John Gill, the father of modern bouldering, in American Alpine Club Legacy Series
A video tribute to John Gill, considered by many the father of modern bouldering, by the American Alpine Club Legacy Series.
Born on 16 February 1937, American mathematician John Gill is widely considered the father of modern bouldering and the individual responsible for introducing gymnastic chalk as well as dynamic movement to the sport of climbing.
Being a gymnast, Gill began to specialise in short, difficult climbing routes in the mid-1950’s, pushing the boundary of what the human body was capable of achieving on rock holds. He emphasised aesthetic form and grace of motion over simple efficiency in climbing, challenging many popular norms held in the sport at the time.
Gill climbed V8(7B/+) in 1957 and V9 (7C) in 1959, while in 1961 he famously made a ground-up, unrehearsed free-solo of the Thimble Overhang in the Needles, a groundbreaking 12m highball graded 5.12a (7a+) that waited for over twenty years to be repeated. All of this was achieved without the benefit of modern climbing shoes and decades prior to the advent of bouldering pads.
While not the first individual to climb on boulders, certainly, he was the first to popularise the idea as a pursuit worthy in itself, before it boomed in popularity. In 1969, Gill published The Art of Bouldering in the American Alpine Journal.
Even today, while doing his pull-up routine, he can still perceive that feeling of lightness, flow and grace. Aged over 80, he remains an undisputed climbing legend.