The art of getting old – ungracefully!


1956 in my prime with hair and thin!

Yesterday I applied for my OAP ( yes I am that old now) yes you have to apply for it that was news to me. It was pretty easy in the end and the results soon should be a bit more cash and we will see what happens.

1972 Ben Attow me carrying the rope with RAF Kinloss MRT. Travel light.

There have been huge changes in pensions and I am lucky that I spent so long in the RAF and left with a reasonable pension. Many are not so lucky and as the age for pensions keeps rising I fear for future generations, pensions may be a thing for the rich in the future? Many are having to work for a lot longer despite the effects of what their job may have done to them, not all are fit enough to work on.

1976 Footy at Kinloss

My body is fairly battered after 50 years on the hills, averaging 150 hill days a year for over 30 years. I learned so many lessons, many later on in life. The constant battering of the weather, getting cold, soaked and the many falls, trips and carrying big loads stretchers etc have taken their toll. Epic days huge carry – offs many at night in winter they are hard going, the wet/ cold  bivoack on a call – out. The big avalanches days of digging , the dealing with tragedies they all take a toll on the body and the mind.

Heavy work over the years have taken there toll.

Yes I did it as I wanted that life but I had no option  with some I was in the military. My job was unloading rations, unloading ships in the Persian Gulf in the early days 70,s back breaking work with no manual handling training and equipment.  Nowadays we are far more aware and I ask the young especially to take care with their bodies you only have the one.

1978 many years of getting battered by the weather.

The mountaineering rescue expeditions and the many years of lifting at work in the Catering industry unloading wagons and stores it all catches up with you does age. Yet I never regret a minute  and despite the bad backs and battered body I hope I have plenty of years left to wander the hills, coast and golf courses and stay in reasonable health.

1987 End of Tranters round a big day in Lochaber

I looked at some photos and had a laugh as the body gets fatter the hair thinner and the glasses thicker but what a wild time I have had and there is more to come, all being well. The days will not be long but just to be out enjoying the wild places and the company of old pals is invigorating and helps keep you young.

1996 Alaska

When young you rarely think of old age but it is worth looking after yourself as best you can and ensure that engine your body keeps running for the next 30 – 40 years any tips to do that?

Diran Pakistan 1994 – big bags big days

I felt old when out in Italy camping for a week whilst on the via Ferrara camping with a few amenities is hard work now. I miss a bed and some comfort yet I will be bothying this winter but taking two mats to sleep on !

A few of mine.

Think young, act young, dress young not like a OAP.

Keep exercising as much as possible as you get older and at work at times more time spent in management you end up not being so active a lot of sitting, going to meetings and so it starts. The weight can be easily put on, you eat more and 14 hour night shifts at the ARCC did not help.

2006 Sitting all day at your work does not help and long night shifts can spoil your sleep pattern.

I put on lots of weight and lack of exercise added to it at that key age 50 – 55 you get so unfit if you do not look after yourself. Do a little every day I find step counter are good to intensify your exercise. My job before that was at RAF Innsworth near Gloucester travelling every second day to different camps to carry out audits, it was an awful unhealthy life, so busy and hard to exercise. It involved long drives in the car and a busy lifestyle but that was the job. I managed to get out most weekends with the  RAF MR teamS if only for a day worth even more travelling but great for the health and my brain.

2001 Everest Tibet ABC 20000 Feet.

Watch what you eat and drink it all adds up. I keep a food diary!!!! I hardly drink alcohol now after my illness,

Carry as little as you can on the hill, buy as light gear as possible.

Ski poles are an essential I have used mine since 1980’s

2010 March Ski poles great gear for the old body

Think of new objectives , new hills, climbs, walks keep active.

Get out no matter what a wander along the beach or forest in bad weather is still magic.

I visit the Chropodist every 3 months a great tip! It works for me and my foot problems have virtually stopped! Your feet get battered over the years and deserve some TLC ?

