The Thimble - John Gill

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Alex Baker

climber
Portland
Topic Author's Original Post - Dec 5, 2010 - 03:17pm PT
I think it was John Sherman that called this the second most famous boulder problem in the world, Midnight Lightning being the first. It's kind of a weird statement, because I almost never hear discussion of the Thimble. Does anyone here have personal experience? How often does it get done? From what I've read it seems like a V4 highball or thereabouts.

Thanks

Alex
Wayno

Big Wall climber
Seattle, WA
Dec 5, 2010 - 03:21pm PT
I have stood at the base and wondered. I was there in 79 and it was crowded. At the time I could maybe climb 5.10. It looked to be way beyond my skill level.
Gregory Crouch

Social climber
Goleta, California
Dec 5, 2010 - 03:27pm PT
There is a guardrail at the base that will decapitate you if you fall.
Reeotch

Trad climber
Kayenta, AZ
Dec 5, 2010 - 03:28pm PT
Maybe "important" would be a better term than "famous".

What about Slapshot? Still unrepeated, I think . . .
Alex Baker

climber
Portland
Topic Author's Reply - Dec 5, 2010 - 03:29pm PT
Gregory- The guardrail is gone now.
The Larry

climber
Moab, UT
Dec 5, 2010 - 03:32pm PT
Verm said
"The Thimble was the most famous boulder problem in America before Midnight Lightning seized that crown."

He did the second ascent 20 years after Gill.
Mighty Hiker

climber
Vancouver, B.C.
Dec 5, 2010 - 03:49pm PT
Some discussion of the Thimble on these threads:

http://www.supertopo.com/climbers-forum/424115/The-First-Ascent-of-the-Needles-Eye

http://www.supertopo.com/climbers-forum/1043394/Midnight-Lightning-eliminate

http://www.supertopo.com/climbers-forum/663017/Capturing-Midnight-Lightning-w-Tommy-Caldwell-Corey-Rich
Jaybro

Social climber
Wolf City, Wyoming
Dec 5, 2010 - 03:58pm PT
Actually Verm may have done the second solo ascent (full stylee)

It had been toproped (less stylee) by smedley, Todd, archibald? myself and others prior to his write up about it.
klk

Trad climber
cali
Dec 5, 2010 - 04:01pm PT
yeah, the thimble seems to have had a lot of ascents, mostly roped but at least a few unroped, before verm did it.

i haven't done it either way, and there's still lingering debate over the exact line. i've heard everything from 11d to 12b on the grade. Very different animal today with pads.

The Needles aren't really on the current bouldering map. The rock isn't the sort that lends itself to double digits, because it's so frickin sharp. Beautiful place, but the rock sucks if you're planning to try hard things that require multiple attempts.

rgold

Trad climber
Poughkeepsie, NY
Dec 5, 2010 - 04:03pm PT
I think Verm's comment was intended to include historical context.

The guardrail was there when Gill did it, and there were no pads and no spotters. At the time, 5.12 was two grades harder than the hardest climbs anyone was imagining. Gill didn't do it with a support crew of spotters, encouragers and reporters who would cheer him on and then post dispatches to the media on the accomplishment.

Gill was totally alone, engaging in a private quest, with no expectation of any kind of recognition and barely any vehicle for conveying it. He had nothing even remotely resembling the level of protection enjoyed by modern boulderers, and instead faced not only the hard ground but that guardrail.

