John Gill, a long-time resident of Pueblo West, Colorado, is one of the most legendary of all American climbers. John is simply the father of bouldering. He began specializing in short, extremely difficult boulder problems in 1955 at a time when the goal for most climbers was reaching the summit of mountains. As a gymnast and mystic, he worked at both the craft and technique of bouldering as well as the aesthetic side. He believed that a great problem had to be practiced until it was climbed with grace and without thought. For Gill, a college professor and mathematician, bouldering transcended rock climbing. The handholds and the problem itself became a vehicle to transcendent experience rather than simply the means to reach the top.
This quote by Curt Shannon, one of Gill’s bouldering partners in Pueblo, comes from Pat Ament’s wonderful 1992 “study of John Gill’s life” Master of Rock. Shannon talks about how John is both extraordinary and ordinary, part of the paradox of this humble climbing master.
“He could be the guy standing next to you in line at the supermarket. Your odds of this are greatly enhanced if you buy your groceries in Pueblo. Although he is one of the few genuine legends in the world of climbing, establishing the benchmarks by which generations of boulderers will be measured, a remarkable thing about John Gill is how unremarkable he at first appears.… At his home one evening prior to a post-bouldering session dinner…his grandson, Dylan, was racing around the concrete with a fire truck…Gill was in hot pursuit of Dylan in order to save the catfish which in this instant were certainly an endangered species, balanced as they were on top of the grill. Every time I see Dylan over at John’s house, I try not to think about being out-bouldered by somebody’s grandfather.”
Buy Pat Ament’s book:
Master of Rock