Tea in the Sahara was put up on lead back in the early 90s. Originally only two bolts were drilled and the FA team added another bolt after in the hopes it would get climbed more. Over the years, the climb gained another 4 bolts! All the bolts used were the Petzl Cheville Autoforeuse aka “self-drill” bolts.
These bolts are really not intended to be used for climbing and given the options available for modern bolts these really shouldn’t be used for climbing ever. The components are not stainless steel and are often paired with a stainless steel hanger causing galvanic corrosion. Though perhaps the best reason is that the bolt assembly is only embedded 30mm in the rock! I’ve seen a pull test on one of these that failed at 3.4 kN in pull-out. The shear performance is the more transferable number to how a fall would impact the anchor, but 3.4 kN is less than a micro cam!
Confusingly, there are may versions of this type of bolt. Tea in the Sahara features two diameters for an 8mm bolt and one for a 10mm bolt. The way to tell is by the size of the cap on the bolt. About the size of a quarter and it’s a 10mm bolt (17mm head); the smaller 8mm bolt has a 13mm head.
Six out of the seven bolts on Tea in the Sahara are 10mm self-drills but I was only expecting the 8mm models. So I examined all the bolt placements to see if any would need to be moved due to hollow rock. I found that three bolts needed to be moved so I pulled the hanger but left the sleeve and cone of the original bolt in for removal at a later time. These bolts were all replaced with a modern 12mm stainless steel sleeve anchor that can be easily removed and reused in the future. My attempt to pull the sole 8mm bolt ended up breaking the sleeve in the hole. I’ll need to tap the remaining part of it and try again.
I’m going to discuss how to handle the final replacement on this route with one of the FA team members. Since the route has gained more than double the number of bolts, this is an opportunity to make adjustments to the amount of hardware on the route.
I will post updates once more work happens here.
Update: All bolts have been replaced on the route and ended up having to be moved due either to the original bolt breaking in a way that makes them unremovable in the hole or the original placement being in hollow rock. Only the crux bolt is currently a glue and it is a beefy 16mm x 100mm bolt. Happy whipping! Within the next couple weeks all the bolts will get replaced with glue-ins.