Banks Lake

 

Description: Banks Lake is the lake created by the Grand Coulee Dam in central Washington.   Since its around 3.5 hrs from Seattle and around 2 hrs from Spokane it rarely sees any climbing traffic and seeing another climbing party is rare.  I visited twice in the summer of 2016 and was enthralled by the adventure climbing feel. Neslted in amongst the massive bassalt column lies a sea of Granite that spans from a few penninsulas west of the Lake, through the lake and up a canyon to the east.  There has been some great route development but many of the bolted lines are not documented.  I also noticed some interesting bolting ethics, where bolts line some moderate looking crack systems. 

That being said, the opportunity for adventure is great - the routes I did that were on the "popular" side still felt a bit raw because of lack of traffic and many lines exist that may have been climbed at somepoint, but aren't document and could use cleaning. The real thrill are the routes located directly from a boat, or via a boat approach. Both times I went to Coulee Playland in Electric City and they allowed me a 24 Hr Canayak rental, which I was able to put atop my car and take to my camp site.  I recommend the Jones Bay camping as its more secluded, private, and less pricy than the steamboat state park.  Showers and water exist at Northrup state park.  I've also seen reports of folks canoeing out to Islands to camp there.   From Jones bay its about a 10-15 minute paddle to the base of Basomatic and then another short paddle to Prime cut and some of the more interesting boat accessed walls.  Some of the larger more remote walls on the water take about an hour to paddle to. 

 

The routes I did and really enjoy:

 

Bassomatic 5.9 - Iconic splitter finger crack that is best done directly from a boat. Its mostly clean, but you'll likely find spider webs in spots. a .75 is needed to anchor the boat and the anchoring excitement changes depending on the water level.  Its a fairly sustained route but the top 15' is the crux and I had to fire it with some really thin moves.

Semi-Otic to Skys the Limit. 5.9 -  This is best marked by the stellar finger crack on Pitch 2.  its steep, with wonderful locks and the wildly exposed setting make it classic, albiet rarely climbed.  There are plenty of features on the wall, but they are thin and whil its never to tough its also never very secure.  Pitch 1 however is a bit of an adventure.  The rock quality down low isn't very good and many large blocks look to be loose. We ended up following the bolted line to the left as opposed to the proper direct chimney start because of some un-nerving blocks.  The route tops out with Sky's the limit that is some fun slabby face climbing - Rap anchors at the top were missing some hangers. 

 

Prime Cut 10a - Starts with a classic undercling feet smearing battle  to gain the top of the flake and then eases off as the angle lessons and more feet appear - the top anchor was fairly sketch when I did it, slung flakes if I recall.  The few depressions for feet have been polished clean, so more brawn than finesse got me through the crux 

Dr. Ceuse 10a - Stellar Pillar climb in Norththrup Canyon.  Moves aren't particularly difficult but the setting makes it full value.  The chimney start is a bit dirty and loose and transitioning from that to the left may actual provide the technical crux moves. 

Deep Water Soloing - Instead of opting to climb more, we also chose to spend time playing around in the water, lots of opportunities exits but many of the real lines may require some cleaning and trundling. Rock quality is a bit sketch in spots.  

 

 

Stories by Scott Heinz ( Medical Moose Labs)

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