The Art of Bouldering John Gill AAJ 1969

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Steve Grossman

Trad climber
Seattle, WA
Topic Author's Original Post - May 9, 2010 - 01:28pm PT
The classic Gill treatise that thoughtfully set the table for the power pinching, pad stacking and pebble plundering present. From the 1969 American Alpine Journal.







Pull down, Players!
Steve Grossman

Trad climber
Seattle, WA
Topic Author's Reply - May 11, 2010 - 12:14pm PT
Soggy kindling bump!
Steve Grossman

Trad climber
Seattle, WA
Topic Author's Reply - May 16, 2010 - 01:04pm PT
Overcome with Boy Scout-0-line!
Steve Grossman

Trad climber
Seattle, WA
Topic Author's Reply - May 29, 2010 - 01:25pm PT
And a hopeful match...
peterbeal

Boulder climber
Colorado
May 30, 2010 - 10:41am PT
This is great Steve.Thanks for posting the article!
Steve Grossman

Trad climber
Seattle, WA
Topic Author's Reply - May 30, 2010 - 05:19pm PT
I can't recall being able to read John's thoughtful writing anywhere else prior to this essay.

I took great pleasure in seeing Pat's classic footage of Gill moving over sandstone in The Disciples of Gill, recently. Makes me hunger for more, if any other footage was recorded along the way.
go-B

climber
In God We Trust
May 30, 2010 - 05:29pm PT
See Plate #81, Who need sticky boots? I need sticky boots!
Steve Grossman

Trad climber
Seattle, WA
Topic Author's Reply - May 30, 2010 - 06:09pm PT
Bibliography on John's website, perhaps? I haven't spent enough time there to know. The Games Climbers Play would be my next guess.
neebee

Social climber
calif/texas
May 30, 2010 - 09:57pm PT
hey there say, steve.... wow, thanks for the article...

god bless...
:)
jogill

climber
Colorado
May 30, 2010 - 10:05pm PT
John, I've always wondered why you're dragging a rope up in that Alabama photo. Setting up a top-rope for another problem? How high off the deck are you there?

Wish I could remember. Seems like there was a tree or bush above that I wanted to run the rope behind, for protection, as I climbed to the top. The cliff may have been 30 or 40 feet at that point, but I can't recall.
Steve Grossman

Trad climber
Seattle, WA
Topic Author's Reply - May 30, 2010 - 11:53pm PT
John- If you could do a problem in a single try, did it lose your interest? You imply that a set of moves doesn't become a problem to be solved if it yields right away.
jogill

climber
Colorado
May 31, 2010 - 12:48am PT
I never had as a goal doing a problem as quickly as possible. This was in contrast with many others I climbed with, particularly Bob Williams, who was instrumental in getting Jim Holloway into dynamics. We saw our craft through different lenses, but respected one another and had entertaining bouldering sessions. Whether a problem was difficult or easy to solve didn't make much difference to me; if it was easy and was appealing, I would work on polishing my performance, like a gymnast doing his best with a simple routine, enjoying the kinaesthetics as much as the challenge. A lot had to do with that flow a gymnast gets, where moves are done with a deceptive sensation of effortlessness. There were few around who saw bouldering that way, even in those days. Most - like now - wanted to do the hardest thing they could and weren't concerned with style and form. There are several ways to play the game, but the pursuit of difficulty almost always prevails. To show how far I wandered from the mainstream, I avoided using a heel-hook, thinking that it turned what I considered artistic into a kind of jungle gymnastics . . .
peterbeal

Boulder climber
Colorado
May 31, 2010 - 05:19pm PT
Hi John,
I was just talking with Kerwin Klein on this topic. When he mentioned the heelhook issue, I reflected on how essential they are today on many problems. I wrote a bit about it here:

http://www.mountainsandwater.com/2010/05/in-footsteps-of-john-gill.html

Best,
Peter
Wayno

Big Wall climber
Seattle, WA
May 31, 2010 - 05:57pm PT
After seeing guys use a heel hook on the Yabo roof at Parking-Lot boulder at Castle Rock State Park and claiming they did the route, I also wonder about that technique. Pure style or just getting up something, it seems like a compromise at best. I'm sure it has it's place.

