Lower West anchors

Climbing infrastructure is a moving target and an iterative process. The top anchors at Lower first were installed in order to relieve the trees of the stresses of being used as anchors in order to protect the cliff top environment. Viewed in that context, their existence was a huge improvement. With increased cliff-top traffic and also a larger spread of skill sets of the user base, some of the anchors could be improved to be easier to access or equip. This past weekend there was an initial round of ameliorations, specifically on A-Sharp and Snake Skin Slab.

The anchor on A-Sharp was somewhat not ideally placed. While it did a good job of ensuring the rope runs freely, it was somewhat awkward to rig a top-rope on and for a leader it cut the route short allowing the climber to stop short of the logical top out move to gain the ledge atop of the larger corner. Additionally, it didn’t allow a leading party to rappel if they so desired. With all those points in mind the anchor was re-positioned up and right and re-configured (see the below picture). While the rope now runs into the off-width crack of the corner a bit, the large nature of the crack combined with its relatively smooth interior makes this mostly benign and not susceptible to rope-eating snags.

Snake Skin Slab had sported a matching pair of Raumer ring hangers which were somewhat easy to rig a top-rope off of from the cliff top. However, the position of the bolts caused attached carabiners to be cross-loaded over the cliff edge which was not ideal. In attempting to mix and match a bunch of different connecting elements to produce a serviceable chainset, I identified that the left-hand bolt in the anchor was a spinner and ended up being removed by hand (via funking). This was replaced with a beefy 16mm glue-in bolt. The resulting anchor configuration now provides an easy to reach anchor for the leader as well as an easy to rig setup from the cliff top that avoids cross-loading carabiners. From the cliff top, one can simply reach down, pull up the chains, attach lockers to the rap ring, and thread the top-rope.

It’s likely a few more anchors at Lower will see some updates in the coming weeks, so be on the lookout for updates or keep that in mind if the anchor you expect is either missing or looks different!

82/Quarry work

I’ve been pretty heavily focused on investigating a new phenomenon being observed in some of the bolts installed at 82 and the Quarry. These bolts have completely non-functional expansion mechanisms that allows them to be removed from their hole simply by tightening the nut down. The expansion sleeves are never catching and engaging with the tapered cone. In the next couple weeks I’ll have more info on this as I compile some field observations and touch base with additional more knowledgable sources.

So, just to update on the work carried out, I’ve removed the following counts of bolts (by hand) and replaced with glue-ins on the following routes. Note: One of the bolts on Year of the Dog is technically the bolt that protects the traverse to Arms Reduction, and Truffle Hog has already had 2 bolts previously replaced last year that were pulled by hand.

  • Politics of Dancing – 2 bolts
  • Crimp Chimp – 4 bolts
  • Year of the Dog – 4 bolts
  • Arms Reduction – 4 bolts
  • Quills – 1 bolt
  • Truffle Hog – 1 bolt
  • Pussy Galore – 1 bolt

82 Update

After receiving a detailed report (with secondary confirmation) of a pretty concerning bad bolt on War on Drugs, I went up on the evening of the 14th to take a look. Rapping in from above, the second to last bolt was about 90% removed from the hole and was easily removed by hand! This forced an evaluation of the rest of the bolts on the route.

In total, 7 of the 10 bolts needed to be replaced due to clear evidence that the expansion mechanism on each bolt was not engaging. The majority of the bolts were replaced on the evening of the 14th with the remaining replaced early the next morning. See below for some videos showing the ease with which these were removed and thanks to Rob Fleming for helping out early on a Saturday morning.

On a smaller and less attention-grabbing note, Encryption and Team America now have all stainless lower-offs.


Weekend update

On Friday the 7th, Rob Fleming and I inspected a reported bad bolt on the route E.N.S. (Erotic Nut Selection) at Double Upper. Inspection revealed a poorly placed stainless 5-piece bolt. Somehow during the installation process the head of the bolt became significantly bent. This coupled with the fact that the hole was drilled slightly off from perpendicular with the rock meant that the bolt could not properly tighten down and achieve the proper torque rating. Due to the fact that the hole was botched, it couldn’t be re-used and a new hole had to be drilled.

A new Fixe Triplex bolt was installed in a temporary installation and will be replaced at some point in the future with a glue-in bolt. Much thanks to Rob for helping me out and putting the rope up so we could take a look at things.

On Sunday, I replaced the 5-piece bolts on Crusty By Nature, swapped in captive stainless carabiners for the pigtail on the Beyond anchor and retrieved a tool cache as this was the last bolt replacement work currently earmarked for the 82.

As previously noted in these work notes, 3/8″ sleeve anchors have been found to not age well in our schist and are replacement candidates regardless of whether they are plated steel or stainless. When triaging the “to-do” list, corroding plated steel bolts have typically gotten the priority over stainless bolts. To my surprise the 5-piece bolts on Crusty were actually plated steel mixed with stainless hangers. While the exterior of the bolts showed no signs of corrosion, once you looked inside the hole it was a different story. This is likely a testament to the breezy position of the Steep Wall. The exterior of the bolts dry quickly with the face of the rock but the moisture persists in the hole. The second bolt became unremovable when the threads of the bolt were accidentally stripped and couldn’t be repaired without a die which was not on hand. The bolt was re-positioned approximately 100mm higher after a few top-rope solo tests to ensure it was still possible to clip the bolt from the stance.

