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Master of Motivation

By: Lee Payne - 2002

Master of MotivationHonestly, I would love to spend this time writing about his majesty, John Gill, and my perception of his exploits, but, sadly, I do not have enough knowledge to form a comprehensive testament to his faith and commitment for the sport he created.This incapability spurs solely from the fact that I have never had the enlightening experience of climbing with the fellow.  So in turn, I am taking this time to review a book written by Pat Ament, a man much closer to the source. 

The book Master of Rock is a collection of John Gill's achievements.   Written in order to expose new generations of climbers to how bouldering began and the man behind its fame, the book is still among the best selling in its field.  John Gill was an exceptional man and great boulderer.  He spent his entire life as a humble leader and teacher who not only expanded the limits of the sport he loved but set new goals for the future to reach.  This book is an incredible tribute to him and his ?trivial? pursuits. 

In case you are really that far behind, John Gill was the man that first saw bouldering as an end to itself.  He was inspired one day in the Grand Teton National Park, not by the breathtaking mountain ranges, but by three measly humps of granite.  It was here that he first recognized the efficiency of climbing chalk, performed the first significant dynamic move, and defined safe gymnastic moves on small rocks as a sport.  His ability to seemingly levitate up holdless spans of rock dumbfounded climbers of the time.  This astounding skill was pulled from his deep seeded motivation, a pit of power that inspires many climbers still today.  

The part of bouldering that is most inspirational to me has always been the pushing of limits and the climbing of "impossible" lines.  These days, with Nicole's Dream and Sharma's Realization, it is evident that we have still not found the human limit.  Yet, thirty years ago the top climbers of the day would never have dreamed such lines were even lines.  Then you look at Gill, he literally pursued and conquered the sports new limit everyday.  To be able to look past any mental block or any doubt is what every climber desires.  Gill found the motivation to do this, not from the spray, energy, or numbers, but simply from the rock, and the process of moving over stone.  "Perhaps with an excellent mental attitude, you not only integrate your moves better but this in turn induces a telekinesis to levitate you slightly, even if it is only taking off a few ounces.  A few ounces can make a tremendous difference." - Gill

This book follows Gill through his life, as a math teacher, weatherman, father, and grandfather, but most of all as the leader of the bouldering movement.  It provides an extensive database of all the bouldering areas he essentially discovered and developed.  Not only are his achievements praised in the book, but also Gill's carefree nature and one of kind personality were put forth to be admired and emulated. This is seen in his style of climbing, a desire to perfect moves rather than search and conquer.  "In bouldering, you're concerned as much - if not more - with form, style, elegance, and route difficulty as you are with getting to top." - Gill

As it turned out some of the most memorable parts of the books, excluding personal encounters with the man, were the insightful letters by Gill on his philosophical approach to climbing.  While he put forth many ethics and ideas he supports, he didn't force cooperation on behalf of the reader.  He instead emphasizes that climbing is a personal extension of the self.   Master of Rock is an example that should be read and respected for years to come.  I am going to close with a memory from the "Man" himself about the how the climbing society of the time perceived him as a larger than life boulderer.

"I was once bouldering in solitude in the Needles, when a young female climber walked up and introduced herself and asked who I was.  I told her and continued bouldering.  She turned and walked away after a few minutes, saying over her shoulder, 'You can't be John Gill.  He climbs much better than that.'" - Gill.

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