Open wounds!

Ha ha ha.  Okay, so Mysore is still here.  Paul and I hiked up to CHamundi hill yesterday with shoes and chalk and high hopes of discovering the next best bouldering spot.  No such luck, the trees are thick and the boulders are flaky.  Ain't no Hampi, that for certain.  Oh well, we climbed the whole HOLY 999 steps to the top and drank chai with the monkey's.  Fully a tourists thing to do, and alhtough i am not much into tourism, I'm glad we did it. 

So recently I was asked by the Canadian Alpine Journal to submit a report on my new climb at the lake this summer.  The path.  For those of you who know much about it, there was a little drama following this ascent.  No biggy.  Anyway, I took the time out and wrote a few words about my climb, my motivation and my story behind it all.  I hope the journal doesn't get upset with me for posting a version of it here on this blog.  But I will anyway for those of you who wan to read it.  Open wounds, open minds, open words.


The Path,

Climbed on Aug 21st, 2007.


I can’t say how my actions will affect the future of climbing and quite frankly, it doesn’t really matter and I don’t really care.  What does matter is how my actions effect climbing today, right now at this very moment, and I suppose that debate is up for grabs.

But let me begin from the very start.  In 1997, during a family vacation to the Bow Valley I bumped into a friendly man by the name of Geoff Trump.  It was mid-summer and we agreed to share a rope for the day as neither of us had a partner.  As it turned out on that fateful afternoon, Geoff would show me the road towards traditional climbing.  After a year in Ontario of pulling on plastic and clipping bolts, I led my very first traditional rock climb with a set of mixed nuts and few camalots.  “Extra Dry” 5.9.

At the end of our great session, I noticed a beautifully streaked wall bigger and steeper than all of the rest.  To this day it is still one of the most impressive rock faces I’ve ever seen.  When I asked Trump what it was, he looked up and grinned, “That my friend, is what I’d call the future”.

Exactly 10 summers later, I found myself standing at the base of that great wall.  It sat for approximately 20 years without a free ascent and I decided I was going to pour all my energy into it, a line like that was too irresistible to ignore.

After my second attempt on the bolted wall, it became obvious to me that the bolts were not necessary to make this climb safe, not for me, not for anyone.  The moves would go, sure they were hard but definitely possible.  However, now I had another challenge to deal with, the challenge of de-bolting the climb.  At its heart the line is obviously a traditional climb that was accidentally mistaken for a sport route, a simple misconception.  To make a long story shorter, I took it upon myself to chop the bolts, a decision I stand by today, even after feeling the wrath of the small yet present judgemental sector of our community.  Most of this negativity took place via chat rooms and forums, but fortunately I was also bombarded with positive e-mails and direct letters from supporters came from all angles, they were all warmly welcomed.  I saved each and every single one.  Mostly, the trash talk came from citizens who didn’t understand the truth, citizens of our vertical community that would rather spread darkness instead of light.  In my opinion there is not much room for darkness in our sport, climbing is fun and it is a priviledge and we should spend more of our time supporting each other, even if visions do overlap sometimes.

The climbing on the path was as good as any I can remember.  Big moves to small crimps, technical feet and thought-provoking gear.  The slightly overhanging wall created hard moves between good rests, and it quickly turned into a challenge of stamina over power. The crux comes six feet above the final piece of gear, the fall (which I took often) was a soft catch- a sideways swing onto a micro cam that never pulled. I trusted the gear 100 percent, if I didn’t, I wouldn’t have done it.

The crux sequence begins after a good rest. With swollen arms and sweaty palms, I lunged left for a crimp the width of a pencil and the length of a paper clip.  From this position, the hard part was switching my feet; shifting the bulk of my weight onto my outstretched arm and coming into a match. Three more tic-tac moves with spaced feet brought me to easier 5.12 terrain, deep breaths and the final jug. With as little attention as possible to the 30 feet of slack I had in my hand, I hauled up 140 feet of rope drag to clip the anchor. This brought an instantaneous ear to ear grin that lasted for the entire exposed ride back down to the ground.

People often ask me why I named it The Path. It was the only name I could give such a brilliant climb. Besides the obvious, a path of holds leading to the very lofty top of the wall, 10 feet to the left or right the wall is blank. The path of edges and cracks is a gift, a gift to all climbers.  But the real reason for the name is an appreciation for my friend Geoff Trump. This relationship was short, but stable. Geoff showed me ‘The Lake’ for the first time, a stranger who trusted his life to me within minutes of our first hello.  A stranger who held my rope and lent me his rack. A stranger who showed me to trust my instincts, open my eyes and learn to follow a path less ordinary.  A stranger with an honest smile. 

Sonnie Trotter

  • sarah

    sonnie, i didn’t realize that was the story behind the path – or that you had memories of it from long before you ever attempted it. Great article, gives more depth to the already amazing story of the climb.

    hope you two had a great day of love and passion…big hugs. smj

  • Nate

    Right on! That looks like great route, and done in perfect style. There is lots of room for new bolted lines in the world, but a good natural lead like this is a rare find.


  • Apes

    Hi there! You are a great writer. I love reading your stories. They are very well written and keep me captivated. I think you should write a memoir of your life. Thanks for the stories!

  • sonnie

    HEy guys,

    thanks for the comments, I’m glad that some of my scribbling can be ‘captivating’ as you put it Apes, you are far too kind. I’ll keep jotting things down as they come to me, whether they are worth reading or not.

    Nate, if U are interested, we got some footage of the climb, maybe it will inspire you to get roped up and giver a run? It could be done in slightly better style, ground up.

    Sarah, not sure if you read these commments still or not, but thanks, Lids and I had a wicked V-day, I got to kick it in Mysore for three extra days with her, better than nothing and it was so great to be in her presence, infectious energy as you know, she’s got the whole world in her hands.

    Look forward to seeing you again, one more month, which should fly by in warp speed. Canmore is a good place to be.

    Cheers and best wishes