My hat goes off to Mr. Gill, a true inspiration for several generations of climbers.
Mighty Hiker

climber
Vancouver, B.C.
May 31, 2010 - 06:00pm PT
He's also rather nattily dressed in that "John Gill Bouldering in Alabama" photo. Definite style points - he almost looks like Errol Flynn.
Steve Grossman

Trad climber
Seattle, WA
Topic Author's Reply - Jun 13, 2010 - 06:23pm PT
Another early Gill article from the July/August 1969 Summit.



John- How many of your problems met the muster of B-3?
Thorgon

Big Wall climber
Sedro Woolley, WA
Jun 14, 2010 - 04:14pm PT
Excellent Post Steve!

Thanks,
Thor
jogill

climber
Colorado
Jun 14, 2010 - 04:15pm PT
John, did you consider your route on the Thimble bouldering?

No. For several years I had been experimenting with what could now be called free-solo exploration. I considered the Thimble to be a climb, and when I first saw it, as I soloed up an easier route to its left, I thought this might be a good test to see how far I was willing to go along these lines. Afterwards, I thought "that was far enough", and went back to easier solos. Another difference: the Thimble had no dynamics, and most of my bouldering problems had some kind of dynamic component. Also, it wasn't as difficult as many of my problems.

How many of your problems met the muster of B-3?

A few. In retrospect, what is now considered V9 or V10 would have qualified, for that was about as hard as I climbed.

These articles are painful to read! They seem incredibly dated, and my writing skills were minimal. But they represent my thinking on bouldering at that time . . . not necessarily what the few other bouldering enthusiasts thought! Hey, it's a sport open to individual interpretation, and hopefully won't be bound by inflexible ethical rules.
peterbeal

Boulder climber
Colorado
Jun 15, 2010 - 05:26pm PT
"A lever that's useful for some boulder problems" Nice. Useful like the ability to compress coal into diamonds with your bare hands :)

I wrote a bit on the mental attitudes of past climbing eras at my blog:

http://www.mountainsandwater.com/2010/06/then-and-now.html
Steve Grossman

Trad climber
Seattle, WA
Topic Author's Reply - Dec 5, 2010 - 05:01pm PT
Some Jeff Achey words and images to keep the OP company from Summit February/ March 1980.

Caption reads "A bouldering route on the Thimble, Black Hills, South Dakota. Climber Jeff Achey. Photo Jane Presser."




klk

Trad climber
cali
Dec 5, 2010 - 05:09pm PT
yeah, second, i was especially happy to see that achey piece which i really liked when it came out.

i've been looking for that issue recently and wasn't able to find it.
Steve Grossman

Trad climber
Seattle, WA
Topic Author's Reply - Dec 26, 2010 - 02:47pm PT
I haven't forgotten your request...Bump!
Steve Grossman

Trad climber
Seattle, WA
Topic Author's Reply - Jun 30, 2012 - 02:25pm PT
First bump in a while...
RyanD

climber
Squamish
Jun 30, 2012 - 10:40pm PT
Wow, what an awesome thread. Thanks for the bump. Very cool articles & great inspiration to hear John's point of view both then & now. Thank you. I couldn't imagine eliminating heel hooks from my bouldering repertoire, especially in Squamish! Just a testament to how important style & quality of movement were during that era. Amazing.
T H

Boulder climber
ne'erdowell
Oct 10, 2015 - 11:10pm PT
[Click to View YouTube Video]
LongAgo

Trad climber
Oct 10, 2015 - 11:48pm PT
"These articles are painful to read! They seem incredibly dated, and my writing skills were minimal.."

Beg to disagree. Your passion and focus come through strongly in your writing.

Bows and thanks to you John for your singular and devoted climbing path in the day. You demonstrated early on what eventually comes to those who reflect honestly and deeply on the game: the most fulfilling climbing pays little heed to trends and tick marks on the climbing boards and instead looks to feed the soul. Thank you.

Tom Higgins
LongAgo
Marlow

Sport climber
OSLO
Oct 11, 2015 - 12:03am PT

Great thread. TFPU!

