The Kootenay Rock Climbing Festival returned to Castlegar September 21-22, 2019, and featured Canada’s best rock climber Sonnie Trotter.

This is the eighth year the Festival has been held at the Lion’s Head Pub in Robson, which is only a few minutes away from the Castlegar’s downtown core and it’s renowned as the only restaurant and bar in North America with a natural climbing cliff in its backyard. Hosted by the Association of West Kootenay Rock Climbers (TAWKROC), this year’s event also featured family-friendly activities, rock climbing clinics and a keynote presentation by Sonnie Trotter.

Trotter, who currently resides in Canmore, Alberta, is widely considered Canada’s greatest rock climber. He was the first Canadian to win a U.S National sport-climbing competition, and the first Canadian to climb 5.14c and 5.14d – essentially the hardest grades in the world at the time.  After turning his attention to more traditional forms of rock climbing, Trotter racked up numerous first and second ascents on some of North America’s hardest climbs. Many of his first ascents in both Canada and Europe are ranked among the hardest an earth, and remain unrepeated.

He brought his wife and two young children to the festival and they had an excellent time trying out the routes and watching the milk crate stacking competition and the kid’s zipline. In fact, he enjoyed himself so much, he called the Kootenay Climbing Festival the, “The Best Little Fest in the West.” The 300 daytime participants and 150 evening attendees agreed. Here are pictures taken during the event by photographer Nadine Prémont of Jovita Photography.

The family-friendly event took place between 2:00 and 7:00pm on Saturday the 21st and included the following:

  • zipline for the kids
  • slackline
  • top-ropes on the 11 rock climbing routes located on the natural rock wall
  • silent auction & raffle
  • and the always popular Tower of Power competition, which sees competitors try to stack the most number of milk crates while standing on them!

The daytime events were followed by Sonnie Trotter’s presentation inside the Lion’s Head Pub, which has a family dining license so children who are accompanied by an adult are allowed to come and go from the restaurant any time before 10:00pm.

The following day Trotter taught a performance clinic at Waterline Wall and was joined there by ACMG guide Jasmin Caton who taught a women’s clinic. This was a special, one-day-only experience in which the current property owner opened Waterline for the clinics after arrangements were made regarding insurance for the day. Rock climbing guide David Lussier taught a route development clinic at a new crag in Castlegar and the Kootenay Mountaineering Club hosted a clinic at Kinnaird Bluffs to introduce those who were relatively new to rock climbing to outdoor walls.

The ultimate goal of the Kootenay Climbing Festival is to introduce families to the sport as well as to raise funds for the purchase of Waterline Walls, located in Castlegar off 14th Avenue. The climbing area and green space/recreational spot is one of the most popular in the city but it’s on private property and so the TAWKROC association is raising funds to purchase it from the owner so citizens and visitors can use it in perpetuity. To learn more about the campaign, visit