Sunday, December 28, 2008

John Gill

The inventor of the one-arm lever.

I just read the book John Gill: Master of Rock by Pat Ament and I really enjoyed it. Like many other climbers I've been exposed to plenty of Gill lore and the occasional written account of his feats, but until now I've never fully appreciated what kind of man he was.

Its rather humorous to me the esteem in which Gill is held by many climbers without knowing much about what he'd done or what he enjoys. In several recently printed bouldering guides a star scale used for rating the quality of individual boulder problems is described. This scale rates problems that have only just enough holds to make a given climb possible over problems that have enough holds to allow for variations or deviations. Gill, in who's footsteps we all follow, felt just the opposite was true. "A good bouldering route is not one where the sequence of holds is perfectly obvious."

Another contrast to the current bouldering scene is evident in his interest in style. "In bouldering you're concerned as much -if not more- with form, style, elegance, and route difficulty as you are with getting to the top." An afternoon spent at any popular bouldering area would quickly convince a doubter that the current generation (myself included) does not afford form, style, or elegance as much concern as did Gill or most other climbers from previous eras. Personally, while I aspire to maintain good form, I'd rather climb an elegant line that has less interesting moves than a lowball traverse with fascinating movement...but certainly there is room for both.

Just a few days ago a friend of mine that happens to be quite strong and is also quite familiar with gymnastics told me it would be nearly impossible for someone his size (6') to do an iron cross. John Gill was 6'2" and could do one with perfect form and on occasion he could do and inverted one as well. Physically, he was a beast and he was self motivated. At age 50 Gill tore his bicep completely. A year later he was still able to do one-arm pull-ups off of a 5/8" edge.

I could recount all of John Gill's various feats and contributions to the sport/lifestyle that I'm so passionate about, but I'm not really sure why I would. I'm not really sure why I'm writing this blog in the first place. I guess its just nice to know that people like John Gill and Fredric Nicole are still out there to keep us all in place.


James said...

The closest part about these guys are they are really not that different from the rest of us.

Justin said...

I actually don't agree, for a lot of reasons, but we can have that conversation in person.