 years old Simonsic is walking proof that anyone can pick up climbing at any point in their life.
"Don’t be frightened by it. You’re on a rope, you’re perfectly safe, probably one of the safer sports as long as you follow the rules," said Simonsic. "I’d encourage anybody to try, whatever the age, I’ve seen little kids do it and I do it at my age."