The Mole Hole

Page Type Page Type: Route
Location Lat/Lon: 46.36370°N / 114.3923°W
Additional Information Route Type: Hiking, Scrambling
Seasons Season: Summer, Fall
Additional Information Time Required: One to two days
Additional Information Rock Difficulty: Class 4
Additional Information Difficulty: Moderate
Additional Information Grade: II
Sign the Climber's Log


Luke and I climbed this route in the summer of 2002, on a warm and comfortable day. We had hiked into Fred Burr Reservoir with Lukes` wife and son and set up camp near the dam. We had not been in camp for more than a couple of hours when Lukes` dog "Bear" spotted a bull moose coming up over the dam, he took off after that giant, and chased it into the lake. The moose swam the length of Fred Burr Reservoir, nearly 3/4 of a mile. Wild!

After a comfortable night, we awoke early and headed up an un-maintained trail that follows the drainage to Fred Burr Lake. When we hiked this we came across a deposition zone from an avalanche that covered the trail for 50 yards with timber piled 15 to 20 feet deep. Some of the logs were huge, so the slope above had not avalanched for many years.

A little over 1.5 hours and 4 miles after leaving camp, we were looking at the South Face of Totem Peak. We filtered water and found a series of logs to cross the creek. A moderately steep bear grass covered scree slope lead to the sheer granite headwall. When we first approached the gash of a couloir we later called the "Mole Hole", we had no idea what was up there. But it looked like a far more interesting, and shorter route to the top than the South West ridge. We were pleasantly surprised by the quality of the climbing. We were further surprised by the name-sake [sub-terranean] moves that make this scramble unique.

Getting There

From the
Fred Burr Trailhead
, follow a signed trail to the maintenance road, then hike @4.5 miles to Fred Burr Reservoir. At a point approximatly 4 miles above the reservoir, at 5,700 ft elevation,and just before the trail begins to veer to the south, cross the creek and head North up into the cirque.

Route Description

This route ascends a very tight couloir on the South West ridge of Totem Peak. At its widest it is only 10 to 12 feet, and resembles a fracture of the wall of granite that makes up the South face of the peak.
Totem 1This is a narrow couloir!
The lower half of this route climbs through a series of steep steps over large boulders that have jammed into the constrictions of this gulley, and is moderatley difficult 4th class scrambling. The surprise is a huge, Luke called it VW bug sized, I say it is a VW bus sized boulder that is wedged into this gulley.

This presents a bit of a problem in that its face is past vertical and the start is undercut, the walls on each side that hold this boulder are sheer, and 5.7-5.8 climbing, that should probably be protected. Can`t go over it, won`t go around it, go under it! The cave like opening under the bus is 2-3ft high, and there was a source of light in the back of the cave. So after 35-40 feet of scrumming, and up through several marmot nests, the back door to this cave became apparent. A couple of twisting moves through the "Mole Hole", and we popped up into sunlight.
Totem 2Popping up out of the mole hole

This is a small opening, and a person with a >38 inch waist might have trouble getting through. Once back in the light, the gulley widens, and the climbing returns to 4th class. We chose to move right [East] out onto good granite slabs for very pleasant, low 5th class moves to the summit.
Totem Peak Upper SlabsSolid slabs to the summit

The further east you traverse on this section the more difficult and exposed the climbing becomes. Alternately you can gain the ridge directly above the "Mole Hole", and have 3rd-4th class scrambling up the sparsely treed ridge line.


Totem PeakLuke with point 8469 in the background.
Descend by the low 4th class S.W. ridge, and down talus into the basin. Or more interestingly, [and the way we went was to] scramble down the E. Ridge. This involves heading due East, dropping into a saddle, then gaining the summit of sub peak 8469, then down-climbing an exposed and blocky ridge line to a saddle at 7250`. Descend bear grass covered talus slopes back to the main trail.
E. RidgeBack at the trail

Approximate distance from trailhead to trailhead = 18+ mi./29+km.
Approximate elevation gain from trailhead to summit = 4,000 ft./1219m.

Necessary Gear

If you are comfortable on difficult 4th class to low 5th class terrain, then the "Ten Essentials" will suffice for this route. If not, then a harness, belay device, 50m rope, a rack of stoppers, cams, and or hexes, and 6, 24" slings w/biners should get you through. Bringing gear will offer an excellent opportunity to explore the beautiful slabs on the S. Face.

External Links

See Totem Peak main page for all pertinent Links.

Who is Luke?

Luke Casady, and Ansel Viscaya were caught in an avalanche high on the Liberty Ridge of Mt. Rainier, that swept them to their deaths on June 12. 2004.
More on this here
Luke and I co-founded the Alpine Club of Missoula[ACOM]in the late fall of 2003. In a division of labor, Luke did the publishing, promotion, and was the web master of the ACOM web site. I did the necessary filing of legal documentation which officialy established the ACOM as a non profit 503c {club}. This allowed us to legaly handle money, and insulated us from liability. At the time of Luke and Ansels` death there were 18 dues paying members of the club, and it was a growing community of adventure minded alpinists. The ACOM still exists, with 2 fewer members, we hope to someday find our way [in the fog], and begin the climb again. [img:251453:aligncenter:small:]



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