Deep Water Soloing at Banks Lake, Wa

Deep-water soloing (DWS) —  is a form of solo rock climbing, practiced on sea cliffs at high tide (originally, but also on reservoirs, rivers, swimming pools), that relies solely upon the presence of water at the base of a climb to protect against injury from fallings from the generally high difficulty routes.

A warm summer’s breeze pushed at my back as I climbed up from the water’s edge and onto the granite wall. My shoes were dripping wet from my swim up to the crimpy route. Where’s my rope and harness? Oh yeah, I don’t have one. That’s right.

Climb Time
You may notice I’m climbing with a rope in this photo. I’m not deep water soloing, but this was taken at Banks. Photo/ Cynthia Wright

Once I came to terms with not having any safety equipment on, I started up the wall with my slippery feet and pruney fingers. Shaking off my nerves, I climbed up the rock wall and into the sunlight.

This felt so unnatural, but so dang awesome at the same time.

Katie, also not deep water soloing, is killing a route on “Highway Rock” in Banks Lake, Washington. This rad photo is brought to you by the talented Cynthia Wright.

My fingers eventually found the last groove of rock worth grabbing. This was the end of the road. With a deep breath and a rush of adrenaline, I pushed off the cliff face, falling 30 feet into the choppy water below.

This is deep water soloing.

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Photo by Aaron Brouwer


Banks Lake, located southwest of Grand Coulee Dam on WA-155 S, is the perfect place for some good ol’ fashioned deep water soloing. From Coeur d’Alene, you can make it to this beautiful place in less than three hours. There’s dry climbing at Northrup Canyon, just a few miles up from the lake. The deep water stuff is on the lake at a place called “Highway Rock.”

If you’d like to enjoy your deep water soloing to the fullest, I recommend taking a three-day weekend to give it justice. And if you happen to go over there, call me. I’d like to get in on that action.

What to bring

  • An experienced climber
  • Climbing gear (if you plan to dry climb)
  • Tent
  • Sleeping bags
  • A cooler full of food/drinks
  • Swim trunks/bikini

2 thoughts on “Deep Water Soloing at Banks Lake, Wa

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