Tag Archives: sport climbing

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. 

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The Trouble with Quickdraws

Improperly assembled sport climbing quickdraw

Improperly assembled sport climbing quickdraw

If you’re an avid rock climber you’ve probably already heard about the tragic, untimely, and completely unnecessary death on July 5th of 12-year-old Italian climbing phenom Tito Traversa at the French crag Orpierre. Apparently while being lowered off of a 5.10b eight of the 12 quickdraws he’d used to protect the route failed, causing him to deck after a fall of some 25 meters. The police photo above, published in the French climbing magazine Grimper, reveals what speculation has suggested up to now: the quickdraws, which were provided by someone on he gym team he was travelling with, were improperly assembled. The tiny bit of elastic, which is designed to keep the carabiner in an upright position at the end of the dogbone for easy clipping, was used as the sole attachment point between the carabiner and the nylon/dyneema dogbone itself. You can see similar coverage in English from Climbing magazine.

Unless you’re mindful to carefully inspect your quickdraws before you climb, this assembly error isn’t readily apparent until the quickdraw is actually weighted (in which case it’s too late). However, assuming you use your own quickdraws, which you’ve assembled yourself and probably used many times in the past, it’s highly unlikely that you’ll encounter this assembly error. So maybe this is a cautionary tale for those rare times you borrow someone else’s quickdraws, right? Perhaps. But in this video from UKClimbing, climbing gear designer Streaky Desroy shows us how we unwittingly might encounter this very quickdraw problem simply by carrying our quickdraws around in a pack. This is probably a greater danger for open slings used to create alpine draws than your conventional dogbone style sport climbing quickdraw. Nevertheless, it’s something we should all be mindful of anyway.

Location: Orpierre, Haute Alps, France