REI Community
The Totem Pole
Select Route:
Free Route, The T 

The Totem Pole Rock Climbing 

Photos:  Recent | Best | Popular
Elevation: 200'
Location: -43.1394, 148.0058 View Map  Incorrect?
Page Views: 15,851
Administrator: Kristine Hoffman (sitewide)
Submitted By: Monomaniac on May 16, 2007

54° | 46°

53° | 47°

54° | 50°

54° | 48°

54° | 46°

56° | 51°
You & This Area
Best climbs for YOU in this area
Your opinion of this PAGE:    [0 people like this page.]
The base of the Totem Pole from Land's End. The b...


The Totem Pole is hands-down the world's most spectacular sea-stack, and probably the most spectacular natural stone tower of any kind on Earth. Bound to inspire awe in the hardiest of hard-men, this thing just begs to be climbed.

The Totem Pole offers excellent rock for a formation like this, but loose rock is present. Climbing conditions can vary dramatically, and the tide conditions are critical. Even in low tides on a calm day, the belayer should expect to be doused with sea water several times.

First climbed on aid in 1968 by Australian golden-age hard-man John Ewbank, this tower has a colorful history.

British trad-master and award-winning author Paul Pritchard suffered a near-fatal head injury while scouting a potential free route in the late 90's, which is documented in his excellent book "The Totem Pole".

Not to be outdone, ex-pat Brit Steve Monks ultimately completed his "Free Route" in 1999. This ascent was documented extensively by world-reknown Aussie photog Simon Carter, and facilitated by a Zodiac watercraft, to avoid the scrubby approach. Since Carter's pics hit the street, this icon has been the scene of numerous multi-media campaigns, including a BBC documentary on Pritchard's accident, and several catalogue photo shoots.

Monks later returned to finish Pritchard's intended line, and dubbed it "Deep Play", the title of the author's award-winning first book. Later, Lynn Hill arrived (once again with Carter in tow to shoot photos at the service of The North Face) to attempt the first-ever on-sight free ascent of the tower via this line, but her bout ended with a broken hold.

Carter was once again on-hand in 2003 to photograph his girlfriend Monique Forestier successfully completing the first on-sight free ascent via Deep Play.

Getting There 

The logistics for the Totem Pole are rather complicated. Two ropes are mandatory, and it really helps if one of them is 70m. A third "haul line" is a big plus too.

From the rappel point at lands end, rap 65m to the obvious belay rock on the SW side of the pillar. Be careful getting established here, as it is wet and slick. There is a bolted anchor at the base of the pillar for the belayer. This rope should remain fixed from the rap anchor, and must be trailed by the leader to the summit of the Tote for the tyrolean traverse back to the mainland. Trailing this rope can be a bit tricky if climbing the Free Route, which literally spirals around the tower.

Climbing Season

For the Australia area.

Weather station 7.6 miles from here

1 Total Climbing Routes

['4 Stars',1],['3 Stars',0],['2 Stars',0],['1 Star',0],['Bomb',0]

Classic Climbing Routes in The Totem Pole

Mountain Project's determination of the classic, most popular, highest rated climbing routes for The Totem Pole:
The Free Route   5.12b 7b 26 VIII+ 26 E5 6b PG13     Trad, 2 pitches, 210'   
Browse More Rock Climbing Classics in The Totem Pole

Featured Route For The Totem Pole
Rock Climbing Photo: Beginning pitch 1 of the Free Route during my on s...

The Free Route 5.12b 7b 26 VIII+ 26 E5 6b PG13  Australia : Tasmania : ... : The Totem Pole
The original Free Route to the summit offers thrilling climbing and generally good protection on solid stone. P1, 80 feet, 5.12b. Begin on the belay rock, and ascend the left arete for several feet past two carrot bolts. The crux follows with a difficult, crimpy traverse to the right arete, passing two more carrots and an old aid bolt. Once on the right arete, things ease a bit. Continue the right-ward traverse past another carrot, then head up to a shallow finger crack which propigates fro...[more]   Browse More Classics in International

Photos of The Totem Pole Slideshow Add Photo
Rock Climbing Photo: Kate on the summit ledge of the Totem Pole after m...
Kate on the summit ledge of the Totem Pole after m...

Comments on The Totem Pole Add Comment
Show which comments
By Josh Janes
General Admin
May 17, 2007
Mentz discovered, bolted, and got the FA of the second (and crux) pitch of the Free Route and should probably be credited first for the FFA of the Totem Pole as opposed to Monks. Not that Monks isn't a visionary climber himself!
By Monomaniac
From: Morrison, CO
May 18, 2007
Interesting, I hadn't heard that. My guidebooks (and Carter's book) seem to indicate that Monks was the driving force behind the route. I met Monks in the Yesterday Gully at Arapiles, but we didn't discuss it.

I'm surprised you thought the second pitch was harder. I thought the first pitch was the crux, for a number of reasons: 1) Although the hard part is short, its more powerful than anything on P2; 2) The bolts are all carrots, so you have to hang out a lot to clip; 3) the sea is literally heaving all around you, and your belayer is getting drenched. FWIW, my guidebook grades pitch one 25 and pitch two 23, but I thought P2 was more like 25.
By Josh Janes
General Admin
May 20, 2007
Here's an excerpt from a chockstone interview with Simey:

Chockstone: You and Steve Monks managed the first free ascent of Tasmania's Totem Pole (25), an incredibly wild-looking sea stack made famous by Simon Carter's pictures and Paul Pritchard's accident and subsequent novel. Steve led the first pitch and you the second. Prior to your route, there had only been a handful of aid ascents. How was the exposure on this wave-washed 65m free-standing pillar far from help? Were there moments of doubt or did the climb go according to plan?

Mentz: When Steve Monks invited me on the trip (along with Jane Wilkinson and Simon Carter), I jumped at the chance, although I only expected to tag along and second Steve to glory. What’s interesting is that we almost never did the free route. After reaching the summit via the aid route and doing the tyrolean back to the mainland we almost went home. In fact Steve and Jane did leave because Steve wasn’t very confident about the free-climbing possibilities. I thought I had better swing back to the summit and abseil down the other sides of the Totem Pole just to make sure we weren’t leaving behind a potential mega-classic. Simon Carter waited for me on the mainland and I’m sure he remembers my whoops of delight when I saw just how climbable it was.

Bolting the line and then climbing it was pretty much a formality as we had the moves sussed after checking it in on abseil. Steve had the honours on the first pitch, while I nabbed the second pitch. I spent a fair bit of time bolting the second pitch and making sure the clips were okay for shorter folk. I remember Steve complaining that I was taking too long and faffing around, but I really wanted to get it right. I could have easily climbed the thing with half the number of bolts (I ended up placing ten), but I always bolt things for the ground-up climber. One of my pet-hates is people creating ridiculously run-out climbs after rap-inspection.
By Camster (Rhymes with Hamster)
Jul 10, 2007
Hi Guys,
My entire family is from Tasmania. Dad tells me that back in the 1930s there used to be many more towers like the Totem Pole and that the Australian Navy bombed them for target practice. Too bad.....Cammo

Mountain Project

The Definitive Climbing Resource

MTB Project

Next Generation MTB Trail Maps

Powder Project

Backcountry Ski Maps & Secret Stashes
FREE Stickers · Gyms · RSS · School of Rock · Contact · About