Anchor roundup

Today a couple of anchors got refreshed.

The lower-off on Beyond at 82 Steep Wall got swapped out with an equalized pig-tail lower off. This rounds out the majority of the Steep Wall lower-offs that were planned to be upgraded.

As well, the rap anchor on Bilateral Symmetry which was all plated steel hardware was upgraded with all 316L stainless with glue-ins and a pig-tail. This was a great test of the new “Doodad” puller I machined to replace the original C-clamp I blew through last season. The sealed bearing seemed to work well, though more testing will reveal how well it fairs.

EDIT (10.9.16): I swapped out the pigtail on Beyond with two captive stainless biners. The stance is there but with a pump the carabiners will be appreciated.

82 Crag continuation

Lots of the work at the 82 Crag this past week.

On Sunday Block Party was completely re-bolted save for the few wedge bolts that were there. These were checked to make sure they weren’t spinners and torqued properly. The anchor was repositioned to be slightly higher and more to the right more properly dropping you over the mid-anchor if only rapping on a single rope (70m recommended). Also the top anchor was changed to an inline chainset to make things easier for the rap and retrieval. The left bolt on the mid anchor will be updated with a matching Raumer ring anchor hanger whenever I get a chance to climb that pitch next.

This evening I knocked out a bunch of smaller to-do items both on the Steep Wall and Main Face.

  • The anchor on Solarium was swapped out with an all stainless captive carabiner rig
  • The anchor on Crusty by Nature was swapped out to an all stainless equalized pig-tail rig
  • The increasingly problematic 5th bolt on Doggfather was replaced with a glue-in bolt. This bolt was pulled solely by spinning it with the drill. In over 200 bolts replaced, this is the first time I’ve seen this happen and it is somewhat disconcerting.
  • The old bolt holes on Doggfather were patched with epoxy
  • The 2nd to last bolt on Truffle Hog was pulled and replaced with a glue-in (video)

Here’s a video that covers the bolt on Truffle Hog.


On July 16th, Southern Adirondack climber Dan Pinto and I replaced the poorly aging hardware on pitch 1 of VJ’s after speaking with local stakeholders. Some of the hardware on the route was quite old, though it’s hard to guess when it was actually installed based solely on examination. This pitch was equipped with both 1/4″ buttonhead split-shaft bolts and 10mm & 12mm self-drill bolts. The 1/4″ buttonhead bolts paired with the Leeper style hangers are of particular concern because these hangers were recalled almost two decades ago because they can develop stress fractures that can exploited by corrosion and can lead to failures at massively reduced forces. The worst documented cases have been at body weight! Old 1/4″ bolts are also hardly bomber by modern standards and this split-shaft design has its own stress fracture concerns.

We replaced the 1st and 2nd bolts and removed both old bolts in the old anchor below the overlap and converted it to a single bolt placement. It is likely that the current 3rd bolt will be removed as it is a legacy piece of protection that was used to protect a traverse right to the VJ’s Direct anchor. The current P1 fixed ring anchor was added after this and due to its existence P1 is now typically climbed straight to this anchor and not out right. The impetus behind removing the bolt is that it is in hollow rock, though the feature is of such a scale that it’s not of any immediate concern.

Regrettably the drilling angle of the 1st and 3rd bolts was poorly evaluated by yours truly and the bolts are not perfectly square to the rock face. This doesn’t inhibit their efficacy but may create a long-term maintenance issue. I’ll see how these bolts age over time and re-evaluate as needed.

Carcass Crag anchor update

Last year all the routes at the Carcass Crag that were replaced were converted to rap-stations when almost all the routes were originally lower-offs. This was due to a lack of sufficient hardware to create a lower-off and maintain the goal of end-to-end stainless components. With the pool of hardware acquired with AAC/AF grant funding and local contributions, we were able to get some dedicated lower-off hardware. Re-establishing those anchors has since been a “to-do” item albeit with a lower priority than replacing corroded bolts.

After noticing last week that other climbers valued the lower-offs enough to leave biners at the anchors, I decided to bump up the priority of re-establishing these lower-offs with replacement program hardware. So today when my climbing plans fell through I turned the lemons into lemonade and knocked this work off the list. You can see the updated lower-off rigs in the gallery below. Goin’ Postal is still a ring anchor rap station as it was originally always that and the large Bolt Products rap rings are easy to do a pass-through/untie lower-off on.


It’s Not a Cruise

Based on a cursory inspection of the hardware on It’s Not a Cruise I had assumed the bolts were stainless five pieces and thus not a pressing issue. Recently I noticed that one of the washers was corroding and realized it was likely these were plated steel bolts. Sure enough even though some looked ok from the exterior, behind the scenes they were very corroded. Most of the bolts were spinners because the cone/sleeve interface was corroded in place. One was even clogged with mineral deposits.

Second bolt had to be moved because removal left the hole unusable, the third bolt was really close to a shallow left-facing flake which under the right circumstances could open the gate of a draw and that placement was moved left. The fourth bolt was in hollow rock and was re-positioned slightly right into better rock.