Pueblo's John Gill: Father of American Bouldering

How a former math professor revolutionized rock climbing.

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What do math and gymnastics have to do with rock climbing? Pueblo West resident John Gill knows the answer.

Considered the father of American bouldering, the former math professor combined gymnastics and mathematics in his approach to climbing.

“A mathematician is always solving problems,” Gill says, “and the same is true of bouldering. Boulder routes are even called ‘problems.’ It helps in bouldering to have an inquiring mind.”

As a gymnast, he introduced two aspects to bouldering: the use of chalk on the hands to improve grip and the use of controlled dynamics.

“I encouraged swinging and free aerial dynamics in which the body completely separates from the rock momentarily,” he explains.

His legacy is documented in the 2010 film The Disciples of Gill.

Developers sought advice from Gill on the climbing features in the new Pillars Park.

“It's a very good start,” Gill says of the park. “Eventually, perhaps, they will add (a boulder) large enough for adults to practice their climbing skills.”

Gill moved from Georgia to the Centennial State to attend graduate school at Fort Collins. He is retired from the University of Southern Colorado (now Colorado State University – Pueblo).

“I had always wanted to live in Colorado, and I was very fortunate to get a job after graduation that allowed me to do so,” says Gill. “From where I live I can see the Wet Mountains and Pikes Peak and look out over miles of rolling prairie to the southern horizon and see the wind rustling the grass and trees. It's very peaceful.”

Learn more on Pueblo's extreme sports.

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Wed, 03/21/2018 - 13:36