Climber completes long-awaited traverse 

Stawamus Chief an inspiring site for Trotter

click to enlarge FILE PHOTO - CHIEF OF THE CHIEF Sonnie Trotter planned out and completed a challenging new first ascent on the Stawamus Chief.
  • File photo
  • CHIEF OF THE CHIEF Sonnie Trotter planned out and completed a challenging new first ascent on the Stawamus Chief.

Sonnie Trotter has completed hundreds of first ascents.

But the 36-year-old has received accolades for what he accomplished in Squamish on May 1.

Trotter conquered a free ascent of the eight-pitch Prow Wall on the Stawamus Chief after putting in five days of work in April to prepare the climb. It was one he has had his eye on completing for years, and one that was of great interest to the climbing community for its rarity, Trotter explained.

"It's such a clean wall and it's quite a section that's uninterrupted. It's very sheer and very attractive for climbers," he said. "I've been really looking at it since I moved to Squamish back in 2000. A friend of mine who actually started work on that line invited me to go check it out about five or six years ago. We went up there together and I had my first look at the line. The climbing was incredible and I knew that it was going to be possible, but I didn't really have the chance to get back until this year."

The roughly 200-metre section is extraordinarily challenging, Trotter explained, as he graded one section as a 5.14a, pushing the upper boundaries of difficulty. Taming the beast has eluded climbers for years.

"That's was has been on climbers' minds for over two decades," he said. "What people found in the past was that it's very difficult. Otherwise, it would have been climbed a long time ago.

"It was just about carving out enough time in my life to get up there and put in the work."

Trotter explained there was plenty of work to be done to ensure the climb would go smoothly and not endanger himself or other climbers. It took some trial and error to figure out exactly what needed to be completed, but he eventually became confident enough in the route to try it.

"It needed some protection bolts, so I put in some labour in terms of bringing up a drill and moving the protection bolts around on the walls just to make sure it was safe," he said. "The climbing is so hard that it needed a bit of cleaning to ensure that the grips and everything were going to be ready to go.

"You look at the wall and it's like a jigsaw puzzle on a large scale... You're trying to connect the dots. It was kind of piecing it all together and figuring out the body positioning as well, hand and foot sequences and the best way to unlock it."

While it wasn't one of Trotter's hardest climbs, he will look back on the ascent fondly as one of his most memorable climbing days for the prime conditions, the beauty and the great company. He has also received congratulatory responses from athletes like himself.

"I get emails and Facebook messages all the time," he said. "There's a lot of support in the climbing community for something like that that happens. It's pretty cool to get the feedback from the overall community that it inspires them, that they're, 'Oh, I've been waiting for that wall to get climbed.'

"It's really encouraging stuff."

This summer, Trotter will continue climbing near Banff, noting his favourites include Mount Louis and Mount Yamnuska.

"My dream is to climb the bigger mountains here and put up more first ascents," he said. "I've got a few things in mind."



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