Video: The Art of Climbing Castles in the Sky

World-class rock climber Sonnie Trotter takes us on his backyard quest, which resulted in Canada’s first multi-pitch 5.14, in this first film by photographer/climber Ben Moon (Denali, Rabbit Island), just released today. Castles in the Sky is a meditation on what inspires Trotter to seek what hasn’t been done and the process he uses to complete it. And now Trotter has another first to add to his personal tick list—being a dad.

“It was an amazing experience to spend a couple weeks exploring Castle Mountain with Sonnie, on one of the more exposed climbs I had ever documented,” says Moon, who wanted the film to appeal to non climbers. “The loose rock, wind, and thunderstorms added to the excitement, as did the daily 2 1/2 hour hike out through grizzly country!”

Here Trotter answers a few of our questions.

Where is this place in the film, and what’s special about the route you are climbing?

The climb which Ben filmed on was called “Castles in the Sky,” it’s a multi-pitch 600-foot-wall on iconic Castle Mountain, located deep in the Canadian Rocky Mountains. The route is unique in that it was the first 5.14 multi-pitch in Canada.

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Sonnie Trotter climbing the crux pitch of his stunning new route called Castles in the Sky on Castle Mountain near Banff, Alberta, Canada. Sam Lambert is belaying. Photograph by Ben Moon

Do you come from a family of climbers? How did you get started?

None of my family climbs. I started like many young climbers do today—in the gym. I was lucky to find one so close to my home, because when I started there were only five or six gyms in all of Canada. It was a brand new sport, and today there are well over a hundred, I think. However, I was always interested in outdoor adventure sports like skiing, snowboarding, mountain biking, camping etc… and so indoor climbing for me was only a stepping stone to getting outside, traveling, and climbing real rocks all over the world, that has always been my dream.

As a free climber yourself, what is your opinion of free soloing?

I have a lot of respect for free soloing, I do a lot of it myself, but I’m never photographed or filmed doing it. It’s not my thing. However I do feel that it is one of the greatest sensations I’ve ever experienced, there really is nothing quite like it.

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Sonnie Trotter climbing the crux pitch of his stunning new route called Castles in the Sky, a 5 pitch 5.14 on Castle Mountain near Banff, Alberta, Canada. Brandon Pullan is belaying. Photograph by Ben Moon

Do you think free climbing is becoming more popular or less? What type of climbing do you see as the most trendy in climbing these days?

Climbing is DEFINITELY growing. The reports and statistics are astounding. However, the biggest trend in climbing right now is most certainly the boom of indoor climbing. Some of these new urban climbers don’t even have any interest in going outside, the gym is more than enough adventure for them. And that’s cool. New gyms are popping up all over the world at an incredible rate. Climbing is growing at a rate of 15 percent per year in Canada right now, it’s neat to see so many people relate to a sport that I have been so passionate about most of my life.

How has being a dad influenced your time in the mountains?

Being a father is without question the most amazing thing that has ever happened to me. However, along with that my personal level of risk tolerance has come down quite a bit, and I’m okay with that. Risk has it’s time and place, and these days I like to reserve it for when it really matters to me.