After a hill day of damp I change my top socks etc before driving home . In summer I wear sandels  to give the feet a break on the way back home.  It all helps.

On long journeys I stop on the way home and stretch the legs if driving more than one hour and a half.

I also rehydrate on the way home plenty of water carried in the car that helps with my recovery,

Take lots of photos and plan future adventures.

Get out with young folk they keep you young and teach them your skills learned the hard way.

Keep climbing as long as possible

If injured give your body time to recover. If you get ill the chances are you will get sorted by the NHS but as I no after 3 years of operations recently its your mental strength and fight that will help you recover. I found that a few of my pals cannot cope with old age, the loss of fitness slowly and the slow recovery from injury are part of life. Mental health is a huge fact of getting old and yet we rarely speak about it, keep your eyes on your mates we all have our Achilles heals no matter how hard we think we and they are.

I look round and I am surrounded by so many role models who are climbing, walking, cycling into their 80’s and onwards, thanks for that,

Live life to the full and live it every day, so many would love to be like us and fit enough to enjoy what we have. Maybe a bit slower than we were but it gives you time to take it all in.

Comments welcome.

2017 Arran still having fun.



A bit more on pensions –

The civil servant responsible for increasing the state pension age to 67 is retiring at 61 with a £1.8 million pension pot. He will receive £85,000 a year and a lump sum of £245,000 He’s the secretary for the Department for Works and Pensions

His name :Sir Robert Devereux – We are in it together?



About heavywhalley.MBE

Mountain Rescue Specialist. Environmentalist. Spent 37 years with RAF Mountain Rescue and 3 years with a civilian Team . Still an active Mountaineer when body slows, loves the wild places.
This entry was posted in Articles, Enviroment, Family, Friends, Hill running and huge days!, Himalayas/ Everest, History, Local area and events to see, medical, Mountain rescue, mountain safety, Mountaineering, Munros, People, Rock Climbing, Views Mountaineering, Views Political?, Weather. Bookmark the permalink.

31 Responses to The art of getting old – ungracefully!

  1. I think I’ll appoint you as my reconnaissance unit, Heavy – going on just a few years ahead of me and reporting back. Good advice there, which I’ll try to listen to. 🙂


  2. John Smith says:

    Morning Just read your blog, really positive and very though provoking especially as I get older. I’m trying all that and I laughed out loud when you said you keep a food diary- so do I, if I don’t I go completely crazy 😜 it really works for me and after being treated for Lyme this year I’m slowly trying to get fitter for the hills so the bit in the blog about looking after yourself, listening to your body really hit home. Love your blogs, really informative and points me in a positive direction. Thank you Alison Smith Dingwall Ps I can’t comment on your blog direct as it shows my husband’s name and not mine 😂

    Sent from my iPhone


    Liked by 1 person

  3. Dave Earl says:

    Really enjoyed this Dave, you`ve had a grand life, save for the trauma`s of attenting the air crashes and the devastation you were faced with. I can relate a lot to much that you said, the pounds certainly started to pile on being stuck at this desk all day, in fact I`d only put a couple of stone on soon after turning 55 and I could feel it every time I took to the hills. The blood pressure started to rise, got out of breath quick and felt really knackered. I`ve since made it a rule to get out and about on a good wander at least two or three times a week, and eat more sensibly, and like yourself, cut the booze down, well, that is to say I still have the odd dram to keep the chills out. So yes! Good sound advise you give there mate, look after the body and enjoy the freedom you have to get out while you still can.


  4. Richard says:

    Thanks for that a really good read , Have been doing night shifts for 10 years now and sometimes the hills seem further and further away and the body is drained . Will get back to those small hills I like and build the strength back up for munro’s again its been a while sometimes you look to sit around and do nothing but I always found that once I had been out I always felt refreshed and your tales have made me realise what I have been missing. Thanks for the kick up the back side

    Liked by 1 person

    • Thank you nightshift are killers – I know how you feel
      Get out there and enjoy the fresh air it’s so worth it.

