Gentleman John [Gill]

We're revisiting some old blog posts from when we started on this dang project many ages ago and many websites ago -- this oldie was originally posted on October 30th, 2008 and comes on the heels of the first interview with the father of modern bouldering John Gill.

Our first interview of the official production our first day in Golden, Colorado was with none other than the philosophical gentleman, John Gill. No practice starts or easing into these things, just one hell of a running start with this man:

John Gill bouldering in Dixon Springs, Illinois circa1964. Photo courtesy John Gill.

Bouldering in Dixon Springs, Illinois circa 1964. Photo courtesy John Gill.

A complex character, John Gill is tagged as the “Father of Modern Bouldering” — someone who developed what’s now termed “bouldering” almost single handedly starting in the 1950s when the concept of rock climbing, let alone bouldering, was just barely accepted as a pursuit worthy in its own right.

Bouldering: A style of rock climbing which is focused on a short series of very difficult moves (known as a problem) without a rope and normally limited to very short climbs so that a fall will not result in serious injury.

Here are some tidbits. Rich Goldstone and Bob D’Antonio on Gill:

Suffice to say, Gill has been an enigma to many throughout the years, and his philosophies and practices are only just being examined in relation to their overarching significance in the changing roles of climbing. Many were influenced and many large trends started, and Gill can be linked to much of the initial concepts for a metaphysical outlook on the kinesthetic act of climbing. Mr. Gill himself:

It’s no small thing to say that this interview was given about two hours before John received the Underhill Award from the American Alpine Club — an award for a lifetime achievement in climbing. That this award was given to a boulderer was no small gesture; in fact, as both Gill and Jim McCarthy say in their interviews, it was the AAC under the presidency of McCarthy himself that first recognized bouldering as a legitimate pursuit in 1969. That we were able to be here for this moment and to get Gill’s indelible remarks, was also no small privilege.

John Gill Bouldering in Eldorado Canyon, Colorado circa 1960s. Photo courtesy John Gill.

Climbing on the graffiti of society in Eldorado Canyon, Colorado circa 1960s. Photo courtesy John Gill.

John Gill was so ahead of his time, nobody knew what the heck to make of him. In the mid 1950s, climbing by himself in the middle of nowhere, he put white arrows on rocks to remind him of what he’d already climbed…and what he’d already climbed were ridiculously difficult problems that NOBODY could repeat. No one in climbing history has ever come close climbing as far ahead of everyone else as Gill did. He is credited with introducing chalk, gymnastic / dynamic moves, and the idea that climbing didn’t have to be up high to be a meditative art.

Dynamic moves in the Gunks, New York circa 1960s. Photo courtesy John Gill.

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