John Gill's Website
Ripper at 50
A Climbing Memoir:   1953 - 2008

Whymper Drawing

The Origins of Bouldering


 Historical Rock Climbing Images,
Competitive Rope Climbing,
Climbing & Gymnastics,
Historical Bodyweight Feats,
Senior Athletes,
 Early Alpine Images,
Reflections & Commentary
Mathematicae Varietas
Mathematical Research Notes

The author has converted several of the above sections
into book form.  To see the books and/or order, click


Revised on June 3, 2015

Most Recent Additions/Revisions
ROCK & SNOW (Spring 2015)  Article

Climbing Magazine (September 2003) Quick Click recommendation of this site

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The Origins of

"The past is a foreign country: they do things differently there." - The Go-Between  by L. P. Hartley
B1.   Overview, Early British Boulderers
B2.   Oscar Eckenstein
B3.   Archer Thomson, A. Crowley, O. G. Jones
B3.1 Aleister Crowley's 1898 Bouldering Guide
B3.2 Gash Rock First Ascent - O. G. Jones
B4.   More Early British Bouldering
B5.   Joe Brown Conversation
B5.1 Early Scottish Bouldering
B6.   Allain/Fontainebleau, Early Australian Bouldering
B6.1 Early German and Dolomite Bouldering
B7.   Early American Bouldering 1
B8.   American Bouldering 2
B9.   American Bouldering 3  


Historical Images
Pioneer Rock Climbers

"The great achievements of the past were the adventures of the past . . . Only the adventurous can understand the greatness of the past."
 - Alfred North Whitehead
Saxony & Elbsandsteingebirge, the Dolomites

H1.    Saxony, Oliver Perry Smith
O. Perry-Smith, R. Fehrmann Technique, Difficulty, Ethics
H2.1  Early Barbarine Postcard
H3.    Perry-Smith. Fehrmann. Difficulty & Risk
H3.1  Perry-Smith Continued
H4.    Kreuzturm, Falkenstein, Paul Illmer
H4.1  Mönchstein,  Teufelsturm
H5.    Wehlturm, Ernst-Schulze-Stein, Schrammtorwächter
H5.1  Vodere Gans, Kleiner Wehlturm, Friction climbing
H5.1a Elbridge Herron Photos         

H5.2  1904 Club, Mystery Climber, Dr. Mabuse, Snake Charmer
H5.3  Misc. Images from Elbsandstein/Leipzig - Felix Simon
H5.4  Felix Simon in Action
H5.5  The Dolomites - Early Years

British Isles:

H6.    Lake Dist. Abraham Bros. H. Smith, Napes Needle
H6.1  Wasdale Head 1893, Pen-Y-Gwyrd 1897, Sepulchre 1920s
H7.    Stanage Edge, Brassington, Lliwedd, Barn Door Traverse
H8.    Bhasteir Tooth, Raeburn, Scafell, S. Herford, M. Dalton
H8.1  Claude E. Benson - Words and Photos
H8.2  Reverend James Jackson: Patriarch of the Pillarites  
H9.    British Ladies: Pat Kelly, Dorothy Pilley

Early Alpine

"Up to that time my experience with guides had not been fortunate" -
Edward Whymper  ca 1860
A1.    Mont Blanc 1786 - 1827
A2.   Hugi on the Jungfrau 1820s
A2.1  Mer de Glace 1870
A2.2  Glacier Parties 1860s
A3.    Whymper's Matterhorn1865
A4.    Shelters, 1870s



"Fundamental progress has to do with the reinterpretation of basic ideas."
 - Alfred North Whitehead

G1.   Introduction
G2.   Climbing in Early Gymnastics. GutsMuths/Jahn
Jahn's Apparatus: Einbaum, Zweibaum, Vierbaum

G4.    Hasenheide Turnplatz. Basel Turnplatz
Ladders  : 1700s to 2004 and Beyond
Masts, Poles, Ropes.  Dynamics.
19th Century Turnplatz Illustrations
19th Century Military Gymnastics Illustrations
Early Climbing Wall. Acrobats of the Early 1800s

Late Victorians.  Gymnastik fur Bergsteiger.
The Rope Climb
Still Rings: History, Ratings, Personal Involvement
Rock Climbers who were Gymnasts
Competitive Rope Climbing

"The history of art is the history of revivals"
- Samuel Butler

R1.   Historical Antecedents of the Sport
Description of the Former Event
R3.   History of Competitions Prior to 1963
R4.   Resurrection / Personal Involvement
The Rope Climb in the Czech Rep.
 2005 Contests in the Czech Republic

Historical Performances
Chin-ups, Pull-ups, Levers, and Crosses

"I think I'll call it 'climber's elbow'"- the author, suffering the injury in 1969

HP.   Historical Performances . . .