      Appreciate your comments

      Kind regards



    • Appreciate your thoughts night shifts are awful and though I did them when younger I found it so hard to get my body clock sorted after 50! I still have poor sleep patterns now after a few years of those awful shifts but they have to be done.
      Get out and do what you can and hope to meet you on the hills on day, god willing.

      Kind regards Heavy.


  5. Thomas Docherty says:

    You ain’t 65/66 yet Heavy! You are the same age as me. Ridiculous that the architect of the pensions gets to retire at 61 and we have to wait to 66! Nice to see a photo of a top rescue coord tea – you, me and the great Rick Phillips in your blog. 11 years ago – where does the time go? By the way – you’ve changed!!

    Liked by 1 person

  6. Thomas Docherty says:

    Slip of the pen – should be team not tea! Though plenty of that was drunk on an ARCC shift!

    Liked by 1 person

  7. Cameron McNeish says:

    A lot of good sense there Heavy. What I’ve learned in my late sixties is to adapt as circumstances dictate. I had feet problems for a few years so took up cycling. Now my feet are better and I can get on the hill again I still cycle as much as I can – I now have two activities I enjoy. Also learned that you don’t need as much food when you’re older. Keep eating the same amount of grub as you did in your thirties and you just pile the weight on. And I agree with you re booze. I’ve cut down to almost t-total status. Still enjoy a pint or a dram but only on special occasions. Which reminds me – it’s amount time we had a dram or two, after a day on the hill of course!

    Liked by 1 person

  8. Iain Sneddon says:

    Aye, shift work does you no good whatever! 30 years of them and probably only kept (reasonably) sane by getting out on the hills when the chance allowed. What’s a body clock by the way?
    We might be older, slower and somewhat heavier but do we still enjoy getting out? Oh yes indeed.
    I’d best not mention pensions and politics, we could be here a while…


  9. David Porter says:

    A great read. I think your comment about being in management (in the age range 50-55) is spot on. More responsibility and worry (at a time when our kids are needing extra support and/or our ageing parents may have failing health) = stress and often less chance to get out and hike. Which, of course, is the very activity needed to keep us sane, happy and in shape.

    Good luck with it all.


  10. Norman Reid says:

    Enjoyed your advice David (that’s what I knew you as at Belmont High in Ayr 50 years ago) Everything seems to correspond with you eating too much, sitting behind my editorial desk and not enough hill time although DoE expeds gets me outdoors. Enjoy your leisure time in the coming years. I miss out on the 65 by three months so have to wait till 66. Best wishes Norman

    Liked by 1 person

  11. David Pullan says:

    Heavy a great blog enjoyed it very much, made me think very much about the times we had on the hill on the winter courses how age and time changes us.I am just 3 years behind you and oh boy you are so right in your views at the stage where I am keeping my head above water wi e fitness, healthy eating and living .Good toners from you
    Dave Pullan

    Liked by 1 person

  12. Peter Kay says:

    I tried warn you youngsters, about hauling massive sacks around the hills :-). It’s all in the bank for later, having said that no one is going to beat the ageing process. We adjust to suit our particular aches and weaknesses, what we don’t do is give in, we find a way round the issues, as some one has already mentioned here, cycling the best low impact exercise. Weight training, we waste away with age, if you want to retain muscle and bone density you need to pump some iron, resistance exercises are important to retaining strength in old age.
    Flexibility is another aspect that kills our ability to continue climbing and mountaineering in old age,
    I have practised yoga techniques for years, all the above works for me.
    I’m no expert nor am I qualified in a professional capacity to give advice, just thought I’d chuck that in, don’t want the PTI branch on my back 🙂

    Use it or lose it, you know it makes sense, age is just a number. we don’t know whats round the corner, therefore, all the more reason to kick the arse out of the here and now.

    Rant over, I bring you this from my armchair while watching day time TV.

    Best regards to all.

    Pete K

    Liked by 1 person

  13. Peter Kay says:

    Only in my dotage Hev’s 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

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