Photo by Ron Simmons
Roger Brucker

Just Your Average Weekend Warrior

Roger Brucker, 72, has dedicated his life to speleology-- and he's not about to let age stop him

By Allan Donnelly
Men's Fitness Magazine, September, 2001

Talk to Roger Brucker, and he'll have you believe he isn't anything special. Just your typical weekend warrior in search of a good time. Sure. And Tiger Woods is just some guy who happens to club a golf ball around the links every now and then.

The truth is, special is exactly what Brucker is. Next time you find yourself entertaining the idea of skipping your Saturday afternoon workout in favor of watching a Look Who's Talking marathon, think about this: Somewhere, someone as old as your grandfather is spending 24 consecutive hours walking, crawling and sweating through 12 miles of tenebrous twists and turns nestled 350 feet below the ground. Sound fun?

It does to Brucker, one of the country's best-known speleologists. A cave explorer for the past 49 years, the 72-year-old-that's right, 72-Brucker has spent most of the last half-century dedicating his downtime to overseeing the expansion of Kentucky's Mammoth Cave which, at 350 miles, is three times longer than any other cave in the world. Brucker's written four books on the subject-including his latest, Beyond Mammoth Cave-and teaches a weeklong speleology course for Western Kentucky University at Mammoth Cave National Park.

When he's not speleologizing, Brucker, a cancer survivor, can most likely be found spinning the wheels of his tandem bike with his wife, Lynn. Last summer the duo rode 3,200 miles across the country, from San Diego to St. Augustine, Fla.

For more information on Brucker, Mammoth Cave or speleology, check out Brucker's Web site at (Did we mention he's 72?)

Q: What's the worst caving accident you've been in?
A: When I was going along the banks of an underground river and slipped and fell headfirst into an opening that was about the size of a 55-gallon drum. I turned around and came up, but all I could find was wet ceiling on my head and no airspace. I had no idea where the opening was. I was probably underwater for 30 seconds.

Q: What's the longest amount of time you've spent underground?
A: A week, on an expedition in 1954. Typically, long cave trips go 18 to 24 hours.

Q: From what you've said, most cave explorers are in their 20s and 30s. How do you stay in shape?
A: I go to the gym twice a week and I have a trainer. She makes sure I'm able to do this stuff. My wife and I have been on lots of 500-mile and 700-mile bicycle trips. Each week we lead two bicycle trips in Dayton, Ohio. So I'm pretty active.

Q: You're 72. How much longer can you keep doing this?
A: I guess you just take it a year at a time. I really don't see slowing down. I know that there aren't many cavers who operate at this age, but I know some people who are kind of washed up at 30.

Q: After 23 straight hours in a cave, what's on your mind?
A: The first thing on your mind is, Wow, look that blue sky! Second thing is like the Russian ski trooper. Someone asked him, "You go off on this long patrol, what's the first thing you do when you get back?" He says, "Well, you know, I haven't seen my wife in days." What's the second thing? "I take off my skis."

Home | Biography | Press | Favorite Links | Issues | | Cartoons | Appearances
Books: Beyond Mammoth Cave | The Longest Cave | Trapped! | The Caves Beyond
Grand, Gloomy, and Peculiar: Stephen Bishop at Mammoth Cave

Copyright © Roger Brucker All rights reserved.

Designed & Hosted by
Unlimited Media