Bob: I don't have one. However,
when I think of my regular bouldering partner, Rufus Miller, we must
look like "before" and "after". So, I guess you can call me Before.
FRB: Who is Bob Williams?
Bob: I grew up near Annapolis,
Maryland, a nice place. I have a sister, two years older than I. I spent
five years at the University of Michigan where I received two bachelor's
degrees: one in engineering, one in applied mathematics. I moved to
Boulder, Colorado in 1969 to attend graduate school where, after another
three years, I earned a master's in mathematics.
Bob: 59 this May.
FRB: Where do you like to party?
Bob: I don't. I've never been
much of a party person. Beer and I don't get along very well and it
seems that beer is the drink of choice at parties and get-togethers.
FRB: Ape Index?
154 pounds, or thereabouts. These days it's creeping upward. It never
used to be a concern; now it is.
FRB: Years bouldering?
Bob: I started in earnest in 1969. I dropped out of
the bouldering scene for about ten years starting around 1972 or '73.
This coincided with my cessation of roped climbing. Yes, I did the real
thing also. I was terrible at it and so after I did El Cap, I quit.
I got re-introduced to bouldering around 1983. I'm still at today, that
is, if you call what I do now, bouldering.
FRB: Who do you boulder with … where
do you normally
boulder these days?
Miller and I have been bouldering together for more than twenty
years. Others have come, some have gone. The crowd (and I use that term
affectionately) at Morrison, too many to list, have been friends for
a long time. Morrison seems to be the all too often site of choice.
Don't get me wrong, Morrison is great. It's close to home, it's gentle
on the fingers, it faces south so it's a perfect spot in winter, it
has good problems
but, I'm getting tired of it, in no small part
because I fail on problems today that I warmed-up on several years back.
It now serves as a constant reminder that I'm a "has been"
and I'm struggling with that.
on Magnum Force
on Magnum Force
on Magnum Force
FRB: Favorite animal?
Bob: Cat, as in house cat. Some
of my bouldering friends bring their dogs with them on Sundays. I've
been tempted to bring my cats; that'd show 'em.
FRB: How did you get started in bouldering?
Bob: I had done a little climbing
on the east coast. One sunny day, after I moved to Boulder in 1969,
I wandered up Flagstaff. There was one problem there that captured my
imagination, held my fascination, and pushed me to new heights, no pun
intended. That problem was Smith Overhang. Smith Overhang was not easy
to miss; everyone was trying it, few were succeeding. I liked the way
it looked: short and sweet, small holds, definitely non-trivial. I got
hooked that day.
FRB: Can you please explain the boulder problem
Is "no" an acceptable answer? Probably not. It's on the right-hand side
of Cloud Shadow. I dubbed it "The Battle of the Bulge" because it was.
But I didn't have my automatic copy write machine with me, so someone
else named it later after the first poor slob to climb it. I've never
liked that, naming problems after people. But I digress. I knew my climbing
days were numbered, even back then, and I was trying to put up a few
test pieces before Jim Holloway did them all. It was an obvious line
and I worked on it relentlessly. I finally did it and only once.
FRB: Rumor has it you send Blue Suede shoes in
the Valley in
a rain storm … truth or urban legend?
Bob: Send? I am getting old.
Yes, I did Blue Suede Shoes in a very light rain. Water was dripping
down it, yet the second or third move, which is the crux and requires
good friction, was dry, at least, dry enough.
FRB: Can you give us some background on
Bob: Another "test piece before J H does 'em all". John
Gill and I were on a quest for the ultimate double-dynamic move. Not
double-dynamic in the sense that people use today (grasping the target
hold with both hands), and certainly not in the automotive sense symbolized
by its name. We were looking for two consecutive dynamic moves, both
being necessary and linkable only through continuous, dynamic movement.
We never found one; however, this was as close as I ever came to it,
sort of. The idea was to initiate the first dynamic move with the arms:
an all out lunge from a good ledge. This would propel you into a near
standing position on this same ledge, and from which you would then
launch with a leg kick to send you on your way toward an otherwise unreachable
hold. While the two movements, the arm swing and the leg kick, were
both necessary to reach the top, they were performed together as opposed
to back-to-back. The name Double Clutch was an obvious choice and actually
borrowed from a climb of the same name in the Gunks.
