Deep-water soloing

Last updated

Deep-water soloing (DWS), also known as psicobloc, is a form of solo rock climbing that relies solely upon the presence of water at the base of a climb to protect against injury from falls from the generally high-difficulty routes. [1] While typically practiced on sea cliffs at high tide, it can also be done on climbs above reservoirs, rivers, and even swimming pools. [2] Often a dinghy or other small boat is kept on scene to pick up the fallen climber, as a fall from a taller route can still pose the risk of being knocked unconscious on impact with the water, which could lead to drowning. Pioneers include Miquel Riera, Tim Emmett, Klem Loskot, and Chris Sharma.



Psicobloc competition wall at the Utah Olympic Park. Psicobloc Utah Olympic Park.jpg
Psicobloc competition wall at the Utah Olympic Park.

Deep-water soloing has its roots in Mallorca when in 1978, Miquel Riera became frustrated with the aid climbing routes in his local area so he went to Porto Pi, Palma with his friends Jaume Payeras, Eduardo Moreno, and Pau Bover to find routes they could free climb. [3] This became Mallorca's first bouldering venue, and as time progressed, Riera moved onto the nearby sea cliffs where they established DWS routes. Riera and his companions named it "psicobloc" (translated into English, means "Psycho Bouldering"), [4] [3] and published articles and photographs in climbing magazines on their activities. Towards the end of the 1980s Miquel, aided by Pepino Lopez, Xisco Meca, Pepe Link, and Miki Palmer, had discovered the short sea cliffs of Cala Barques, Cala Serena, and a particularly impressive cliff in Porto Cristo, which was to become known as Cova del Diablo. [3] Three notable routes were established at Cova del Diablo: Surfing in the Bar, Surfer Dead, and Surfing Bird. [3]

The 1990s saw an explosion in Britain for what they called "Deep Water Soloing" (DWS), which began with Nick Buckley's ascent of The Conger (1983). [3] Britain's southern coast saw new routes established by the Cook brothers, Mike Robertson, Steve Taylor, and Pete Oxley. [3] In 1996, the British Climbers' Club, published Into the Blue: A guide to Deep Water Soloing in Dorset, which became the first-ever DWS guidebook in the world, and proposed an evolved grading system and climbing style to Britain. [3] In 2001, British climber Tim Emmett received an email from Miquel showing Cova Del Diablo and led to a trip by Emmett that included other leading climbers such as Mike Robertson, Neil Gresham, and Austrian Klem Loskot. [3] Within a week they had established over twenty-six routes ranging from 4+ to 8a, bringing the total on Cova Del Diablo twenty-nine. [3] In February 2002, Mike Robertson published an article titled 'Sympathy for the Devil' in the British magazine Climber, describing Cova Del Diablo along with details and route guides of all twenty-nine lines on the cliff. [3]

The publication of Robertson's article led to more international teams coming to Cova Del Diablo to create additional routes and explore new Mallorcan cliffs such as Cala Sa Nau, Cala Barques, Cala Mitjana, and Porto Cristo Novo. [3] These teams also introduced Dutch climber Toni Lamprecht to Mallorcan DWS, which resulted in a vast number of new lines being established, chiefly at Cala Barques. [3] DWS became more mainstream and globally recognised amongst climbers when a couple of short films were made by climbing filmmakers such as Udo Neumann in 2001, and Josh and Brett Lowell in 2003. [3] The films featured some of the sport's pioneers: Emmett, Lamprecht, Klem Loskot, and a newcomer to the style, Chris Sharma. [3] [5]

In September 2006, the world of DWS changed forever when Chris Sharma completed the right-hand finish to the line that climbed the underside of the dramatic Es Pontàs on the southeastern part of Mallorca, and carried a grade of 9a+ (5.15a), the hardest ever DWS grade. Sharma had been looking for a DWS-equivalent to his 2001 sport climb, Realization (9a+, 5.15a), and his first ascent is featured in Josh Lowell and Peter Mortimer's 2007 film King Lines. [3] In 2007, Mike Robinson published a global DWS guide titled Deep Water, further promoting the sport, and the major locations around the world. [3]


DWS is notably practiced on the coasts of Mallorca in Spain (and the Cova del Diablo cliffs in particular), in Sardinia (Italy), in Dorset, Devon, and around the Southern Pembrokeshire coast in Britain, in the Calanques near Marseille in France, and in the sea cliffs of Ailladie in Ireland. [6] Additionally, climbers have found outlets for deep water soloing among the aquatic karst topography of southeast Asia; notable areas include Tonsai, in Thailand, [7] [8] and Ha Long Bay, in Vietnam. [9]