If someone now would do a 5.17 highball without pads or spotters and no film crew preserving every move for posterity and then make no effort at promotion other than a passing comment or two to some friends, we might have an analogous event.
survival

Big Wall climber
A Token of My Extreme
Dec 5, 2010 - 04:10pm PT
Great post rgold.
Mighty Hiker

climber
Vancouver, B.C.
Dec 5, 2010 - 04:11pm PT
Isn't there a photo somewhere of Gill attempting or climbing the Thimble?
Steve Grossman

Trad climber
Seattle, WA
Dec 5, 2010 - 04:28pm PT
The cover shot from Summit February March 1980. Caption reads: "A bouldering route on the Thimble, Black Hills, South Dakota. Climber Jeff Achey. Photo by Jane Presser." Not sure if this is on the Gill route.

mike m

Trad climber
black hills
Dec 5, 2010 - 04:40pm PT
I have done the thimble.... 5.3. On the backside. The gaurdrail is gone, but I don't think that has led to a rash on ascents. There is some great footage Chuck Fryberger taking some huge falls on it. I heard he never got it on that trip and went on to establish a V11 so that should say something about the difficulty. As of about 10 years ago I heard the number of ascents could be counted on your fingers I am sure Midnight Lightning has had many times more people ascend it.
T H

climber
Dec 5, 2010 - 04:44pm PT
stone crusade
from John's site (K. Toshi)
The Larry

climber
Moab, UT
Dec 5, 2010 - 04:45pm PT
klk said
"...at least a few unroped, before verm did it."

Uh wrong, John did the second. I'm obviously not talking about TR ascents. That's kinda ghey.
klk

Trad climber
cali
Dec 5, 2010 - 04:51pm PT
I am sure Midnight Lightning has had many times more people ascend it.

Definitely.

But that's mostly a reflection of the way that the Needles have fallen out of favor. Thimble (or Red Cross Rock, for that matter) used to be about as visible as Lightning or The Mandala are today. The Needles used to be a capitol for US rock climbing. For a start, it was more or less en route to the Tetons for climbers driving from the East or Upper Midwest. For those poor souls stuck in Minnesota, it was the first decent thing they were going to hit once they'd escaped the prairie. Heh.

Gill's important routes in The Needles and Tetons aren't currently as famous as they would be if they'd also been in a place that is still thought of as a capitol for rockclimbing.

And Rgold is correct, the sport has changed to the point that it's impossible to imagine anyone pushing a leap in standards that would be comparable to what GIll did with bouldering standards for North America. The context is just entirely different now. If it can happen, it'll be in some obscure specialty that many of us don't even think of as legitimate "climbing," the way bouldering was for Gill's generation.

If it were 1965, this site would be dominated by threads about the feminization of climbing driven by old crusty guys whining about what a coward and lightweight this Gill grom was, always climbing short stupid stuff in sunshine.
klk

Trad climber
cali
Dec 5, 2010 - 04:53pm PT
klk said
"...at least a few unroped, before verm did it."

Uh wrong, John did the second. I'm obviously not talking about TR ascents. That's kinda ghey.

Well, unless something has changed, I don't think that Verm is still claiming a 2nd unroped. My understanding is that it had at least two or three unroped ascents prior to that, at least one of which was onsight.

So far as the TR stuff goes, I'll probably see Jaybro in a few. I'll pass along your sentiments.
Steve Grossman

Trad climber
Seattle, WA
Dec 5, 2010 - 05:04pm PT
More bouldering and classic Gill commentary at:

http://www.supertopo.com/climbing/thread.php?topic_id=1164775&tn=20#msg1336348
mooser

Trad climber
seattle
Dec 5, 2010 - 05:10pm PT
I think Verm's comment was intended to include historical context.

The guardrail was there when Gill did it, and there were no pads and no spotters. At the time, 5.12 was two grades harder than the hardest climbs anyone was imagining. Gill didn't do it with a support crew of spotters, encouragers and reporters who would cheer him on and then post dispatches to the media on the accomplishment.

Gill was totally alone, engaging in a private quest, with no expectation of any kind of recognition and barely any vehicle for conveying it. He had nothing even remotely resembling the level of protection enjoyed by modern boulderers, and instead faced not only the hard ground but that guardrail.

If someone now would do a 5.17 highball without pads or spotters and no film crew preserving every move for posterity and then make no effort at promotion other than a passing comment or two to some friends, we might have an analogous event.

...or sticky rubber.
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