FRB: You have been credited with inspiring the great
… how strong was this guy? Any
of strength Jim exhibited
that you could
share with us?
Bob: Jim was a motivating factor
in my exodus from climbing back in the early seventies. Jim was tall
with long, yet remarkably strong fingers. He was tall and could do dynamic
moves with the best of them. He was tall and actually had good footwork.
Did I mention that he was tall? It didn't take long for me see the writing
on the wall. This guy was good and getting better. Better I should move
on to other pursuits. He did his best climbing after I quit the scene.
In retrospect, I'm sorry I missed his heyday.
FRB: What's it like bouldering today
versus 40 years
Bob: In general terms or for
me personally? On the former, it's obvious when one looks at the toughest
problems. V14? Are you kidding me? 40 years ago, even visionaries would
not have predicted V14. On the latter, when I moved to Colorado, bouldering
wasn't a big deal; certainly not an end unto itself like it is today.
Oh, there were a few really good boulderers like John Gill and Pat Ament,
but bouldering was still considered training for the most part (except
to John). A lot of guys and gals would traverse back and forth on Flagstaff,
building endurance and honing skills for the real climbing experience
that was to be found in Eldorado Canyon and Rocky Mountain National
Park. Very few sought the short, demanding lines just for the sake of
trying to find the hardest moves. Also, right around that time, bouldering
techniques were changing. Dynamic moves were just starting to become
acceptable. All out lunging was still considered bad form, not real
FRB: Favorite golf club?
L wedge. Second favorite: 3 wood.
FRB: You're generally regarded as being competitive
by some … what
does this mean to you.
it I wouldn't have gotten up so many good routes. "Showing off", a euphemism
for competitiveness, has always been a motivating force for me. It's
interesting, my longtime partner, Rufus, isn't nearly as competitive
as I. Oh, we've had our share of non-public, internal competitions,
but by and large, he's more comfortable with his abilities and doesn't
see the need to demonstrate them all the time. If I'm going to continue
climbing, I'm definitely going to have to become a bit more like Rufus
in that sense and settle for being less competitive.
FRB: Do you climb in your 20 year old climbing 'boots'
a hard core OG
never use your
feet anyway …
extra punch out variable for cocky
20 year old
or they're the only shoes you can
fit your fur
I assume OG stands for Old Geezer? I'm bemused and chuckle every time
I see someone step off a problem and remove or loosen his shoes. It
must be the "no pain, no gain" mentality. I can jog in mine. Now, before
you start thinking how necessary discomfort is to being able to stand
on small holds, reread the Blue Suede Shoes anecdote.
on Cyto Grinder
on Cyto Grinder
FRB: Any significant bouldering injuries.
that is life-threatening or career-ending for that matter. If one boulders
as long as I have, one will suffer maladies. My worst were a dislocated
ankle (ouch) and a torn rotator cuff tendon. I'm fine now, thank you.
Too bad, a bad shoulder would make for a good excuse.
FRB: There are rumors you have a distribution source
for 'stiff' toothbrushes?
Bob: Mike Hickey hopes I do.
For those of you unfamiliar with Mike's exploits, let's just say, he's
hard on toothbrushes, other people's toothbrushes.
FRB: There are a few individuals … who are actively
trying to figure
out the ambiguous series of letters
and numbers on
your license plate. There are many
theories: a secret
rocket detonation launch code,
a cryptic beta
sequence to an undone boulder problem,
coordinates to a massage
Can you finally come public with the
meaning of your
When I drove a slower car it read NXPDNC. If you still need help, then
you need help.
FRB: There is occasional chatter in bouldering circles
that you may
retire from bouldering … what are
I'm looking forward to it. Honestly, it will be a bad day, good for
some who find me obnoxious, but a bad day for me personally. I will
not miss the bouldering so much; I will miss the friendship. I suppose
all good retirement speeches extol the same thing: "the people".
FRB: If you retired from bouldering today which bouldering
day or trip would
you have the fondest memory of.
this where I'm supposed to say, "Let me think. There were so many."
Actually, the first, probably not the best, but the first that comes
to mind was a day spent at Horsetooth with Calvin Fiddler. I managed
to do all the standard problems on the Mental Block. There was a misting
rain that day. Every time we stepped off the carpet, it was essential
to succeed for there was mud under every line. I seem to do my best
work in the rain.
