Tag Archives: bolted anchor

These Bolts are Screwy

Imagine you’re leading a sport route. It’s a “soft” 5.12a, but you’re a strong climber, so no big deal. You top out and encounter a rappel anchor set up like this:

Innocent looking anchor bolts.

Innocent looking anchor bolts.

Nothing to see here, right folks? Perfectly acceptable and bomber set up. NBD, right? Right. But looks can be deceiving. Imagine a guy involved in a rebolting project shows you that the bolts holding this anchor into the rock actually look like this:

Rusty rappel station bolt. Wait, what is that?

Rusty rappel station bolt. Wait, what is that? A wood screw?

Holy shit! Is that rusty thing a wood screw? A lag bolt? Here’s the other one:

More Jive-Assery.

More Jive-Assery.

Damn! That one is sketchy as hell too! This is what you were rapping on, and not just here, but other bolts on this and several other routes. They looked perfectly fine when they were bolted in. But when they’re unscrewed they look like this:

Jive-Ass Lag Bolts(?)

Jive-Ass Lag Bolts(?) from Ozone, near Portland, Oregon.

These bolts were replaced at Ozone, a little climbing crag near Portland, Oregon, USA, by Topher Dabrowski and Micah Klesick as part of the Portland Re-Bolting Project. And bless those guys for volunteering their time to do so! This project is financially supported by local climbing club, The Mazamas and by the American Safe Climbing Association.

Topher and Micah rebolting at Ozone.

Topher and Micah rebolting at Ozone.

Now back to those Jive-Ass bolts. We have a policy here on Jive-AssAnchors.com not to name, shame, or ridicule anyone who may have, inadvertently or otherwise, engaged in acts of anchor jive-assery, That would be wrong. This being the case, I’m not going to name the routes where these anchors were found. You know the route, then you can figure out who put up the FA. And the person who put up the FA is almost certainly the person who bolted the route. Yes? So we won’t mention that. There has already been a bit of butt hurt in the Portland area climbing community on climbing forums concerning this delicate subject. In this regard, it has been pointed out by unnamed witnesses to the original bolting effort, that these screws are not just some garden variety lag bolts. Rather, they are actually Hilti Reusable Coil Anchors, considered acceptable for climbing purposes by some people, somewhere, at some period in history, damn it. And they’re not just “lagged” into a rocky hole, because there’s actually a little steel coil in that hole adding strength, like so:

Hilti HCA Resuable Coil Anchor: for dry indoor use only please.

Hilti HCA Resuable Coil Anchor: for dry indoor use only please.

Now that’s all fine and well, I suppose, except that the Hilti folks themselves stipulate that these bolts are to be used in dry, indoor conditions only, and not in the wet, outdoor, “temperate rain foresty” conditions of the American Pacific Northwest. They’re not intended for climbing routes, and they’re not even stainless steel!  Moreover, as Topher has pointed out, “The first bolt only required a 1/2 turn of the head by hand and it came right out!” Yikes. And Micah has pointed out that they were lead to rebolt this area due to several bolt failures in which bolts came loose–one on an overhang, and one due to a lead fall! So yeah, don’t use these.

At any rate, those Jive-Ass bolts have been replaced with nice, solid, climbing-route-appropriate stainless steel, torqued into place like so:

Nice new stainless steel bolts, torqued to specification.

Nice new stainless steel bolts, torqued to specification.

Long story short, donate money to rebolting efforts in your area. The ass that get’s saved may be yours!

Location: Ozone, near Portland, Oregon, USA

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Jive-Ass Leeper Hanger Bolt Anchor

How many Jive-Ass boxes can you tick on these anchors? That’s the question Samuel Feuerborn, who sent me these photos, asks us to ponder. There’s a lot going on in the image below, so take a moment to soak it in. We’ll wait. Then we can dive in with Sam’s assessment, and my own usual embellishments.

Jive-Ass Bolt Anchor on Ninja (5.11+), on the Reservoir Wall at Indian Creek, Moab, Utah.

Jive-Ass Bolt Anchor on Ninja (5.11+), on the Reservoir Wall at Indian Creek, Moab, Utah.

This anchor was on Ninja at Resevoir Wall in Indian Creek in Moab, Utah. According to Sam, it includes: an American Death Triangle, retired leeper hangers, a hardware store wedge bolt, a star dryvin bolt, a modern 3/8″ 5 piece that’s hanging a 1/2 inch out of the freakin’ wall (!), lots and lots of faded tat, and four extremely heavily worn ‘leaver biners’.

