Few things cry out to a climber’s spirit like an isolated spire of rock surging from the sea. The Totem Pole, located amidst the rugged cliffs of Cape Hauy in Tasmania, is as spectacular as they come and played host to Canadian climbers Sonnie Trotter and Will Stanhope this February.
Trotter, known for making a number of first ascents including Cobra Crack in British Columbia, established another first on the 200 feet high Totem Pole – the first free, one-push ascent of the Pole’s Ewbank Route.
The Ewbank Route was established as an aid route in 1968 by Adam Keller and the iconic climber and inventor of the Ewbank grading system John Ewbank. Trotter paid tribute to their achievement on Instagram, noting that it’s “hard to comprehend just how cutting edge this was as an aid route back in the 60’s.”
The Ewbank Route wasn’t free climbed until 2009 when Doug McConnell and Dean Rollin found a line to the top. However, the pair split their climb over two days and used a hanging belay to connect pitches 2 and 3, assigning it a grade of 5.12d.
Climbing the Ewbank Route in one push posed a couple of additional challenges for Sonnie. As well as the weight of the rope accumulating beneath him in the challenging final stages of the climb, he identified the lack of rest between pitches as an issue. “You have your shoes on for the entire 60 meters and you need to keep your toes strong and fresh for the technical cruxes,” Trotter told ukclimbing.com, “it’s very footwork intensive.”
The video captures the intensity of his climb amidst the elemental vortex of wind and waves. “Incredible climbing, incredible position, incredible atmosphere, incredible landscape!” Trotter enthused on Instagram as he savoured the achievement. The one-push free ascent is graded 5.13b R.