Monday, May 11, 2009

Route Development: Bolting

Now you have this stellar line. It is clean and it is ready for bolts. SO you take out your hand drill and place a 1/2 inch bolt every 3 feet, measured on a grid...done. Not only will it take you forever to bolt but it won't flow and you just destroyed your line. On top of that, most people will believe that most the routes you put up suck.

Bolting is a very important skill for developers. You can learn a lot off the Internet but choose your sources wisely. One of my favorite site is the American Safe Climbing Association ( It has very good discussions about the art of bolting safely. Make sure that you buy top quality gear. No one wants to fall onto a bolt out of the local hardware store.

Glue-in bolts are used on sea side cliffs such as Flat Rock. The salt water can significantly increase the corrosion of mechanical bolt. The glue creates a chemical bond between the bolt and the rock so salt water has no effect. These bolts are the strongest and longest lasting hardware available. Unfortunately they are difficult to place. The hole has to be the exact size and depth. You need the right amount of glue and they have to be place without introducing air into the hole. It takes practice and best learned from someone else. You  also have to wait 24 hours for the glue to cure before you can climb on it. That usually means the next time you get out there.

Mechanical bolts are great. Not as strong as glue-ins but still totally solid with 26kN shear force or about 4000 psi.  To put this into perspective, your spine will snap at 2000 psi and the hardest lead fall may approach 1000 psi.  They are fairly simple to place and they can be climbed on immediately.  How they age is dependent on the type of rock they are in and the environment.  Note: the bolts I am talking about are the Hilt KB3 3/8".  These are a beast of a bolt and have a great reputation and well...the only compression bolt currently supplied by MEC.  Chances are that these are the only mechanical bolt you may come across in the Avalon.

If you intend on placing bolts, research them carefully.  Yours and anyone who climbs your route lives will depend on it.  I learned by drilling by hand and placing glue-in in boulders.  It took about an hour per hole.  It didn't take long for me to get a hammer drill to cut that time down to 5 minutes.  I started placing mechanical bolts 3 seasons ago.  Please go with myself or any other person who places bolts to see how it is done first hand.

Now choose where your bolts are going to go.  Gyms keep the spacing about 3 feet apart.  This is very close for outdoors.  On average they are placed every 5 to 10 feet.  Try to keep them uniformly spaced so it predictable when the next bolt is going come.  If there is a place for pro, think of it as another bolt and keep the spacing uniform.  The first bolt should not be higher than what would be safe if you were bouldering (ie less than 10 to 12 feet).  The next bolt should be quite close (3-5 feet) to avoid decking should the second clip be fumbled.  Then get into the regular spacing.  I prefer spacing of about 5 to 7 feet.  10 feet feels runout to me.  I have taken a 25 foot whipper and it wasn't fun. 

Several thing have to be taken into account when placing a bolt.  Try to place the bolt on a flat solid bit of face.  If the surface is irregular, the hanger will not sit flush.  DO NOT place a bolts in hollow sounding rock or in large blocks (they do come down).  DO NOT place a bolt with in 6 inches of a crack/fracture in the face.  Take into account where the biner will hang off the bolt.  It should not be levered over an edge.  Also think of how the draw will hang off the bolt; will it be in the way of a important hold.

Keeping all those things in mind, climb your route with the intent of finding the spots to put your bolts.  Try to place them where there is a good clipping hold.  You should be able to reach the bolt with your elbow to make sure all climber can reach the bolt off the clipping hold.  Mark the spot with chalk from your hand.  Climb to the next spot for a bolt.  Also mark any spots where pro is to be used.  Once this is done,  step back from the face to examine the spacing and the line.  Make changes to get the line straight and uniform.  Once you are happy, it is time to drill and place bolts.  But that is for another day.

No comments: