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Sonnie Trotter Has Named His El Cap Free Route

On Nov. 19, Sonnie Trotter made a one-day free ascent of a new variation to the North America Wall and El Nino. Tommy Caldwell joined trotter as support, belaying and jumaring as Trotter sent.

Trotter has called his 5.13b variation Pineapple Express, which is a “persistent flow of atmospheric moisture and associated with heavy precipitation from the waters adjacent to the Hawaiian Islands and extending to any location along the Pacific coast of North America, including western Canada.”

Trotter found the new free variation while exploring the idea of freeing the North America Wall with Alex Honnold in 2017.

I first met @alexhonnold in the fall of ‘07 around a crackling fire in Camp 4. Under his trademark hoodie I could still make out the intensity behind his eyes and wide grin, he was perhaps just 21 and recently made headlines for soloing Astroman and the Rostrum in a single day. Something I knew I would never even attempt. Honnold humbly insisted that anybody who climbs 5.13 could probably do it. But not anybody can solo. It takes something more. A certain state of mind. Regardless of age, Alex is a hero, we have fun, I learn something when I climb with him and I’m always grateful to be pushed a little from my comfort zone. In the Spring of 2017 we found the connecting link that would allow the North American Wall to finally be free climbed in its entirety via a 3 pitch variation to El Niño 5.13c. We joked that our recon mission was “5.11d R rappelling”. Scary, but only “moderately” dangerous:) When Alex is on rock, he becomes superhuman, and can do (almost) anything he wants uninterrupted by fear or exposure. I on the other hand move a little slower, more carefully and feel somewhat cautious next to his long strides on the mountain. Sadly, this year Alex couldn’t make it back to Yosemite like we had planned, and encouraged me to go for the climb with another partner. Naturally I was bummed, then gripped, thinking about some of the crux pitches, the fragile rock up higher or the long runouts over questionable gear. With two young kids in the back of my mind, I certainly wasn’t capable by myself. Or so I thought… Having superhero partners is great, but shouldn’t keep us from chasing our dreams. Graciously, another El Cap legend @tommycaldwell offered to support me on his final day of climbing in the valley this year. It was the last good day before the first storm of the season. We met at 4:30am in the Meadow and began our day. I tried to harness a bit of the Honnold state of mind. Pitch by pitch, we moved up the wall, Tommy and I laughed a lot up there and everything seemed to click. We topped out just before 7pm. I’m so thankful for good times with great friends. The hours spent “toiling” on El Cap are some of my most treasured. photo: @austin_siadak

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The North America Wall was established in 1964 by Yvon Chouinard, Tom Frost, Chuck Pratt and Royal Robbins. It was considered one of the most difficult big wall routes in the world of climbing.

In 1998, Alex and Thomas Huber spent three weeks freeing their variation and called it El Nino 5.13c A0.

Pineapple Express VI 5.13b Photo Austin Siadak

Pineapple Express avoids the A0 section on El Nino to complete a 26-pitch 5.13b with a three-pitch variation. The new pitches are 12, 13 and 14 and Trotter sent every pitch in a blistering 13 hours.

It seems whatever new route or variation Trotter established becomes a sought-after test-piece, from Cobra Crack and The Path to Castles in the Sky and The Shining. We expect Pineapple Express to be no different.

12 Top Trotter Sends

Pineapple Express VI 5.13b
Cobra Crack 5.14a/b
The Prow Wall 5.14a
Family Man 5.14b
The Path 5.14a/bR
Castles in the Sky 5.14a
The Ewbank Route Complete 5.13bR
Direquiem 5.14a/bR
The Battle of Evermore 5.14a/b
Forever Expired 5.14d
East Face of Monkey Face 5.13dR
The Shining 5.13c/d

Sonnie Trottter on Pineapple Express Photo Austian Siadak