With his infectious psyche and incredible ability, Petzl Athlete Sonnie Trotter has been setting new climbing standards all over the world: from hard sport routes in his home country of Canada to dicey trad climbing in Britain. Here, he discusses what goes through his mind on and off the rocks. For more about Sonnie, check out his blog and visit Petzl.com for regular updates of his exploits.
The old saying, “Try Without Trying” is really about the “Art of Not Trying” and yet succeeding anyway. Now, I’m not here to define success. We all know the word is nothing more than a loose term anyway – everyone’s idea of success is incredibly different, so nobody really knows what success IS, aside from the obvious answer of just being content. But I do want to talk about trying, and the “Art of Trying Really, Really Hard”.
The “Art of Trying” is probably less popular and more complicated than the “Art of Not Trying”, because when you’re not trying, you’re letting go of any tangible outcomes. Nothing matters, therefore, “I don’t care”, and therefore I am completely unattached. Speaking from 12 years experience, I find on rare occasions this frame of mind is very helpful to my climbing (and life) and has allowed me to accomplish many defining moments, especially when under pressure, when it’s an all or nothing situation. Those times when everything is on the line: it’s either send the proj and be a hero (if only in our own minds) then go home and drink local brew until the wee hours of morning - OR - fall off and go home empty handed with tail tucked firmly between legs.
But what about the other 98% of the time? What if it isn’t all or nothing? What if the pressure isn’t on? What if you don’t really care whether you send or not? What happens then? Do you still succeed, or is the Art of Not Trying a recipe for the biggest plateau in our climbing lives?
When I look at my heroes, I notice that they try harder than most people, and they try harder almost every single time. What does this mean? Most obviously this means they have a true passion for whatever it is they’re doing, but in detail it seems they treat each moment, each move, each attempt as an opportunity to be truly great. And this is something I have tried to apply more and more in my climbing life. I ask myself, ‘What would Chris Sharma do?’ He’d probably get back on for one last go with bleeding tips and give it all hell for his umpteenth try of the day, his feet would probably cut, he’d probably scream but he’d fight to continue as though it truly was his last chance to climb any rock on the planet. At least that’s how I envision it to be, and that is how I want to feel at the end of my days, as though I tried harder than I thought I could, as though I had not just one, but many moments of greatness.
Lately I’ve been trying a few projects in my back yard stomping ground of Squamish, BC. Truthfully, I have over 15 projects that are all pushing me to be a bit better than I was the day before. At the time of writing this, I am stronger than I have been in nearly five years. At home after a really, really hard session on the stone, I feel completely worked – tired, sore and aching in all the right places – but it’s not a bad sensation. I feel my muscles rebuilding underneath it all. I feel them loving the fatigue and I sit with a smile on my face, knowing that I didn’t give up. Each day I go out, I feel just a little bit stronger and a little bit more confident. I can feel the gains taking place over time.
My goals are no longer to climb each and every project I have, one by one, methodically working through the tick list and checking them off with my red ballpoint pen. Nope, my goals are much simpler nowadays: to go outside as many days as the weather will allow, to climb and to practice my skills on the rocks that inspire me the most, and to try harder with every single attempt. Because after all, it’s in those moments of trying really, really hard that give me clarity, joy and contentment. It’s those moments that give me inner peace and I no longer have any doubt during this process that I’ll find some level of success…whatever that means.
- Sonnie Trotter