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John Gill (b. 1937, USA)


I had a simple idea that has brought a lot of pleasure to a lot of people.

John Gill

2002-2007

Soloes and boulders easy problems.

Creates his own website: johngill.net


1988-2002

“Option soloing time” – freesolos many easy routes (also many of his own ones) in the Tetons and in Snowy Range and Granite Mountains (up to 5.8 grade and 1000’ of length), Wyoming.

Each year, the approach of summer rejuvenates me. Academic activities and their attendant social vexations are swept by a cleansing mental tide, and I contemplate the rhapsodic days of solitary climbing that lie ahead. In the best spirit of play I remove myself from undertakings that have purpose, and I focus only on one that has meaning. 


1991

Provost’s Award fore Excellence in Scholarship by the University of Southern Colorado


1987

Serious injury – Gill’s right biceps muscle was torn from the forearm bone in a freak bouldering accident. Quits real bouldering and returns to solitary climbs and scrambles for more than 10 years.


1970’s – 1987

Boulders in Colorado regions – Little Owl Canyon, Fatted Calf, Lost Canyon. Freesolos in the Tetons and Snowy Ranges, Wyoming.


1980

Becomes full professor in mathematics

There is an affinity between math and climbing. It has to do with independence of effort and good pattern recognition skills, coupled with desire to solve problems and explore.


1978

The Groove V10, Pueblo, Colorado, probably the hardest problem put up by Gill and the last from the hard ones


1977

Master of Rock, biography of John Gill by Pat Ament, published


1971

Takes a year long break from bouldering because of elbow tendenitis (the result of hundreds of laps on Torture Chamber at Horsetooth) and takes professorship in mathematics at the University of Southern Dakota


1969

Article The Art of Bouldering published in "American Alpine Journal"

The boulderer is concerned with form almost as much as with success and will not feel that he truly mastered a problem until he can do it gracefully

The Art of Bouldering

By that time the AAJ was publishing reports of mere rock climbs. And I knew the executive secretary of the AAC, Jim McCarthy, who had seen me boulder and was impressed by what he saw. He invited me to write the piece (which was my first such effort, and poorly written!).


1968

Begins exploring regions west of Fort Collins, Colorado. Establishes bouldering at Horsetooth Reservoir by first ascents of  the famous Mental Block Problems (Corner Lock V4, Standard V4, Pinch Overhang V5+) and Eliminator problems (Left Eliminator V4 or V5 and Right Eliminator V4) and about 100 other boulders.

Gill Swing V6 and other problems at Flagstaff Mountain, Boulder, Colorado


1964-67

Pennyrile Forest Overhang V8, Pennyrile Forest State Park, first ascent

Some boulders established in Shawangunks, New York (eg. Gill Egg V4, Gill Crack V4, Gill Pinch Roof V4, Gill Double Clutch V4)

Various ascents in The Needles, South Dakota 


1963

Problems and routes in The Needles, South Dakota


1962

First ascents of boulder problems in DeSoto Canyon and Shades Mountain, boulders up to V7


1961

The Thimble 5.12, Needles of South Dakota, first ascent of 30-foot north face, free solo, done in klettershoes, considered first 5.12a in the world and first modern highball problem, chosen as one of eight top climbing’s achievements of the XX century by "Climbing Magazine". It wasn’t until 1981 that the second ascent was done by Greg Collins.


To me it was a test to see how far I was willing to go to be an exploratory solo climber (an insane aspiration!


1959

Lots of extremely difficult news routes climbed  in the limestone area, Blacktail Butte, Jackson Hole, many of them done free-solo and sometimes on-sight. Some of them were 5.10’s or harder (maybe some bouldering starts were even of 5.11 or above).

I found the limestone to be intriguing alternative to the more granitic Tetons, but I really wasn’t light and thin enough to take full advantage of the medium.

Red Cross Gill Route V6 or V7, Red Cross Rock, Jenny Lake Boulders, first significant dynamic boulder problem in US

My 1959 Red Cross Rock problem at Jenny Lake in the Tetons was done intentionally as a dynamic move, but when others started doing it they used a handhold I had intentionally avoided to do the route statically. Doing it my way was probably 5.13d, but doing it statically, using the additional hold, is perhaps 5.12 or so. I don't see that as progress.

Various solos in the Needles, South Dakota


1958

Baxter’s Pinnacle, the Tetons, Wyoming, variations on the face left of the direct-aid crack on the Upper South Face route, the first 5.10 in the Tetons and one of the first in America

New route on Delicate Arete, The Tetons, another Teton 5.10 done before this grade appeared in America

North Corner, Red Cross Rock, Jenny Lake Boulders, first V8 bouldering

Creates boudering rating system (B1, B2, B3) 

Tombstone V8, Devils Lake, Wisconsin, first ascent

Sometimes Crack 5.10, first ascent

Gill’s Nose 5.10+, Devils Lake, Wisconsin, first ascent 


1957

Climbing in the Tetons, Wyoming


1956

Introduces gymnastic chalk to climbing, starts bouldering  and using dynamic moves. At Jenny Lake Bouders begins to draw little chalk arrows at the bottom of his routes and later, on the hardest lines, paint arrows.

When I demonstrated the efficacy of chalk – which I had bought at a local pharmacy – most climbers were instantly seduced, although some purists initially rejected it as unethical (Chouinard had qualms).


1954

East Face 5.7, Longs Peak, Colorado, solo ascent, first alpine climb, with ice-axe and 50-foot rope


1953

New routes on Beehive Cliffs, Fort Mountains and Stone Mountain, Georgia

 



 
Further reading:

Pat Ament, Wizards of Rock. A History of Free Climbing in America, Wilderness Press 2002 
Pat Ament, John Gill, Master of Rock, Stackpole Books 1998
Piotr Dro¿d¿: Interview with John Gill, “GÓRY” 2003/7
John Gill: Cirruculum Vitae, “Alpinist”, Autumn 2005, No. 12
John Gill, Option Soloing, “The Climbing Art”, Fall 1991  

 

 

 
See also
 Books/Movies
Master of Rock: The Biography of John Gill
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All texts and photos copyright (C) 2005-2017 Piotr Dro¿d¿ - ClimbandMore, unless otherwise credited
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