Notable ascents

9a+  (5.15a):

9b  (5.15b):


See also

Related Research Articles

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Ice climbing</span> Activity of ascending ice formations

Ice climbing is the activity of ascending inclined ice formations. Usually, ice climbing refers to roped and protected climbing of features such as icefalls, frozen waterfalls, and cliffs and rock slabs covered with ice refrozen from flows of water.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">El Capitan</span> Vertical rock formation in Yosemite National Park

El Capitan is a vertical rock formation in Yosemite National Park, on the north side of Yosemite Valley, near its western end. The granite monolith is about 3,000 feet (914 m) from base to summit along its tallest face and is a popular objective for rock climbers.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Solo climbing</span> Style of climbing performed alone

Solo climbing, or soloing, is a style of climbing in which the climber climbs alone, without the assistance of a belayer. By its very nature, it presents a higher degree of risk to the climber, and in some cases, is considered extremely high risk. Note that the use of the term "solo climbing" is generally separate from the action of bouldering, which is itself a form of solo climbing, but with less serious consequences in the case of a fall.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Sport climbing</span> Type of rock climbing

Sport climbing is a type of free climbing in rock climbing where the lead climber clips into pre-drilled permanent bolts for their protection while ascending the route. Sport climbing differs from the riskier traditional climbing where the lead climber has to insert temporary protection equipment while they are ascending.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Chris Sharma</span> American rock climber

Chris Omprakash Sharma is an American rock climber who is considered one of the greatest and most influential climbers in the history of the sport. He dominated sport climbing for the decade after his 2001 ascent of Realization/Biographie, the world's first-ever redpoint of a consensus 9a+ (5.15a) graded route, and ushered in what was called a "technical evolution" in the sport. Sharma carried the mantle of "world's strongest sport climber" from Wolfgang Gullich, and passed it to Adam Ondra.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Realization (climb)</span> Rock climb in France

Realization, also called Biographie, is a circa 35-metre (115 ft) sport climbing route on a limestone cliff on the southern face of Céüse mountain, near Gap and Sigoyer, in France. After it was first climbed in 2001 by American climber Chris Sharma, it became the first rock climb in the world to have a consensus grade of 9a+ (5.15a). It is considered an historic and important route in rock climbing, and one of the most attempted climbs at its grade.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Free solo climbing</span> Form of climbing without protection

Free solo climbing, or free soloing, is a form of technical rock climbing where the climbers climb alone without ropes, or other protective equipment, only using their climbing shoes and their climbing chalk. Free soloing is the most dangerous form of climbing, and unlike bouldering, free soloists climb above safe heights, where a fall can be fatal. Though many climbers have free soloed climbing grades they are very comfortable on, only a tiny group free solo regularly, and at grades closer to the limit of their abilities.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">History of rock climbing</span> Key chronological milestones

In the history of rock climbing, the three main sub-disciplines—bouldering, single-pitch climbing, and big wall climbing—can trace their origins to late 19th-century Europe. Bouldering started in Fontainebleau, and was advanced by Pierre Allain in the 1930s, and John Gill in the 1950s. Big wall climbing started in the Dolomites, and was spread across the Alps in the 1930s by climbers such as Emilio Comici and Riccardo Cassin, and in the 1950s by Walter Bonatti, before reaching Yosemite where it was led in the 1950s to 1970s by climbers such as Royal Robbins. Single-pitch climbing started pre-1900 in both the Lake District and in Saxony, and by the 1970s had spread widely with climbers such as Ron Fawcett (Britain), Bernd Arnold (Germany), Patrick Berhault (France), Ron Kauk and John Bachar (USA).

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Ailladie</span> Limestone sea cliff in the Burren, Ireland

Ailladie, is an 800-metre-long (2,600 ft) west-facing limestone sea cliff, that varies in height from 8 metres (26 ft) to 35 metres (115 ft), situated on the coast of The Burren in County Clare, Ireland. Ailladie is one of Ireland's most highly regarded rock-climbing locations, particularly for high technical grade single pitch traditional climbing routes and deep-water soloing routes. It is also a location for shore-angling competitions, and, with its cliffs and view of the Aran Islands, is a popular photography stop for tourists.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Es Pontàs</span> Sea-arch in Mallorca, Spain

Es Pontàs is a natural arch in the southeastern part of the island of Mallorca. The arch is located on the coastline between the Cala Santanyí and Cala Llombards in the municipality of Santanyí. The arch measures approximately 13 meters high. One popular viewpoint with a view of Es Pontàs is Mirador Es Pontas.

