Sonnie Trotter is the only Canadian to open a new free route on El Capitan with Pineapple Express, which is technically a three-pitch variation to El Nino VI 5.13c. Trotter established the route over the last few seasons with Alex Honnold and then sent it in a 13-hour push with Tommy Caldwell supporting.
Honnold and Brad Gobright have made the second ascent of Pineapple Express this week. They climbed the route through the dark after starting at 4 p.m. on June 10. El Nino and Pineapple Express have technical free climbing on steep faces with the intermittent cracks. There’s a lot of 5.10 and 5.11 climbing, six 5.13 pitches and five 5.12. Earlier this spring, Gobright sent Muir Wall via The Shaft VI 5.13c in a push. Trotter wrote on Gobright’s Instagram after, “Dudes! Enjoy the napping and much deserved send glory. Way to crush it gents, what a fun rock climb. So stoked to hear about this, and climbing through the night too… Congrats to you both.”
El Nino was first climbed in 1998 by Alex and Thomas Huber at VI 5.13c A0, it links pitches of Continental Drift, New Jersey Turnpike and North America Wall. Trotter’s original plan was to free North America Wall.
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@alexhonnold and I just sent El Niño on El Cap last night! We started at 4pm soon after the wall got into the shade and topped out in the beautiful sunrise of this morning. It was a brutal 14.5 hour ascent with six pitches of 5.13, five pitches of 5.12 and plenty of 5.10 and 5.11 pitches. We took the Pineapple Express variation put up by Alex and @sonnietrotter which allows all of El Niño to go free. The ascent was full of grunting, groaning and the occasional scream. Alex has done almost no outside climbing this year but still crushed it with only a few falls on the soaking wet 13a pitch at the very top. I had a bit more trouble but still managed to send route. Alex ended up leading most of the hardest pitches but I’m still really psyched for how things turned out. I was almost certain I’d have to save this climb for the colder and drier conditions of next Fall. Even in the night this route was pretty warm. Today my body is super wrecked and I think I’ll be feeling this way for a while longer. I’ll probably just be napping, eating and basking in the send glory for the next couple days. @gramicci_climb @evolv_worldwide @frictionlabs
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Looking back at this year, it all comes down to this; ‘Pineapple Express’ 5.13b/c – First Free Ascent on Nov 19th, in a 13 hour push, leading every pitch. Sometimes I still can’t believe it all happened, and only 4 days after turning 39😉. Seriously though, dropping into the Valley this season with my family and our 1998 Scamp Trailer I was really, really hoping to finally climb this route (with or without @alexhonnold ) but in the back of my mind I had a feeling it would take a miracle. On the phone with @tommycaldwell the night before the climb I had the same feeling, we were all getting run down with head colds and sore throats, and with the imminent snow storm quickly approaching I knew this would be my one and only attempt. I told him how nervous I was, and he said “yeah, you should be” and laughed, but continued…“that’s the way I feel before every big push” naturally, his words were more comforting than troubling. Like usual, Tommy was an absolute machine on this day, jugging every pitch with a heavy pack, cleaning, reverse aiding, swinging, hauling, and yelling words of encouragement that I could feel in my bones. This year has been one for the books, a multi year dream. I’m currently writing a piece for @climbingmagazine about this wall and its magnificent history. I’ll be happy to share the word when it comes out on newsstands. As well as a more detailed topo. Happy New Year everyone. Thanks for the Photo: @austin_siadak 💥