Sonnie has been completely addicted to climbing for nearly 20 years. He has poured every ounce of energy and every dollar earned (which in Canadian dollars was never very much) into climbing and traveling, and he doesn't regret a single second of his choices to do so. For his first five years on the road, he lived in his truck. The next five years he lived in his van. When he got married, he and his wife lived in his van again for another year. So it's safe to say that Sonnie has spent more time living in vehicles than in real houses over the lifespan of his climbing career. However, he has this to say about his journey: "Following my path to climb has led me to where I am now; I love where I live, I love who I'm with and I love what I do. I am completely fulfilled. As many of my partners can attest, the hardest part about climbing for me was getting up before noon. Now, with a one year old boy in our life, getting up is easy, the hard part is having enough time."
Discipline: Free Climbing
Hometown: Squamish, BC
Currently Living: Canmore, AB
Height: 6' even steven.
The first one day free ascent of El Gigante's Logical Progression 5.13a/b in 15 hours with Alex Honnlove
First free ascent of The Shining 5.13c/d, the Diamond North Face, with Tommy Caldwell
The second free ascent of The Prophet on El Cap, 5.13d, with Will Stanhope.
Although I have pioneered hundreds of first ascents all around the World, the first free ascents of Cobra Crack, The Path, Direquiem, Family Man and Sugar Daddy, are all 5.14 trad routes, and all of them are very special climbs for me.
When did you first start climbing?
I was 15 years old, it was 1995 and I began on an artificial wall dubbed K2 at an outdoor carnival. I was hooked right away.
What do you most enjoy about your sport?
I enjoy the total package: The creativity, the outdoors, the physical and mental challenge, the people, the traveling and the freedom.
How do you define success?
What are you most proud of, either in life, your sport or both?
I am most proud of my family of course, because it was climbing that introduced me to my beautiful wife and now we have an awesome little one-year-old boy named Tatum. This might sound cliché, but following my climbing dreams has led me to everything I love about my life, like where I live, how I live and who I live with. I am extremely grateful. Above that, I am proud of the simple fact that I still LOVE climbing and creating new routes all over the world.
Who are your heroes?
I am most inspired by the people who are going for it in life and not holding back to what is safe and comfortable. Tommy Caldwell is the king of someone who finds comfort in being uncomfortable and he’s pushed my personal boundaries many times, so he’s probably number one on my long list of hero’s.
What are your hobbies outside of your sport?
I love to snowboard when the powder is good, and I’m a passionate photographer.
What’s your guilty pleasure?
Chocolate and training for climbing
What are your hidden talents?
I’m a pretty damn good sleeper.
Tell us about your most favorite place in the world:
I’d say my favorite place in the world is still Squamish, BC. Amazing people, incredible summers, beautiful mountains, perfect rock, close proximity to any style of climbing imaginable at any level imaginable. Great coffee, awesome food, mild climate, tall tree’s, ocean, sky and did I mention the perfect rock?
As a child, what did you want to be when you grew up?
When I was a little kid, I wanted to be a ninja. As I got a bit older I wanted to be an architect. Then I found climbing at 15, and all I wanted to be was a climber. In a way I am now both of my childhood dreams; I use my creative eye to visualize new lines, and I use some hard-earned ninja skills to try and execute them.
If you could change one thing about yourself, what would it be, and why?
I would make my grip strength as strong as Chris Sharma’s, because I’ve always wanted to know what it feels like to climb as strong as Chris can. He looks like he’s having more fun than most climbers, because he just jumps for everything. I wish I could do that.
Tell us about a time in your life when you have been scared:
Hmm, I once got into trouble on a 5.11 route in Eldo Canyon. I wasn’t paying attention, and thought I would warm up on it. Suddenly I mantle over the lip (an impossible move for me to reverse) with only a few terrible wires placed way down below my feet, I knew I would hit the ground if I fell, and suddenly I was very, very scared. The only thing I could see above me was a tiny shadow on an otherwise blank wall. I took a deep breath, stepped really high on a small chip and jumped for it. It was a total sinker three-finger pocket, and my heart rate was through the roof. I calmed down after that and finished the pitch, but it was pretty scary in the moment.
Describe your perfect day:
It’s pretty simple. A mellow morning breakfast with my family, quality coffee, cragging all day with perfect temps until complete exhaustion. Watch my wife enjoy a few pitches and Tatum play in the dirt. Then, hopefully send a really hard and kind of scary first ascent project on gear, then go home and play with my son over a small glass of wine and do it all over again the next day. Ha ha.
How would your friends describe you?
I like to think I’m pretty relaxed, but who knows.