Otte, a 56-year-old philosophy professor at University of California, Santa Cruz, and a group of climbing buddies seem to have found the proverbial fountain of youth in rock climbing.
Every Tuesday and Thursday, he and his wife, Eun Kyung, head to Pacific Edge to meet with a group of friends and try different routes up the 50-foot walls and more than 14,000 square feet of climbing terrain.
“I’m not old enough to do the hard stuff yet,” laughed 49-year-old Scott Williams, the spring chicken of the group.
Phil Thomas is a lean, well-defined, 71-year-old retired parole officer from Los Angeles County, who moved to the area in 1998.
“It is the kind of thing that just gets into your blood.” Thomas said. “One side of you says, ‘Look, this is just for fun,’ and the other desperately wants to finish the climb and won’t let you quit.”
David Wenger is a retired colleague of Otte’s. Now 76 years old, he too was a philosophy professor from UCSC. He started climbing 12 years ago after watching an elderly group navigate a climbing wall in Wales, England.
“I love it. It’s not boring,” Wenger said. “Almost every other exercise has a repetitive and boring quality to it, but with climbing, the routes change, the techniques change, there is always something new.”
Wenger joined the climbing gym the day after he retired.
For the Ottes, climbing is a family affair. Ric Otte started climbing in his childhood in Colorado, and sons Gabriel and Michael, home from college for the holidays, are avid climbers themselves.
“These kids grew up climbing,” Otte said. “I would take them every week after church to the gym or the mountains. I am very impressed with their climbing skills.”
The boys were both valedictorians at San Lorenzo Valley High and now attend Ivy League schools. Gabriel Otte is a junior at Cornell University, majoring in chemistry and computational biology, and Michael Otte is a sophomore studying pre-medicine at Dartmouth University.