Ross Bilton from The Weekend Australian Magazine has written a nice little piece of my climb of the Totem Pole which I did several years back. The “Tote” holds a special place in my heart and climbing it also marked a turning point in my climbing. Hope you enjoy the story!
Fifteen years ago, when Monique Forestier was just starting out as a rock climber, she saw a photo that changed her life. Taken by the renowned climbing photographer Simon Carter, it depicted an ascent of the Totem Pole, a 65m dolerite pillar that rises like a cruise missile from the ocean at Cape Hauy on the Tasman Peninsula, southeast of Hobart. “It blew me away,” she recalls. “I thought, ‘Those guys are crazy. There’s no way I could ever do something like that.’”
The image was burnt into her mind, though, and it’s funny how things worked out. Forestier subsequently met Carter, and married him – and here she is climbing the Totem Pole during the pair’s Tassie holiday. She’s one of Australia’s top climbers these days, but even she admits feeling intimidated when she finally stood before it. “The whole pillar looked like it was swaying,” she says. “I thought, ‘Oh God, what have I got myself into?’”
She was no longer entertaining such thoughts halfway up, though – even while perched on tiny holds that were slick with sea-spray, being buffeted by the wind. When she’s into her flow on a hard climb, she explains, her mind is “totally absorbed” in working out the correct sequence of moves that’ll get her higher. If she gets that sequence wrong, or takes too long, she’ll likely fall. Not that that worries her unduly. “I trust my rope [mostly out of sight in this shot], my equipment and my belayer,” she says.
Forestier, who lives with Carter and their three-year-old daughter Coco in the Blue Mountains, west of Sydney, is climbing the hardest routes of her life at 38 – an age when most elite athletes have long since peaked. And she did make it to the top of the Totem Pole without falling. The elation, she says, felt like electricity coursing through her body. Then there was a rather different challenge: getting off the thing. But that’s another story._Ross Bilton