A serial masochist’s guide to birthday celebrations

If you’re older than 21, birthdays probably don’t draw much water for you. Whoopy doo, let’s all celebrate another circumnavigation of a hydrogen fusion reactor aboard a blue-green rock…

But if you’re a climber, you’ve probably heard of (or perhaps even participated in) a “Birthday Challenge”. The concept is simple enough – climb the same amount of pitches as your age. It’s as good an excuse as any to have someone belay you for far longer than is generally considered fair.

I knocked out a cheeky Birthday Challenge on my 30th birthday, making use of a local beginner sport crag to climb a bunch of easy pitches. To be honest, I found the experience to be a little underwhelming. Now, that isn’t to say that the Birthday Challenge is worthless, but I feel that the concept could do with a few tweaks… a bit of pizazz, if you will.

Here are a few ideas to spruce up the old Birthday Climbing Challenge:

  1. Climb the same grade as your age

If you’re somewhere in the middle of the bell curve (as most of us are), you’re climbing moderates. That means you’re comfortable on grades around 18, give or take a few (that’s 5.10s, roughly speaking, for our northern counterparts).

So if you’re a youngster with gym strength and fresh, supple tendons, why not have a go at matching grade and age? I’m told this was the approach taken recently when a young punter wanted to have a shot at Guns of Navarone ­(23) at Frog Buttress. Unfortunately, the Magic Block picked this precise moment to fall out of Odin after decades of unerring service to the climbing community. Although both climbers were injured, they survived the experience and we wish them a speedy recovery.

All concerns about geological stability aside, my next Birthday Challenge will be quite demoralising if I choose this option… I don’t think even another 32 years would get me within striking distance of Punks in the Gym.

  1. Climb the same amount of metres as your age x 10

This could take a few different forms, but the aim is to get as close to the mark as possible. This is a game of precision.

If you’re tackling single pitch routes, this might be 10 or so routes of varying length. A multipitch may be easier for matters of pinpointing a specific route length, though perhaps more physically and mentally demanding.

But if you’re a boulderer… hoo boy, you’re going to have your work cut out for you! Bring lots of tape, plenty of Vicodin, a bucket of chalk and a few spare beanies.

  1. Solo the same amount of pitches as your age x 10

Alex Honnold is another climber who thinks the standard Birthday Challenge is a bit passé, so on his 29th birthday he soloed 290 pitches.

Ok, so this one might be a bit of a shit idea…

  1. Do the same amount of stars as your age

I really like this one. I bumped into a pair of dudes at Frog who were about 10 stars in to climbing as many routes as it took to get to 40 stars.

No matter where you are, this challenge ensures that you only climb quality routes. They might be easy or they might be hard, but they’ll certainly all be rad. This challenge will be easier at some crags than others. For example, it will be done and dusted by 9am at Arapiles, however it may present trouble if your local crag is Urbenville, where every line is a -1 star route.

  1. Go absolutely apeshit

Take your age and do EVERYTHING with it. This is limited only by your imagination and your capacity for suffering. Essentially, the aim is to create a Decathlon of Pain.

I got the idea from a guy called Louie Anderson, who is definitely a cyborg. He managed to ride 34 miles, climb 34 gym boulder problems (min V2), climb 34 gym routes (min 5.10), swim 34 laps in a pool (1.03 miles), drink 3 shots and 4 beers, eat 3.4 King Pin apple fritters (some sort of pastry), play 34 games of 8-ball, shoot 34 bullseyes (presumably darts), do 340 push-ups, pull-ups, sit-ups, drink 34 12oz. Diet Cokes and run 25 miles (he didn’t quite make the last 9 miles which I think is fine…). All this in 30 hours.

And he’s not the only one… There’s a whole series of these ridiculous challenges including a 40 day odyssey by Hans Florine…

Your move.

Ryan Siacci, Esq.
June 2017

Thoughts? Opinions? Cries of dissent?