It’s been five days already, but I wanted to give mad props to my local hero, Will Stanhope, from North Van, BC.  Willy recently made the second gear ascent of one of the worlds greatest single pitch free climbs.  The incredible East Face of The Monkey Face, 5.13d (R), Smith Rock, Oregon.  This is an old photo of me just above the 5.12+ section and heading into the upper portion of the climb.  Ben Moon Foto.


Alan Watts climbed this 140 foot pitch back in 1980 I think, equipping it with pins, nuts and a half dozen bolts, it was one of the most difficult free climbs on the planet, a futuristic feat.  As a pinkpoint with gear pre-placed the climb is outstanding, and worth every single inch, like solid GOLD.  But as a gear climb, I think it’s even better.  Lynn Hill and a few other stone charmers made early repeat ascents and lead to my interest in the climb.  I have always enjoyed climbing media, not because of the hype, or spray, or grade spewing dribble, but because I enjoy the exposure to new classic lines I never knew existed.  Without photography or essays, I’d never have known about the Monkey’s amazing position and immaculate quality.  I may have never had the experience of climbing on it and my life would be forever missing that little piece to the puzzle.  So thanks to all of you around the world who continue to tell stories, take pictures, shoot video, and share your work. I can’t name names, cause it would take forever, but you know who you are and it’s appreciated, if at least just by me. ha ha ha.  Keep up the good work.

Here’s a few snippets from Will’s Blog.

“For the past week or so I have been trying the East Face of Monkey Face in Smith Rock Oregon. My good buddy Charlie Long has accompanied me on this adventure, patiently hiking up to Monkey to belay me many times. Having a psyched partner is critical.”

“At first, the route felt impossible. Powerful, painful, and hopelessly long.”

“I have been trying to wrap my head around leading the Monkey.  Now that I’ve deemed myself fit enough for an attempt, all that remains is the mental prep. If I pitch at the top, I could go for a huge fall. It’s safe. But punching it hard, facing a 50 footer is always a bit disconcerting.”

“I have now one-falled the East Face twice. Every time I go up there I lose a tonne of skin and blood. This route is, without a doubt, the most taxing line I have ever tried. It is a long, epic battle with a cruxy huge runout at the very top. Really, really draining.”

“In 2004 Sonnie Trotter climbed the East Face placing all the gear on lead. That was the spring I graduated from high school and Ben Moon’s shots absolutely blew me away… They still stand as some of the coolest photos I have ever seen. Trotter looks like he’s climbing 1000 feet off the deck given the airy nature of the Monkey at the laser cut arete to his right. At the time I could only climb 13a sport and mid 5.12 trad, so it was out of the question to try the line. But I vowed to one day get strong enough to send it.”

Congrats to the young lad, and read the rest at Big Willy’s Blog, the kid is not only a talented rock climber, but he’s got a nice way with words too.

  • Roger

    Hey, Sonnie! If you need a “no comment” break from your mini-proj, I have 2 free tix to delve into your other fave passtime at a Beer Fest in Edmonton(if you can make it hear by Sat). Haha!

    Good luck and cheers!

  • Sonnie

    Oh man, I gotta work on Sat! Crap.

  • leeper

    Watched him work on it for a few hours out there one day while I was chilling on the mesa–glad he finished it! Inspiring!

  • Mike

    Big Willy dropped the clutch! Lots of respect goes out to a humble and talented climber.

  • Alan Watts

    Climbing the East Face of Monkey Face placing gear all gear on lead and without clipping the bolts is a tremendous accomplishment. Great effort!! It never would have occurred to me to try to avoid the bolts – they were all left behind from early aid ascents, and was I always very happy to clip into them.

    But I thought I’d clear up a common misconception about my ascent of the East Face 25 years ago. Never once, on any attempt of my East Face attempts, did I pre-place any gear. No nuts, no quick draws.

    I redpointed the upper section free (I think 1984 or maybe 85), from the mid-point hanging belay to the top, placing all gear on lead (one #3 RP & three #4 RPs – I still remember after 25 years). There were no preplaced nuts or draws on this section. Of course, I clipped the upper line of bolts. Shortly after that, I did Grand Illusion with no preplaced gear in two days. I was sure the upper section of the East Face, in itself, was harder.

    The next year I returned to do the pitch in a single lead from the ground. I placed all gear on lead every attempt, getting past all the nut placements to the last hard move above the second bolt on the final traverse. I think I did this three times from the ground, each time carrying a rack of gear, stripping out all the wires and draws after each failed attempt. Unfortunately, with a trip to Yosemite planned the next day, on my last try I lowered off from the second traverse bolt, and yo-yo’d to the top, clipping one more bolt. I never returned (which, looking back, was kind of stupid of me). Placing gear on the lead made the route a notch harder I always thought – it was surely just 5.13c if you could just clip the rope into preplaced draws the whole way up. I was always disappointed that every subsequent ascent just laced the crack with preplaced gear the whole way (at least until you came along).

    Anyway, I have tremendous admiration for your effort on the East Face, and so many other climbs around the country. You, and others like you, have taken the sport far, far beyond what I ever imagined possible.

  • Will

    Hey Alan,

    Just stumbled upon your note.
    I’ve got nothing but respect for your effort. It was way ahead of its time.

    For me, it was just a wild experience to climb that upper section without bolts. It wasn’t an ethical decision by any means- in fact I used the bolts to initially set up a toprope.
    I just wanted that heart-pounding sensation in my chest at the top of that impeccable line.

    Thanks for the inspiration Alan!

    -will stanhope