My Perfect Adventure
He’s earned a reputation for his agility and toughness, but ask Sonnie Trotter what inspires him to climb, and you’ll see that this leading athlete also has the eye of an artist. The Toronto-born rock climber with hundreds of first ascents worldwide once dreamed of being an architect, and although he has mastered dozens of challenging 5.14 sport climbs during his 16-year career, he says he’s most drawn to more traditional routes with visually pleasing lines. He pays attention to design, form, and space, describing his favorite climbs as those “that look more like art sculptures than anything else,” and he enjoys the yoga-like synergy of mind and body during the ascent.
Of course, the record-breaking is pretty enjoyable, too. Among his first ascents, Trotter, 33, can claim one of the world’s hardest crack routes, Cobra Crack (5.14) in British Columbia, along with the Path (5.14 R) and the Shining on Mount Louis (5.13+) in Alberta. Now he has his sights set on free climbing the Nose route on El Capitan in California, which he calls “the world’s most alluring line.”
Here, Trotter tells us how he partially accomplished his childhood goal of becoming a ninja, why he thinks rock climbing is poetic, and where he’d like to build his dream house.
Describe your perfect day, from dawn 'til dusk. Where would you be, who would you meet, and what would you do?
Honestly, this changes from day to day. Sometimes I'm in the mood for a really scary and exhausting adventure, and other times I just want to chill by the beach with my wife, Lydia. I suppose when I think about it, I've been living the perfect day for about 10 years already. I wake up in a beautiful place, surrounded by beautiful rocks and mountains and rivers and valleys. I enjoy coffee with my loved ones, go outside all day, play, and create. And then I finish the day with a fire, a healthy meal, and a glass of red wine.
If you could travel somewhere you've never been, where would you go and why?
Oh, damn, that's a hard question. I think I'd go to Patagonia, Argentina, just to feel those big, beautiful mountains. Big mountains inspire me, and I’ve seen so many pictures of them, and they look like they could have a great impact on a person. I know from experience that mountains like that have to be seen with a naked eye—they have to be felt.
Where is the best place you've ever visited? What made it so special?
India. My wife and I went in 2008, staying in the southern half of the country. We traveled around for three months, and I spent six weeks bouldering in a beautiful place called Hampi, while my wife was there to practice yoga. The country is incredibly diverse and colorful and exciting. It's like every single day is a new adventure. No matter where you are or what you're doing, you're bound to discover something new, and sometimes that's exhilarating, and sometimes frightening, but that's the nature of traveling, I suppose.
If you could have lunch with any adventurer, explorer, or athlete, who would it be and why?
It would be Yvon Chouinard, the founder of Patagonia Clothing, although truthfully, because of my relationship with the company, I’m one of the lucky ones who has already had lunch with him. He's a very intelligent person, and everything he says just makes sense and seems so simple. I think I'd like for some of that insight on the world to rub off on me. In a way, I guess it already has.
What's something you can't travel without? And why do you need it?
It's very hard to travel without my wife, to be honest. It's hard to fully enjoy the places I go without her these days. But if I had to pick something else, I'd say my climbing shoes, because you just never know when you're going to encounter something that's climbable, and beautiful.