Path-etic Details

It has been brought to my attention that there is
quite the extensive discussion going on about my
decision to climb the path in a traditional style and
to remove the bolts on the gripped BB.

Although I do appreciate the comments (all of them) I
still find it amazing that people want to express
their opinions about a particular line they likely
know very little about.

In my eyes at least, it appears a tad inane, but then
again, we all have the right to express opinions, so
that’s that.   Ultimately, I would love to answer all
the questions on the forum, I would, but I don’t think
I will ever be able to express what it is I want to
say clearly on a message board, or even here, on this crap.

But I will say a few things…WARNING: boring ethical
dribble below!!!

The Path is not a sport route that got chopped, it’s a
fucking trad route that got bolted. I didn’t chop the
bolts so much as I restored the climb. 

Besides, some of the bolts were in the wrong place anyway. 

Someone once asked me if the Compressor route on Cerro
Torre should get chopped, my honest answer is this – I
don’t know enough about the climb to say one way or
the other. I am far too removed to make any sort of
judgment.  How can I begin to think that I have the
voice to answer that question.  In regards to the
Path, yes, I think the bolts should be removed, not
because I am happy with a hacksaw, but because the
climb is a safe, obvious, well protected trad climb
and NEVER should have been bolted in the first place.

It bugs me when people want to make climbing safe for
everyone, more accessible to everyone.  Well then, why
don’t we bolt the blood out of every great crag and
then pave the road to the base, maybe around the side
of the Lake so we won’t have to walk as far, so
climbers won’t have to carry some cams, so that we
won’t have to get out of our cars to get coffee,
instead we can just sit in a ridiculous parade around
the parking lot, waving our money out the widow.

Another note; I top-roped the climb for about 3-4
days, not 10 like it was suggested.  That’s maybe 6-8
tries at the most.  It was necessary for me to be
certain that the climb goes freely on gear, removing
bolts was not an easy decision, it was the best

I don’t want to promote chopping bolts as a good
thing.  But I do want to see beautiful, natural lines
be safe guarded from bolts that don’t need them.  I
think we are all getting a little too lazy.  Remember
please, the climbs above Wicked Gravity are not
dangerous routes, the Path may seem a little run-out
towards the end, but it is perfectly safe as is it’s
little brother The Great Escape (5.13c?).   Also, I
gave the upper headwall pitches two different names to
differentiate the two lines, lets not mistaken them
for renaming anything.  Wicked Gravity is it’s own

I did not remove the bolts to make any sort of
statement.  I am against the practice of placing
expansion bolts next to cracks or other natural lines
than can otherwise be protected safely and easily.  I
am not against bolting, I have put up tons of bolted
routes, and I love sport climbing (that plug was for
the guy who told me to “remember where I come from” as
though hard sport is all I’m allowed to do) but there
is a time and place for power drills.   If I upheld a
lesser ethic, I would have chopped the East Face of
Money Face, but I didn’t because it is not my route
and I have too much respect for the F.A. to make any
changes.  The Path however was abandoned and I had an
opportunity to make a decision for myself on how I
wanted this climb to be approached. If I never told
anyone that I removed bolts, would web surfers on
Gripped be having this discussion at all?  The way I
see it, some things in this world need to remain
sacred and I stand behind that.  Fuck it – even if
both climbs get retro bolted tomorrow (which I don’t
think will happen, as I know 3-4 people personally who
are all excited to give the route a go) then all I can
say is that I did what I thought was the best thing to
do for that particular climb and life goes on.

Whoa, this typing thing sucks.

OK, Here is the deal to all those people who think I
“STOLE” a 5.14 sport route from them.  If you want a
5.14 bolted sport clip up, drive east bound a short
ways on Highway 1 and you can climb many, many,
multiple lines at your choice of crag waiting in the
Bow Valley, at least 10 5.14s's to choose from, the
limestone is good, no wait, its GREAT.  And if you
still want to give The Path a try, it’s still there,
the way it always was, in its NATURAL state, waiting
for a ground up ascent.  Just like it sat for millions
of years. Here's instructions…

“Climb a 5.8 to the right and follow the arête up the
ramp to anchor.  Rap in left side, place bomber gear
on the way down.  Pull rope and climb the route on
lead with pre-placed gear, it only takes about 30 min
to do this and it will climb just like a sport climb
with draws pre-hung (no difference).  Even if you
choose to climb the route on top-rope, it is still
just as much fun.  BUT, if this seems like too much
work or effort for you to handle, then please leave
the drill at home, gas up the car and drive south to
beautiful little canyon called Rifle.  There, you will
find hundreds of fine bolted sport routes no more than
5 paces from your car.  Note; crowds can often be

Last words.   At the end of the day, some kid is going
to come along and tick all of our hardest shit, like
“it’s no big deal”. Then he is going to want a real
challenge.  Hopefully he’ll step up and on-sight the
path with ease placing all gear on lead.  PROUD.  That
will be a feat completed in the very near future, and
in much better style than its F.A.  So let’s not all
get hung up on this crap, it’s just climbing.


  • Chris Neve

    Hey, Sonnie…

    Glad I read this, I have always just wanted to know how you came about this decision from a standpoint of an interested climber but also someone who will never be faced with these decisions. I am unaware of the “ethics” of removing bolts but your comments and those of Mike Doyle’s – two of Canada’s most exceptional cimbers, in my mind – have given me some great insight and I thank you for it.


  • Paul C

    I learned to climb amongst a very small climbing community on the east coast and have thus not been exposed to the “big cities” of climbing communities. Everyone knew what everyone else did and what was acceptable.

