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.

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.

Booty Trap

Booty Trap had a mix of stainless 5-pieces and an older plated wedge bolt and some poorly aging anchor chains. The hardware was replaced with a batch of all 316L chain, shackles, glue-ins and captive position biners.

The 5th bolt broke irreplaceably while it was being unscrewed so had to be re-positioned. See in the photo below that it was moved down and right. That seemed the best option to avoid the draw from being too close to the edge of the dihedral directly below

Goin’ Postal

Continuing the standing effort to replace all 3/8″ 5-piece bolts in Bolton area schist, Goin’ Postal at Carcass was replaced with some of the new batch of Bolt Products 316L stainless hardware acquired with AAC-AF/local contribution funds. That means if you donated money to the CRAG-VT anchor matching drive, this is some of that money at work. So, thanks and happy whips!

All original placements were re-used so it’s a pretty straight-forward hardware upgrade. The anchor is similar configuration to the ring anchors that were there. We wouldn’t want the last moves to be top-ropable because some replacement tech extended the anchor down, now would we?


Professor Booty

All protection and anchor bolts on Professor Booty were replaced with some of the last 12mm AustriAlpin glue-in bolts left in the pool. The second and third protection bolts were re-positioned to put them in better quality rock but the rest of the placements are all using the original holes. Anyone who had climbed the route previously will be interested to know that both anchor bolts were true spinners, yikes!

Breaking and Entering (aka Corkscrew)

Breaking and Entering sports plated steel 5-piece bolts and stainless hangers; these are good candidates for replacement. The first bolt (which protects the crux of the 5.10- variation) has been loose for some time.

This line has two starts one which keeps the grade at 5.8 and one that bumps up to hard 5.9/easy 5.10, the crux of which is right off the ground basically. The bolts were placed such that the really benefit the harder variation, even when the climbing eases. With that in mind and after suggestions from others to address that, when replacing the hardware I re-positioned the second and third bolts to be more easily clippable from the easier variation but still being clippable from the harder variation. As well, the third bolt was poorly placed in a dish that caused cross-loading of a draw. That has been moved up so that is no longer an issue. A new 4th bolt placement is about a foot and a half left; this is more in line with the bolts below and above.

The original bolts that were replaced were over-tightened, which was confirmed by the state of the blue compression ring. The first bolt’ss hex head was completely stripped and I wasn’t able to even attempt to get a socket head to not pop off of it. In a last bid effort I tried to funk the bolt and was surprised to find that I was able to easily pull it with a hammer and funkness device. This makes me wonder if the bolt was re-tightened multiple times by well-intentioned but un-educated climbers over its service life. 5-piece bolts are really sensitive to their torque setting, and if they are over-tightened it can actually damage the expansion sleeve.

It’s hard to imagine that that first bolt wasn’t a spinner if it was able to be funked out of the hole so easily. That’s a little scary to think about, as I’ve personally belayed a climber that fell on that bolt! Thankfully pull-out and shear are different forces that affect the bolt in different ways!

Update: The  anchor and protection bolts have been replaced with 12mm Bolt Products glue-ins donated by the ASCA.

Mal Bouche

The mid-anchor on Mal Bouche at Upper West used to be stainless hangers with two plated steel hardware store links. A few weeks ago I had added two leaver biners to it and taped them shut in an attempt to ensure they stayed there. Yesterday I went back and replaced the anchor with two rated stainless 10mm quick-links and stainless rap rings.

Update: The sole protection bolt has ben replaced with a 12mm Bolt Products glue-in. Unfortunately the original bolt was never removed and the replacement was placed too closely to the original bolt. The critical spacing distance to ensure 100% strength for the replacements is approximately 7″ and the two original bolts were about 3″ from one another. So a new hole was drilled left of the two current bolts.

Collateral Dave-age

Collateral Dave-age had two corroding 5-piece protection bolts that were plated steel mixed with stainless steel hangers. The second bolt was one such installation. Terrifyingly, the bolt snapped while unscrewing it! The failure occurred at the threads which is not really surprising as the threaded section ends up being the weakest part of the bolt and also contains the smallest diameter of metal.

The rap anchor was also replaced. The right-most bolt did not have very many threads engaged in the nut which is concerning given that the hanger is loose (ostensibly from repeated load-unload cycles). This could lead to the nut continuing to back off and possibly fall off. After doing a lot of research I decided to go with an in-line chain anchor configuration. Here in the US many might focus on the one rap ring as a point of concern. In short, in over 100 years steel rings have been used in climbing applications and there has been no failures. Even an unwelded ring holds a minimum of 6kn when loaded at the weakest plane. Even a crappy weld will yield approximately 25kn. Steel rap rings don’t fail. Single rap ring points are the norm in Europe with no accidents. The original configuration required a lot of hardware because the placements were about 14″ apart and the horizontal orientation relative to the 45° angle relative to the face makes equalizing trickier. An in-line chainset makes dealing with those factors easier.

Junior’s First Bolt

In general the 3/8″ Rawl/Powers 5-piece bolt is persona non-grata here in variably soft schist. While we have had quite a large number of plated steel 5-pieces, typically mixed with stainless steel hangers, even the stainless versions have not shown a good track record. Since many of these bolts were put in over 15 years ago they didn’t have the benefit of the knowledge we have today. Now the climbing community knows that 3/8″ in medium to soft rock is not the best practice. Regardless, all the protection bolts on Junior’s First Bolt have been replaced with 12mm Bolt Products glue-ins donated by the ASCA.

Unfortunately, while enlarging the last hole the drill bit became stuck…regrettably in an unremovable manner. As a result the final bolt was moved approximately 7″ to the right and slightly down. The second bolt was also moved approximately a foot to the right as some hollow rock close the original placement was unclear as to whether or not it was superficial or structural.