As a follow-up to no-heel-hooks: Was "open hand grip contra crimp grip" a style issue that was considered at the time?
Reeotch

climber
4 Corners Area
Oct 11, 2015 - 07:44am PT
From a j.gill post above:

Whether a problem was difficult or easy to solve didn't make much difference to me; if it was easy and was appealing, I would work on polishing my performance, like a gymnast doing his best with a simple routine, enjoying the kinaesthetics as much as the challenge.

This is one aspect of bouldering that never really caught on in the mainstream, except by necessity on really hard problems. I think there is a lot to be said for "form". Gymnasts and divers, for example, are judged not only on degree of difficulty, but on execution - perfection of movement.

I like developing bouldering circuits that you just get totally wired after a while. I used to really enjoy watching John "the Birdman" at Gunsmoke in Josh in the 80s and 90s, talk about perfection of movement! It really teaches you just how efficient climbing can be, and you can work towards developing that same perfection of movement in your onsight climbing as well.

P.S. Too bad this thread only has 30 replies in 5 years . . .
donini

Trad climber
Ouray, Colorado
Oct 11, 2015 - 07:55am PT
In 1972 Steve Wunsch and I were in the Black Hills and decided to have a go at the Thimble....with a top rope of course. After flailing around and noticing that when we fell the top rope kept us from being guillotined by the guardrail below, are already high regard for John's exploits shot up another notch.
yanqui

climber
Balcarce, Argentina
Oct 11, 2015 - 11:01am PT
I'm glad this thread was bumped and I got a chance to see it. The book "Master of Rock" was an important influence for me and bouldering has been a life long interest even though I've never been very good at it.
jogill

climber
Colorado
Oct 11, 2015 - 02:07pm PT
As a follow-up to no-heel-hooks: Was "open hand grip contra crimp grip" a style issue that was considered at the time?

There were very few style issues 50-60 years ago. I prefered to avoid heel-hooks but everyone else considered them admirable. Nothing about types of grip. Jim Holloway popularized the open-hand friction grip during the 1970s and 1980s.


Thanks for the kind words, Tom. I have great memories of watching you and Bob doing first ascents in the needles - cool and precise!

;>)
thebravecowboy

climber
The Good Places
Oct 11, 2015 - 02:34pm PT
look at the duds on those dudes. pretty spiffy attire there, Mr. Gill.
Jaybro

Social climber
Wolf City, Wyoming
Oct 19, 2015 - 08:05am PT
Space holding bump
Mungeclimber

Trad climber
Nothing creative to say
Oct 19, 2015 - 11:40am PT
F10???!!!!?!?!?!?


But what about all the VB problems?????!!!!!!



My 8a.nu scorecard is done for.


:)
Steve Grossman

Trad climber
Seattle, WA
Topic Author's Reply - Nov 26, 2015 - 12:20pm PT
I give thanks for John Gill.
Steve Grossman

Trad climber
Seattle, WA
Topic Author's Reply - Sep 10, 2016 - 10:23pm PT
And his amazing historical legacy...
thebravecowboy

climber
The Good Places
Sep 10, 2016 - 10:27pm PT
Indeed, a thankee to Cpt Gill!

mouse from merced

Trad climber
The finger of fate, my friends, is fickle.
Sep 11, 2016 - 12:16am PT
Dear jgill, I'm having trouble picturing the Mental Block.

My friend Carl told me my shoes were laced way too tight.

Have you ever heard of this?

--Knut from Butte
Steve Grossman

Trad climber
Seattle, WA
Topic Author's Reply - Jun 25, 2017 - 10:07am PT
Masterful Bumpage...
Steve Grossman

Trad climber
Seattle, WA
Topic Author's Reply - Nov 18, 2018 - 01:44pm PT
Amazing how popular the bouldering game has become considering it started with a handful of stalwarts...and an occultist or two.
Mungeclimber

Trad climber
Nothing creative to say
Nov 18, 2018 - 09:32pm PT
Bouldering's simplicity and accessibility made it an easy entry into the sport of climbing. Low barrier to entry to get you moving. What's not to like?

My first trip to Rubidoux I thought, 'man, I'm really serious about climbing if I'm trying to squeeze in some 'climbing' after school.'

Seeing the Gill problems and eventually walking under a few in SD, and even seeing John and Peter Croft hanging off the rocks at the Happy Boulders in the early days was enough for me to know we're all in the right place. Moving over stone.
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