A survey of a number of climbing - related, historical
suspended bodyweight feats, beginning in the mid 1800s.
One-arm chin-ups and pull-ups, one-finger chin-ups, etc.



"A person is always startled when he hears himself seriously called an old man for the first time."
- Oliver Wendell Holmes
C1.    Getting started. Gymnastics/Chalk.Stone Mountain
C1.1  Alternatives to Climbing:  Gymnastics.
   A Golden Age. Bouldering Ratings.
Bouldering, Kinesthetics Dynamics First V8 & V9
Ethereal Bouldering No-Hands Problems
Bouldering Photos.Bouldering companions
Early Attitudes. Buildering Slacklining
Occasional Hard Problem.  Traditional Roots
Soloing. Thimble.  Injuries & Old Age.

Interviews & Profiles. Writings. Links.

C9.    Academic Career

Mathematicae Varietas

"A mathematician is a machine for converting caffeine into theorems"

 Paul Erdos  or  Alfréd Rényi
M1.  Veil of SpiritsRipples
M2.  Complex Dynamics: exp(z), cos(z), z^2+i, z+1/z
Infinitesimals. Dirac Delta Function
M4.  Diagonal Paradox, Short line of infinite length
Power Series Graphics
M6.  Continued Fractions Graphics - analytics 1
Continued Fractions Graphics - analytics 2
M8.   JL's Hilbert Space
Gill's Imaginarium
Elementary Mathematical Research Notes
John Gill Mathematics Collection

Click on the photo above to see the author bouldering at age 45 
From "On the Rocks" ca 1982
(no pads, no rope, no spotters . . . the old fashioned way)

Age 70 2007
This photo was taken in 2007.
To watch the old man exercising
at the age of 75,
Filmed in September, 2012

Click on this photo

Age 76

2013 : Exercising at age 76
Click Here

 A 1992 Ascent of the Thimble
Click on Photo

To avoid rating systems confusion, I shall use the American Decimal System (5.0 - 5.15?) to describe the difficulty of both boulder problems and longer climbs. It will be assumed the rating of a move or sequence of moves are the same if they are 10 feet off the ground or 1,000 feet. I will also use Sherman's V-rating when appropriate. Widely-spread historical benchmarks are easier to compare with the use of only one or two systems. 

I would like to thank Kerwin Klein of UC-Berkeley and Colin Wells for information about the history of European bouldering, John Sherman for historical information from his excellent book
Stone Crusade , Bob & Bonnie Kamps, Ted Cais, Curt Shannon, and Simon Panton for photos, Michael Fain
, John Stannard, Pat Ament ,Phil Gleason, and Ted Cais for contributed articles, Randy Burks for assistance in translation, Karsten Kurz for assistance regarding Saxony climbing,
Jiří Tlamsa for an article on rope climbing in the Czech Republic, Predrag Miletic for comments about chinning, Sylvain Jouty for historical information.

Thanks, in addition, to Bridget Burke, ex-Director of the Henry S. Hall, Jr. American Alpine Club Library and to Gary Landeck, current Director, and to Yvonne Sibbald of the Alpine Club Library.

The following are links to recent internet interviews:

Flash Interview

The author's biography is:  John Gill: Master of Rock by Pat Ament

1st ed.(1977)

2nd ed.(1991)
3rd ed.(1998)
Japanese ed.
Italian ed.

 Stone Crusade by John Sherman contains additional biographical material.

Art by Pamela Gill

           Books by William R. Bell

Average number of hits of site files / month:  150,000

To contact me :  address the e-mail to  johngill1 at live dot com