Access Fund Anchor Replacement Grant

Last year we were fortunate to win one of the Access Fund anchor replacement fund grants for $500. CRAG-VT helped matched that with a donation from an Emeritus Board Member and other contributions helped get us to a $1500 hardware buy.

This got us the following…

Quantity Description
125 6mm x 80mm twisted leg glue-in bolt
25 6mm x 100mm twisted leg glue-in bolt
24 6mm x 100mm twisted leg glue-in bolt w/4 chain links
15 8mm x 100mm twisted leg glue-in bolt
36 8mm x 58mm quicklink
12 8mm x 88mm quicklink
36 6.4mm barrel shackles
12 10mm carabiners
18 ft. 8mm chain

Be on the lookout for work happening this year at Prospect Rock, Smuggs, and on-going work in the Bolton Valley area.


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.


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.


Why is the rock bleeding?

Bolt products bolt with ghastly Hilti RE-500 glue and inset showing the faded color two weeks after.

Don’t worry the mood slime from Ghostbusters 2 is not oozing out of your favorite crag! That very noticeable substance is a new type of glue being trialed for bolt replacement work; this new glue is the Hilti RE-500 epoxy. Thankfully, the very ugly color will eventually fade down to a more natural taupe color after a couple seasons of exposure to ultraviolet radiation. One important detail to note with this new epoxy is that the time it takes to “dry” (we use the word cure with epoxies). The cure time may reach beyond 48 hours depending on the ambient temperature. It is important to heed any signage at the crag regarding curing bolts. This is for your safety and the safety of future climbers.

Previously two different kinds of glue (modified epoxy acrylate and vinylester) have been used which match our natural rock color more closely. The reason to trial a different type of glue is to switch to a glue that is internationally regarded, has the longest possible service life, and is stronger than our previous types of glue (though both previous types are strong enough to meet or exceed UIAA requirements).

There are no specific UIAA standards for glue. All that exists are the UIAA 123 standards for fixed anchors. This leaves it up to the bolt manufacturer to figure out what glue to use in order to be “certified”. An example is Titan Climbing’s Eterna bolt which has only been tested with a regionally available epoxy or the Hilti RE-500 as the regional epoxy is not able to be shipped internationally (Titan is based in the U.K.). While a different type of glue will likely work with the Eterna bolt, the bolt’s installation won’t be certified. In the U.S. climbers mainly are using Hilti RE-500, Powers AC-100+, and ITW Redhead A7 for glue-in bolts. The last two are not well-known outside of North America and many companies are not willing to be evaluate them as substitutes.

Example signage regarding curing bolts.
Example signage regarding curing bolts.

For what it is worth, the bolts being used for replacement work supplied by Bolt Products are designed to be used with any type of adhesive. They’ve tested with the cheapest hardware store adhesives they could and still found their bolts met the UIAA’s 25kN standards. This is due largely to the helical twist design of their bolt which provides a sizable mechanical keying that secures the bolt.

While it’s still too early to tell if we will permanently be switching to the Hilti epoxy, you can expect to run into it at one point if you frequent the Bolton Valley area crags. As well you can expect a more substantial outreach to the local climbing community to communicate upcoming work on routes that will be effectively off-limits due to this slow-cure epoxy.