FRB: Your hardest boulder problem completed?
Center Route at Morrison. I used a slightly different sequence from
the one favored today. Dave Twinam ruined Center when he did it using
that ridiculously small and sharp hold called the Potato Peeler. He
didn't like my method; said he couldn't do it my way, which is nonsense.
FRB: The boulder problem you still want to do.
FRB: Favorite Golf Course (local/international)?
Bob: Raccoon Creek. It's local
and there's not a bad hole on it.
FRB: What is the craziest stunt you've ever done?
you're exploring the boring side of me. I can't think of any, let alone
one that I would call crazy.
FRB: Did you happen to climb Magnum Force naked
hours at the Morrison Inn …
truth or urban
FRB: Favorite quote.
notice how anyone driving faster than you is crazy, while anyone driving
slower than you is an idiot." George Carlin.
FRB: Super hard boulder problems?
haven't done any.
FRB: Favorite Bouldering area … why?
Horsetooth, just west of Fort Collins. I suppose the reason why is that
my successes there marked significant advances in my bouldering career.
FRB: What was it like to climb with John Gill?
will probably surprise you with my answer. In John I saw a man more
relaxed and at ease than I would have thought fitting for a climber
of his reputation. He did moves simply because they pleased him. It
did not matter their worth to anyone else. John and I had contrasting
styles and it was good thing. It allowed us to climb together comfortably.
FRB: Where is the infamous hill?
are, of course, referring to a tee shirt I own that proclaims "Over
what hill? Where? When? I don't remember any hill." I have encountered
the proverbial hill and it is behind me.
FRB: Do you have any climbing heroes?
No. I am impressed by what the top boulderers do today, but they certainly
FRB: So … how does it feel to be an
the farther underground the better. I say, "Let's bury it."
FRB: Locals only?
I don't understand the question.
FRB: What motivates you?
There's a certain tongue-in-cheek seriousness in my response. I have
a favorite story about a climbing confrontation. I drove up on Flagstaff
one day, and not wanting to climb alone, asked three guys if I could
join them. One of them, the most fit-looking, eyed me up and down and
said, rather sarcastically, "Sure, be my guest." He was pointing at
Smith Overhang and it was obvious that he thought anyone who looked
as weak as I wouldn't even be able to do the first move. By the way,
he could do the first move, but only the first move. I said, "Gee, looks
hard," as if I'd never seen it before. I then proceeded to do it without
effort. (You have to understand, in the old days, I would start and
end every session with Smith's.) After manteling the top, I jumped off
and landed next to three shocked young punks. "Nah, it's not that hard,"
and I walked away.
FRB: You've been bouldering for almost 9 decades …
has the bouldering
crowd changed much in attitude
and do you have
any words of wisdom for
the new wannabes?
Nine decades? First it was 40 years, which is a stretch; now it's nine
decades. No doubt, this is how legends get started. Certainly the climbers
of today are better. People start climbing on 5.11 (V4 in today's vernacular),
none of this easy stuff for beginners. Right out of the blocks, they're
climbing hard problems. The previous question and answer provide my
advice to wannabes.
FRB: Do you have a freakish bouldering model of
in your basement …
truth or urban
Bob: I do. It's not freakish.
It is the move from the left-hand high, right-hand undercling to the
FRB: Word Association - just
fill in what ever first comes to your mind.
V10 - Awe inspiring
Bouldering pad - Save your knees; add years to your career.
Morrison - The Black Hole
Swami belt - A relic from the past
Dyno - Fun
Rufus Miller - Longtime partner and human being extraordinaire.
Sun tan - Maui
Hill - Chris
Yosemite - Midnight Lightning
Ghost Dance - Cool moves
Thumb Lock - Thumbscrew: a painful hold to one of the more
bizarre starts to Center
Greg Johnson - First person I ever saw climb Pinch Overhang
at Horsetooth on his first try without jumping off the ground. Embarrassingly,
it took me a couple of tries; I almost didn't make it.
Sub 80 - Golf goal
49sgjar9e - Confused
Cheese Cake - Chocolate mouse cheesecake of course. I gotta
stop eating desserts.
Sickness - Health
Gill - John
Little Red Man Chewing Gum - What?