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Tommy Caldwell and Sonnie Trotter Tell Tales of Chossy Adventures in Vancouver

The sold-out event at MEC Vancouver also featured special guest Sean McColl

On April 26, MEC and Edelrid held a talk with Tommy Caldwell and Sonnie Trotter at the MEC Vancouver store. Regular climbing partners for a couple decades, the pair told stories and shared photos from three different trips they took in the early 2010s.

The first trip was their adventure putting up The Shining 5.13+ on Mt Louis back in 2011, a 15-pitch bolted route up one of Banff, Alberta’s most iconic mountains. The Shining climbs the east face of Louis, directly up the centre of a 200-metre feature called the Diamond Face.

At MEC, Caldwell and Trotter described their process working up hundreds of feet of chossy rock to reach the intimidating Diamond Face. They swapped leads up the face, bolting pitch after pitch and dealing with huge runouts and rockfall along the way. Instead of bringing a typical portaledge, the duo hilariously instead opted for a camp chair and umbrella during their ascent.

Their second trip, a year later, was to Gozo in Malta. The pair were on a mission to put up trad first ascents of beautiful sea cliff lines. Instead, they ended up finding chossy soft rock of a dried peanut butter-like consistency. Undeterred, they kept searching for better rock and eventually stumbled upon an incredible, massive roof crack hanging over the turbulent coast. They made good progress on the extremely long crack, but were unable to get the redpoint.

The third trip they described to the MEC crowd occurred in 2013 and was back in the Canadian Rockies. Their goal was to ascend a new line up Mt Stephen. They started the climb during an oddly warm weather window, resulting in a rapid melt high on the mountain. Their approach to the main wall was was plagued by rock fall and the pair experienced some extremely close calls. Trotter, soon to be a father at the time, pulled the plug on the climb and the two made the long decent back to the car. Trotter and Caldwell teased that they will maybe have to go back up there one day to complete the mission.

After telling tales about their three chossy trips, Caldwell and Trotter spoke about their environmental advocacy efforts. They were then joined on stage for an audience Q&A by Canadian Olympian Sean McColl and Emma Contaoe, both MEC climbing ambassadors. The event ended with short talk from Ben Webster, Chair of the Squamish Access Society and raffle prizes from MEC and Edelrid. Proceeds from ticket sales for the event went towards the Climbers’ Access Society of BC. Squamish Access Society, Vancouver Climbers Association, Protect Our Winters Canada, and Van Queer Climbers all had information booths at the event.