Wow! It’s sort of breathtaking to see so much jive-assery in one set up! I’m really impressed! I get the sense that this one is a community effort, developed and nurtured over time. I encourage you all to play a rock climber’s version of Where’s Waldo and see if you can find all of the treats Sam has identified. I can certainly see the deeply worn notch in one of those leaver biners. And that bit of 6mm or 7mm purple cord is tied to one set of bolts in a classic American Death Triangle. I think that shiny bolt on the far left is the Star dryvin. Finally, Sam doesn’t mention this, look at how that yellow webbing sliding-x dealio on the right side bolts is just threaded through the hangers.

Ah, but it get’s better. Sam has close ups!

 

Modern 3/8  inch 5 piece bolt pulled a half inch out of the wall.

Modern 3/8 inch 5 piece bolt pulled a half inch out of the wall.

Check it out! There’s a bolt pulled a half inch out of the crumbly-ass sandstone! That inspires all kinds of confidence, eh? Let’s hear it for redundancy (Whew!).

But wait! There’s more!

Leeper Hangars, recalled by Ed Leeper in 2004 for life-threatening cracking/breaking hazard.

Leeper Hangers, recalled by Ed Leeper in 2004 for life-threatening cracking/breaking hazard.

Here are the Leeper Hangers. For those of you not in the know, Ed Leeper himself recalled these hangers back in 2004 due to a serious flaw he was unaware of when he first designed and manufacured them. Apparently they are succeptible to “stress-corrosion cracking”, which may not be so apparent at first, but eventually looks like this:

Cracked Leeper Hanger

Cracked Leeper Hanger

In this scenario, the top half remains bolted to the wall, and the bottom half is clipped to your quick draw, which is also clipped to your rope, which is coiled willy-nilly on top of your broken body at the bottom of the pitch. Ouch!

Trouble is something like 95,000 of these things were made between 1962 and 1984, and maybe 20,000 to 40,000 were still installed as of 2004, according to Ed Leeper’s estimation. So to try to get the word out to the climbing community to search and replace these things, Ed took out a full page ad in Rock and Ice magazine that looked sort of like this. Good on Ed for doing what he can to get these things replaced. You can do your part by keeping an eye out and helping with the search and destroy (and replace). Apparently you can start at Indian Creek in Moab!

Oh yeah, this recall was discussed in detail back in 2004 in the Rockclimbing.com forums, which still exist for your perusal.

Happy sending folks!

Location: Indian Creek, Moab, Utah, USA

 

 

That’s Just Lazy

Girth Hitch that Bolt Hanger!

Girth Hitch that Bolt Hanger!

‘Tis the season to get Jive-Ass Anchor submissions from Smith Rock State Park, apparently. I received this photo, taken last weekend, from several climbing friends. Credit to Eric Kennedy for being the first. And here’s the juicy kicker: several people have pointed out to me that this anchor was constructed by a climbing guide who was teaching clients to climb. Yeesh!

The offense here, of course, is that this ‘guide’ girth hitched a spectra/nylon sling directly to one of the bolt hangers rather than attaching it with a carabiner (like on the other bolt).

And yeah, yeah, okay. It’s just a top rope anchor. No one is going to generate big fall forces. And for top roping or rappelling, girth hitching like this is probably no big deal (unless there is a burr or a sharp edge on that bolt hanger). And it’s tied off with a figure 8, so its redundant, so even if the girth hitch failed the strand attached to the other bolt would still hold. Points all well taken. But it’s a Jive-Ass rock climbing anchor just the same. Wish someone would have asked. Lazy? Out of carabiners? Missed that day at guide school? What?

Location: Smith Rock State Park, Oregon.

Girth Hitch Insanity

Sling to sling to sling girth hitch insanity: a climbing anchor.

Sling to sling to sling girth hitch insanity: a climbing anchor.

Justin Rotherham took this shot at Smith Rock a few weeks back. A seemingly infinite chain of girth hitched webbing. We’ve discussed the whole girth hitching webbing thing in the past here and here. This one isn’t necessarily all that dangerous, for the simple reason that the girth hitched monstrosity is a ‘back up’ for a presumably more proper climbing anchor. But it definitely qualifies as Jive-Ass (in this case, of the ‘overkill’ variety).

In Justin’s words [emphasis is mine], “This sling to sling to sling girth hitch insanity was a back up to a 2 quickdraw top rope set up.  The sling ‘back up’ was attached to the anchor for the next route over with another non-locking biner.  The other end of the sling had a quicklink that they had threaded the rope through after clipping the draws.”

