Got a head start Friday night and hiked up the South Fork a couple miles to about 5400 feet and camped. The trail is in really god shape until that point. The next mile and a half or so, up to 6100 feet, the trail is harder to follow, but it is still there mostly, and kind of a fun little challenge. From there, it is a steep, brushtastic affair that I would not really recommend unless you are into that kind of thing. Straight south and up, a bit over a thousand feet, to the pretty little unnamed lake north of Totem Peak. Not my favorite type of hiking at all but I was able to remain in good spirits! From there a boulder hike for another thousand feet or so up to the Totem Peak ridgeline. I walked past the Totem, but did not even consider climbing it. Wonder if anyone has? Then summited the south peak and rested for a while. Beautiful views on a nice cool August day. Dropped down to Totem Peak Lake and tried fishing for a few minutes but I don't think there are any fish there. I would have liked to have tried longer but the daunting bushwack on the way down was beckoning. So - up and over the saddle and all the way back down the way I came, including packing up my gear and heading out to the trailhead by headlamp. This trip brought me to a place that gave me probably the most remote feeling that I have had in the Bitterroots. Very beautiful up there, but quite a long and difficult route!
I followed neither of Tim's listed routes. Rather I followed the Fred Burr Trail for about 7.25 miles then headed north up to Totem Peak's east ridge-crest. The climb was Class 2 and 3 with a few Class 4 spots close to the crest. By staying just south of the ridge-crest I was able to keep the remainder of the climb at Class 2. During the descent I found a route which never went above Class 3 and was mostly Class 2, that is if you don't count the crappy bushwhacking (Class 4 willows) just before rejoining the trail.
All-in-all, I have to rate this as one of the most strenuous 1-day climbs I've done in the Bitterroots given the long on-trail approach, the crappy bushwhacking, and the large amount of elevation gain over the last mile and a half. Total miles for the day, 18.8.
Great day with Luke. Fun route on moderate terrain.