BD athlete Sonnie Trotter attempts new route in Squamish, B.C.
Black Diamond athlete Sonnie Trotter recently sent us his report from the Prow Wall, a new route he attempted with Paul Bride in Squamish on May 15, 2010. Check out his take on the day he referred to as "dancing with the devil."
Three months ago, while standing on top of the Chief in Squamish, B.C. and looking across the gap from the First Summit to the Second, it looked like 5.9 climbing. MAX. Sure it went on for miles, but from afar it had the appearance of a big hand crack traverse, it called to me like a song.
Initially, I was tempted to go ground up, with a rope, a rack, and the shirt on my back, but it quickly occurred to me something was wrong. I mean, if it really was only 5.9, why hasn't it been climbed before? Surely such a stunning wall had been tried? In the world of the vertically obsessed, lines like this do not go unnoticed for very long.
The day before I hiked up to the face for the first time, I was able to chat with long time local boy William Stanhope. He told me he had rappelled the line years ago, but found nothing to connect it from the ground to the top. "Up close, it's not what it looks like" he said.
Still, I had to know for sure.
An unclimbed wall is one of life's most alluring temptations for me. I don't see rock any more, I see a marvelous art sculpture, waiting to be revealed and appreciated, if only for myself, and if only for a short time. The bigger the line, the more attractive it appears.
Like Will, I wasn't convinced it would go after my initial inspection, it's a monster traverse, so it took many painful hours of rappelling down, jugging back up, moving 15 feet to the left and repeating the process over again.
But finally with great delight, on the third day I touched a very delicate series of razor sharp pimples that stretched wide across the face, connecting two obvious cracks together, a line 20 feet down and to the left of where Will had once been years before. In total, I put in seven days of work on the wall, alone, scrubbing mud from cracks, placing bolts and building stations. But what lay beneath it all, was a gorgeous free climb, a beaming gem - a rap bolted, 200-foot dance with the devil.
With my long time friend and Squamish photographer Paul Bride, we headed up on a perfect day in early May. Ironically it was the day before the monsoon hit the Northwest, soaking the Chief for weeks.
After an hour-long hike, and a 60-foot rappel, we headed up the first pitch, a five star 5.10a. This gapping detached tower climbs easier than it looks, up from the depths and into the clear sky above. This brought us to a pedestal on top of "The Pillar." Yes, the pillar of darkness. At the gear belay, looking up, Paul didn't like what he saw, an ocean of steep face climbing. You see, to put it bluntly, Paul is a bit of a thug - if you put him on a wet 5.12 crack, he'll get up the thing, not always gracefully, but I promise you, he'll get up it. If you put him on a fancy, prancy, 5.10 face climb, he turns to putty, and laughs about it the whole way home. His ability to take nothing seriously, is what makes him a pleasure at every belay.
The climbing above was harder than I anticipated, which was bad news for Paul, but exciting for me. Since I barely did any moves before this attempt, I had it in my mind it was no harder than 5.12+. I was dead wrong.
The climbing gets progressively harder on every pitch, and the last one (pitch 4) was a punch in the gut. Steep, pumpy, pimpy and powerful. Paul jugged his way to the final belay, hanging on every piece but trying hard and having fun. It's never bad with Paul when you're up high, having a new adventure.
In the end, I completely underestimated the difficulty of the climbing. We got worked together in the hot sun. I slipped off every edge, melted out of every lock, pumped off jugs, broke holds and peeled off pimples. Solid 5.13 climbing is where it lies, and although we had more than a blast hauling our sorry selves up the wall, my body held a grudge for days. On the bright side, I did every move, every sequence, and we reached the summit in time for dinner.
Now that I know it goes, I have to go back and finish it. I must. When the rain stops of course. And now, when I see it from the first summit, I don't see 5.9 anymore, I feel tender tendons and lost skin, I feel a bruised ego, a smile falls over my face, I must return, I must finish what I started. I feel the power of seduction calling me back, and I'm helpless to that.