Peter Reginald James Harding was a British rock climber who was prominent in the sport during the period following World War II.

The Wheel of Life is a famous boulder problem in the sport of rock climbing. Located in Hollow Mountain Cave in the Grampians of Australia and initially graded 8C+ (V16), it is now commonly considered to be 8C (V15).

Big UP Productions is an American film production company based in New York City who are particularly known for work in the area of rock climbing. The company is led by Josh Lowell, and films include titles such as: Rampage (1999), Dosage Volume 1 (2001), Pilgrimage (2003), Dosage Volume 2 (2004), Dosage Volume 3 (2005), and King Lines (2007). Rock climbers profiled in Big UP Production films included leading names such as: Chris Sharma, Tommy Caldwell, and Tim Emmett. In 2006, Big UP Productions and Sender Films received a Sports Emmy for "Outstanding Camera Work" for their work filming American climber Chris Sharma's first ascent of deep-water soloing route Es Pontas, in Mallorca Spain; it was part of the climbing film King Lines.

Tim Emmett, is a British-born adventure climber and climbing author, who practices to a high level in a diverse range of climbing disciplines, being ice-climbing, rock climbing, deep-water soloing and alpine climbing. Emmett has established the hardest waterfall ice-climbs in the world, and was the first to climb grades of W10 and above.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">La Dura Dura</span> Rock climb in Spain

La Dura Dura is a 50-metre (160 ft) sport climbing route on the limestone cliffs at Peramola, a village in Oliana, Spain. The route was bolted and developed by American climber Chris Sharma in 2009 who had almost given up believing he could climb it until a collaboration with Czech climber Adam Ondra led to Ondra climbing the route on 7 February 2013, followed by Sharma on 23 March 2013.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Jakob Schubert</span> Austrian climber

Jakob Schubert is an Austrian professional rock climber, sport climber and boulderer. He was World Champion and World Cup winner in Lead climbing. He has redpointed to 9b+ (5.15c). In August 2021, he won bronze at the 2020 Summer Olympics in Tokyo. As of the end of 2022, Shubert had won the most men’s IFSC gold medals of any competitive climber in history.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Jernej Kruder</span> Slovenian climber

Jernej Kruder is a Slovenian boulderer, sport climber and rock climber. In 2018, he won the IFSC Climbing World Cup in bouldering.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Long Quarry Point</span> Headland on the south coast of Devon, England

Long Quarry Point is a coastal promontory below Wall's Hill in Torquay, Devon, England. The site is part of the Hope's Nose to Wall's Hill Site of Special Scientific Interest.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Jumbo Love</span> Rock climbing route, United States

Jumbo Love is a long 76-metre (249 ft) sport climbing route on remote limestone cliffs on Clark Mountain in the Mojave Desert. Bolted by American climber Randy Leavitt in the 1990s, he invited Chris Sharma to attempt it in 2007. When Sharma completed the first free ascent on September 11, 2008, the route became the first-ever rock climb in history to have a confirmed grade of 9b (5.15b), and an important route in rock climbing history.


  1. "UKClimbing - So You Want to Go Deep Water Soloing?" . Retrieved March 25, 2011.
  2. II Open Internacional de Psicobloc Ciutat de Barcelona Bi Zaes (in Spanish)
  3. 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11 12 13 14 15 16 "A History of Mallorca Deep Water Soloing". British Mountaineering Council . 8 March 2011. Retrieved 21 December 2021.
  4. "Interview: Miquel Riera on the Birth of Deep Water Soloing", Kevin Corrigan, Jul 22, 2016, Climbing magazine
  5. "Hot Rock, Cold Water: Canadian Deep Water Soloing". 2009. Retrieved 22 December 2021.
  6. "Article on psicobloc in Desnivel magazine".
  7. "Thailand rock climbing, sport climbing and deep water soloing (DWS)". Retrieved 2021-05-21.
  8. "Rock Climbing Railay and Tonsai Beach". Retrieved 2021-05-21.
  9. "Deep Water: Psicobloc in Vietnam with Kyra Condie and Tim Emmett". Outside . 14 August 2020. Retrieved 21 December 2021.
  10. "Chris Sharma sends his mega Arch Project in Mallorca - News". 2006-09-28. Retrieved 2012-01-30.
  11. "Reel Rock: King Lines, Part 2". Youtube. September 9, 2014. Archived from the original on 2014-09-09. Retrieved August 1, 2017.
  12. "Chris Sharma Sends Five-Year 5.15 Deep Water Solo Project". Rock and Ice. September 29, 2016. Archived from the original on July 30, 2017. Retrieved August 1, 2017.