Tasmania’s Totem Pole – A Climber’s Best Challenge


Tasmania is an island state, part of the Commonwealth of Australia, and is located around 150 miles from the southern side of the Australian continent. This beautiful island is widely known for its natural environment, and is promoted as the ‘Island of Inspiration’, as about 45% of the island is made up of natural parks, reserves and World Heritage sites.

Among the natural beauties Tasmania has to offer, there is a wonder of nature that has been suitable named The Totem Pole, which is part of the Tasman National Park. Located at Cape Huay, this amazing structure is a coastal stack, or sea stack, which peeks at the edge of the Tasmanian coast. Its 65 meter (~213 feet) height makes it a tempting attraction for climbers all over the world.

Image via pullharder.org

Image via pullharder.org

From a geological viewpoint, a sea stack is a form that is defined by steep and mostly vertical columns of rock that have been eroded by the winds and waves that have basically become isolated from the coast. As amazing as coast stacks are, they are not a permanent feature in the landscape, as in time, erosion causes them to eventually collapse. What makes the Totem Pole so special is the fact the geologists estimate that it has been standing tall for roughly about a hundred years.

Image via pullharder.org

Image via pullharder.org

Considering the erosion that the base of the Totem Pole is subjected to, due to the constant action of the waves, some might consider the fact that it is standing at all to be a miracle of nature. With a diameter of only 4 meters (13 feet), the Totem should have collapsed ages ago, which makes it a climber’s dream come true. Despite the fact that the Pole is at risk of collapsing any second and is notoriously hard to climb, many climbers accept the challenge it represents and document their attempts at conquering this unique beauty of nature.

Image via pullharder.org

Image via pullharder.org


The Totem Pole is likely most famous for the accident that changed climber Paul Pritchard‘s life, in February 1998. The British climber was hit by a boulder while attempting to go up the infamous sea stack, an accident that caused hemiplegia, which robbed him of the ability to feel movement on his right side, impairing his speech and memory. While he went on to write three books about his ordeal, the Totem Pole remains on the bucket list of many experienced and professional climbers.

The Totem Pole

looking down steep cliffs at Cape Pillar at rock column known as the Totem Pole
Photo by depositphotos.com

Getting there

The Totem Pole is a sea cliff made of dolerite located in Fortescue Bay, which is in Tasman National Park near Port Arthur. It takes around 1.25 to 1.5 hours to walk from Fortescue Bay carpark to Cap Huay Lookout, following a well-marked track that’s easy to follow.

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