Yeah, some times people go a little overboard with their redundancy. Apparently two bolts (two bolts!) weren’t enough for top roping (top roping!). And thus jive-assery was required.

Parting words or wisdom from Justin: “These are bolted anchors people!  Quit trying to make it harder than it needs to be.”

Location: Smith Rock State Park, Oregon, USA

Beware the Australian Carrot

Ever heard of a rock climbing “carrot” bolt? How about a “bash in”? Unless you’re an Australian rock climber, there is a good chance that the answer is “no”. As a North American climber I certainly had never heard of them, although they apprear to be similar to the “rivets” that were once popular in Yosemite valley. So I owe a debt of gratitude to Samuel May, who was good enough to send the photo below and alert me to the existence of this uniquely Australian contribution to sport climbing. In Sam’s own words:

“The famous “carrot” bolt was developed in Australia in the 50s and 60s due to the unavailability of any actual climbing gear. It consists of a hex head machine bolt, hand-filed to a taper, and pounded into an undersized hole without a hanger. The principle is the same as a drilled piton, but cheaper!”

So there you have it. You file a bolt to a taper (so it looks like a carrot, get it?). You drill a hole in the rock. You bash the carrot in the hole with a hammer until it’s tight (thus the alternative name “Bash in”). The shaft of the carrot bolt is sticking out a bit. And that’s it. That’s your pro. How the heck does that even work? Sam proceeds to explain:

“To clip it, you either use a removable hanger (“bolt plate”) or, if you run out of those like I did at this belay on “Cave Climb” [see Sam’s photo below] in the Blue Mountains, you take a nut and slide it down the wire, slip the loop over the bolt head, and cinch the nut back up tight. You can also sling them with a skip knot on a skinny dyneema sling. Bomber!”

The "Bash in" or "Carrot" bolt: Australia's Unique Contribution to Climbing Jive-Assery.

The “Bash in” or “Carrot” bolt: Australia’s Unique Contribution to Climbing Jive-Assery.

I trust that Sam’s use of the term “Bomber!’ is ironic, as this set up looks a bit jive-ass. So I’ve done a bit of research on my own, starting with, on Sam’s suggestion, Safer Cliffs Australia‘s website. Safer Cliffs Australia is a non-profit organization devoted to maintaining safe rock climbing areas by replacing rusty, jive-ass old bolts and anchors with safe quality ones.  Here are some carrot photos from that site:

Scary Carrots! Photo Credit: Safer Cliffs Australia.

Scary Carrots! Photo Credit: Safer Cliffs Australia.

Wow, eh? Australian climbers have big balls.

So what about this ‘bolt plate’ hanger thing Sam mentioned? Here are a few photos of those:

Carrot Bolt Hanger Plates

Carrot Bolt Hanger Plates

Apparently these things are available for sale at pretty much all climbing gear shops in Australia. From what I’ve read you carry a supply of these things in your chalk bag. When you get to a bolt, you grope around in your chalk bag for a hanger plate, fish out out, and slip it over the head of the bash in carrot bolt. Then you clip a draw to it, and the carabiner, assuming it’s fat enough, keeps the hanger plate from falling off of the bolt head. And there you have it: a bolting system that gives sport climbing some of the white-knuckled, gripped thrill of trad!

Now apparently there are both zealous defenders and detractors of the carrot bolting system in Australia. So in an effort to keep myself from inadvertantly being dragged into an Aussie civil war by extolling the jive-ass qualities of this system, I think it’s worth placing this system into historical context.

Australian rock climbing pioneer and legend Bryden Allen claims to have invented the carrot bolting system some time in 1963 or 1964. I have no reason to believe this isn’t true, and I was able to find at least one resource that corroborates this claim. There weren’t exactly a lot of climbing gear options at that time. In Yosemite, for example, Royal Robbins, Yvon Chouinard, and Chuck Pratt were still putting up new routes protecting with pitons (and occasionally bolts). Royal Robbins is credited with bringing the first nuts to Yosemite from the UK in 1966. Given those conditions, the carrot bolt system, with its removable bolt plate hanger is pretty brilliant.

And with that said, here in the 21st century there now are quite a few climbing gear options–including dramatically superior bolting methods (for sport routes) and bomber spring loaded camming devices (for trad). By today’s standards, a machine bolt filed into a taper, bashed into a tiny hole and held in place through friction–especially an old and rusty one–appears a little jive-ass. Surprisingly though, from I’ve been able to determine, there aren’t many documented instances of injury or death due to bash in bolt failure.

Anyone seen this system used outside of Australia?

Location: All over Australia.