Founder of Modern Bouldering

Bouldering began to take root in the United States throughout the late 1950’s and 60’s due in large part to John Gill, an American mathematician. He was a large proponent of bouldering and helped to distinguish it as a separate discipline.


His claim to fame is that he developed the first grading system for bouldering which consisted of B1: as difficult as the roped climbs of the time, B2: more difficult and B3: a problem that had only been completed once.


As a gymnast, he evolved bouldering into a navigation of holds, whether it be horizontal or vertical.  Gill was also the first to use gymnastics chalk, or magnesia.  Today, climbing chalk is widely used in indoor and outdoor climbing everywhere in the world.


According to Alpinist magazine, “His introduction of chalk and dynamic movement marked the beginning of modern climbing in America.


He climbed a 7(V6) in Wyoming at Red Cross Rock in the Teton Mountains, known as the Gill route in 1950. He also established a 7C (V8) in the Wyoming area in 1959.  All of his climbing was done without the use of climbing shoes, which made these successes an even greater feat.


Upon retiring, John went on to do years of research into the origins of climbers, in particular, bouldering.