    It just leaves me dumbfounded when people break what have always seeded like the two most basic -and easy to follow- rules regarding climbing: 1) Don’t chip 2) Don’t bolt trad routes. I agree with you in that climbing does not have to be accessible to everyone. Climbing is both a mental and physical process and bolting a line to make it easier for the scared to climb it is no different that chipping a hard route so that less physically talented climbers can send it.

    Sorry for the rant, I think you were right to chop the bolts. I don’t know the route but I follow those aforementioned rules explicitly. I’m never going to climb The Path, well I won’t completely rule that out, and mabye I wasn’t meant to. The climbing community needs to move past the line of thinking that every person deserves to do whatever they want. Certain things take work and dedication, of both a physical and mental nature.

  • Ken T

    I recently made my first trip to Lake Louise. We arrived on Sunday, August 18th, and hiked through the rain to the back of the lake to check things out. I remember commenting on a fixed line hanging from anchors well above Wicked Gravity.

    We climbed all day Monday, the day I gather the Path was sent, but bagged it by about 5pm to head for the pub, so unfortunately, just missed the full-on action of the day. Later in the week, I onsighted Wicked Gravity, which was one of the highlights of my trip. The fixed line was still there and hung straight down, WAY out from my stance at the Wicked Gravity chains. From there, I looked up at an Alien and a wire sticking out of the clean face well above me. A few additional, sparsely placed pieces led up farther. The line they indicated was intimidating, beautiful and proud, and clearly HARD. It wasn%u2019t until I returned home and checked out the latest news at the climbing web sites that I realized what had just gone down.

    For me there%u2019s no question as to whether old bolts should have been chopped from the line that is now the Path. All you have to do is climb to the top of Wicked Gravity and imagine climbing past the chains, onto the overhanging face and aiming for a tiny slot 10 feet higher that will accept that first Alien. If you%u2019re good enough to do so, then go for it. If not, then get inspired and get better until you can meet a piece of rock like this on its own terms.

    Finally, for those who think Sonnie Trotter an overzealous bolt-chopper, ask yourselves why the bolts weren%u2019t chopped on Wicked Gravity, which serves as the opening half of the Path. There%u2019re enough cracks for gear to keep it at a climbable R rating. In fact, if those bolts were chopped, the quality of the Path, for the elite climber, would probably increase considerably. I can only guess, but seems to me someone used good judgment, considered the legacy of the climb, its popularity, its place in history and guidebooks, the effect on the average recreational climber, and left them. Seems to me someone didn%u2019t just go arbitrarily chopping bolts to feed his own ego.

    My first trip to Lake Louise was enriched by Trotter%u2019s efforts, vision and bolt removal. And in my opinion, so is the sport of climbing as a whole.

  • marcus


    Well said. I’ve been climbing here in the BV for 17 years – nobody has even come close to attempting that line proper. Ben Firth probably gave it its best shot a few years back – you don’t hear him bitchin about chopped crummy bolts.

    All the naysayers have no basis to even comment on the line and likely a good portion would have trouble with the first section (wicked gravity).

    Keep up the great work – future generations will benefit (despite the fact the current one can’t);)


  • sonnie trotter

    Hey guys, thanks for the feedback, some great stories and ideas, it’s rad to hear from ya’ll. I do appreciate the kind remarks, it’s funny, when I established the climb, I didn’t REALLY do it to take any ethical standpoint, it just seemed like a lot more fun and felt like the right thing to do, those grumpy folks on the thread are a comical bunch aren’t they. Anyway, it’s all good. Happy climbing.


  • Much of this type of debate happens over here in Scotland too – the folk ready to sling mud at folk who go out there and get involved in climbing (on the routes under scrutiny, and not from the armchair) generally have a scarcity mentality. ‘if you chop those bolts, thats one less sport route for me’ or the opposite ‘if you bolt that, thats one less trad route for me’ It’s kinda selfish. There is nae shortage of rock to have both types in abundance.

    It comes down to what makes sense for each place and each route. Your case for ‘The Path’ as trad and recommendation to head to Rifle if you wanna find a good sport route makes common sense to me. It’s perfectly acceptable for the next guy to think the opposite – because its aesthetics really, but we all have to give eachother some ground.

    Usually, mutual respect for other climbers, even where you disagree with their aesthetics is the quickest way to get near a happy way forward for everyone.

    Bummer you couldn’t make it back to Scotland this time, but know the feeling about money and time… If it helps, its raining cats and dogs right now. The wet climbing gear is piled high on my heater. Might see ya in Canada in 08???


  • Sonnie Trotter

    Hey Dave,

    It’s great to hear from you. Really, I mean that, I heard all about your Hell bound excellent adventure from Dave Brown and all I can say is – WHOA!

    I’m glad life is treating you well. As for me, life is amazing, it has been such a fun year and I was bummed you didn’t get a chance to make it over and climb some. But yes, hopefully next year.

    Thanks for your comments here, but I honestly must say, the debate doesn’t bother me in the least, I’m still laughing at the things Jenny says and that guy Trent. Shit, it’s better than TV. It’s funny, each and everyone of them could easily e-mail me and ask me some very simple questions, I would be more than happy to answer them, but no they won’t do that, they get too much of a kick trying to be clever and slanderous, all the while using fake names, very well done, bravo people.

    What ever life goes on.

    On the sport climbing front, Dave Graham came for a visit and climbed nearly everything. He repeated Lev’s 5.14 calling it more D than C. So I am stoked to have a go next spring, it’s a beauty looking line. If you come over, I’ll give you the proper tour and you can put those mutant fingers to work.

    Best wishes D and say hi to Claire.