Banks Lake has been on my list of places to visit ever since I saw the photo of someone leading a splitter crack out of a canoe. In the past the timing and logistics made it such that the trip just never happened, but with my newly found nomadic life, there wasn't going to be a better opportunity - despite the 7 hour drive from the Sunshine Coast. So after a long day of trail riding in Roberts Creek we headed south. We only made it to Pyramid lake TH on HWY 20 before calling it a night. My mom had ingeniously equipped the Jeep with magnetic mesh window covers to protect from Mosquito. Sleeping in the back of the Jeep was a lap of luxury compared to the trunk of ol' Sven.
The next day we arrived at Steamboat Rock state park in Banks Lake midday, bringing some light rain with us. My first impression was un-impressed. The sea of granite with the endless basalt columns was fascinating, but over shadowed by the state park's sea of RV's lined up in an opened and manicured field. On first pass the ranger showed us an open spot and we setup camp, but on returning to pay she informed us of more "primitive" camping at Jones Bay just a few miles down the road. So we re-packed our camp and ventured down the road. This was the turning point of the trip, we found secluded beachfront camping, setup camp and then had great luck with a boat rental. Grand Coulee Playland rented us a Canayak - the offspring of an extramarital affair between a Canoe and Kayak - and allowed us to load it ontop of our car to bring to camp. That night we paddled around a nearby island and the previously un-impressive lake front granite quickly metamorphosed before our eyes and opened up a beautiful new playground as we closed in on the rock. The cliffs got larger, the granite got cleaner and the sights and sounds of the RV filled state park faded away as we ventured into secluded channels and outcoves.
In the morning our first target was to climb that splitter crack that I have dreamed about for years. It was only rated 5.9, but given the complexity of climbing out of a canayak, our lack of any beta on the area, and how infrequently Banks lake is climbed it felt like a full on adventure. I scrambled out of the boat and hung my camera over the cliff to shoot at 5 second intervals and hopefully capture a cool photo or two. The route was everything I had hoped for and more. Thought provoking climbing throughout, amazing setting, a challenging and thin exit crux that required a cool mental game to fire through to the chains.
I would have been satisfied with our trip with that climb alone and was stoked that the pictures came out. But we still had time with the Canayak so we continued to explore new areas. We lacked cell coverage so our only beta was Mountain project that contained a few routes with horrible beta. But we did find a classic looking route on the Post Modern wall that involved a nearly 45 minutes canayaking approach from our Camp. The route was a 3 pitch route with a bit of everything and what is said to have one of the best 5.9 finger cracks in the state on p2. In the end our uncertainty of the descent using a 60m rope and the appeal of DWS and cliff jumping won out so we opted not to do the climb, but the sense of adventure at Banks lake is fierce and I look forward to returning. We did later find out that a 60m rope wasn't adequate so good on us. There are also endless DWS or Canayak projects if you're willing to put the effort into cleaning.
To top off the evening I did a lap on Prime Cut, which is a classic 10a undercling lieback project. The feet were polished smooth on the low crux making it a full on battle, but then the route eased to pure fun liebacking.
The next day we did a few sport climbs including another stellar 10a pillar route. The route was never very hard, but its so unique to find a long granite pillar.
The trip wasn't long, but the sense of exploration, adventure, and peacefulness made it completely worthwhile as we never saw another climbing party.
The last day we got a smidge of reception and a text from Galyn and Peter came through that invited us to Vantage for a day of climbing followed by a MTB ride. We hadn't seen them in a while and this was a nice way to split up our drive so we eagerly agreed to join.
Peter and Marcy, who swore up and down she would never lead a rock climb, both expertly led their first climbs and we had a really fun time riding Rat Pak before returning home - giving us a day to prepare for Europe