AUTHOR: Mayan Smith-Gobat
PHOTOGRAPHY: Andrew Burr
The Totem Pole is located at the end of a long exposed peninsular on the intimidating wild southern coast of Tasmania. Vertical walls drop hundreds of meters into the unforgiving Tasman sea, out of which this terrifyingly slender pinnacle rises — So thin that on this stormy day one could see it shaking as crashing waves hit the base.
Icy windy cut through me as I rappelled down to a small ledge just above the water line. I cowered with sea spray rising over my head every time a large wave hit, feeling small and insignificant in contrast to the the ocean's massive power. Fifteen feet of barnacle covered rocks and crashing waves separated us from the base of the route…
Soon Ben joined me, bursting with excitement, thriving on the power of the elements and proceeded to attempt to bounce over to the base of the Totem Pole — Several times he missed and swung back, crashing violently into the wall next to me. Finally, with a shout of delight he stuck the hold and quickly clipping his lead line through the bolt, he released the other rope, we were committed to the tower now! Ben proceeded to inch his way upward, delicately moving over the rock, wet and slippery from sea spray. Soon he reached the anchors, I swung over and followed him up, glad for the rope above me. Joining Ben at the anchor, we huddled against the wall for a few brief seconds while rearranging our gear... Then I braved the wind and headed up the beautiful exposed arete.
Wind was tearing at my clothing, threatening to blow me off the rock face. Precariously poised, I waited, hoping the strong gusts would ease before committing to tenuous moves ahead. Finally in a fleeting moment of calm, I sprung into action, executing the delicate and technical sequence I had planned. Reaching to a small crimp, I smeared on a barely existent foot hold, pressed hard and not daring to think, threw to a feature — desperately hoping for a good hold. My foot held and I stuck the hold, clipping the bolt with a sigh of relief.
Pulling over the top of the Tote was both fantastic and terrifying... There was no flat ledge, simply a slopping boulder perched on top of the tower — it was cleaved in two by a crack and neither piece attached to the tower itself in any way. While in Tasmania Ben and I climbed several sea stacks/towers, however none compared to the Tote, in beauty, atmosphere or quality of climbing. It was the perfect end to a successful adventure in Tasmania.