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Learning to place bolts - advice?

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Learning to place bolts - advice?

Postby PellucidWombat » Mon Mar 22, 2010 9:00 am

How should I go about learning to set bolts? I want to start placing some, but I really want to make sure I know what I'm doing, and how I can be sure that the bolt is set well.

I have a good place that needs them that could also be good for practicing to set bolts - no one really climbs there, so no one should care, and I can practice placing them in places first where people won't be relying on them and no one should notice them through all of the broken glass already strewn about.
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Postby ExcitableBoy » Mon Mar 22, 2010 2:12 pm

I count the number of bolts I have placed on one finger so I am no expert but these folks are: http://www.safeclimbing.org/education.htm
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Postby fatdad » Mon Mar 22, 2010 3:34 pm

OK, this is going to sound pendantic, but my first questions would be why and where. Lots of good climbers have climbed a long time without ever having the need to place one. If no one goes to the area you're thinking about placing them, why bother placing bolts?
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Postby MichaelJ » Mon Mar 22, 2010 4:18 pm

Volunteer with ASCA.
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Postby ksolem » Mon Mar 22, 2010 4:49 pm

There are a lot of variables. A few are:

The kind of rock and the conditions it is exposed to.
The purpose of the bolts, i.e. belay/rappel/top-rope anchors or lead protection
The means of placement, i.e. drill by hand or use of power tool
Are these bolts new placements or replacements of old mank?

Of course there are the personal choices too, such as if you are bolting a new route will you start from the bottom and go up, or place your bolts on rappel?

These things and more will influence what kind of bolts and tools you will use, and what sorts of knowledge, experience and skills you will need.

FatDads question is valid too. And as Michael said, apprenticing on an ASCA rebolting project can be good experience for learning how to remove old hardware, clean up the mess and place new modern bolts. Lotsa hard work…

Basically though, if you are the type who’s good at building stuff and fixing cars, placing safe bolts should not be very hard to figure out. The common newbie mistakes are:

Choosing the wrong bolt for the job.

Drilling a tight hole. In granite the hole should be very slightly tapered at the mouth of the hole. This is done with a power drill by slowly wobbling the drill a little bit for the first part of the hole, same with a hand drill but it’s slower. Otherwise you will have to hammer too hard on the bolt while driving it in which work hardens the metal weakening the bolt. I’ve new 3/8 bolts fail due to this. Worn out bits will make a tight hole as well.

Over tightening the head or nut. Another nice way to weaken an otherwise good placement.
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Re: Learning to place bolts - advice?

Postby Guyzo » Mon Mar 22, 2010 7:11 pm

PellucidWombat wrote:I have a good place that needs them that could also be good for practicing to set bolts - no one really climbs there, so no one should care, and I can practice placing them in places first where people won't be relying on them and no one should notice them through all of the broken glass already strewn about.



Please do not bolt at Stoney Point. 8)
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Postby ksolem » Mon Mar 22, 2010 9:30 pm

Unless you have experience as a mechanic practicing with a torque wrench is a good idea. Most people are surprised how little force is required to properly tighten nuts and bolts for most applications. The tendency is to overtighten things drastically. Of course the torque wrenches usually have a long handle so you'll want to choke up on the handle to about the same length as your bolting wrench to feel the force correctly.

The new 5 piece rawl style bolts sold by powers (and used a lot by asca) have a fiber washer between the metal washer and the head of the bolt which is designed to tear and squeeze out at the right torque. I have found these to behave weirdly when bolting in hard granite - even when you have a nice hole tapered just right partway in you still have to hammer harder on the bolt than you would in a construction material like concrete, and the washer is shot before you torque the bolt.
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Postby graham » Mon Mar 22, 2010 10:28 pm

The absolute quickest way to receive unsolicited constructive criticism on your bolting technique, is to place one on Double Cross (Joshua Tree NP) :wink: :D
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Postby PellucidWombat » Mon Mar 22, 2010 11:16 pm

Fatdad,

I have been dry-tooling at a crag here. The volcanic rock is great for it since it is steep and nicely featured for tools. It is also great for it because it is no longer used by climbers - the rock is covered in broken glass and graffiti, and the base in deadfall. It is mostly frequented by loud teenagers who go up there to drink and smoke weed. A local guidebook that mentions the rock only says enough to tell climbers that it is crap to climb on. There are already some bolts there, but all that is left are rusty threads and the occasional old rusty sheet metal hanger.

There are some longer, steeper lines that I would like to climb, but certainly NOT on lead! However, the routes top out on a rock hump with no possible anchorage on top without bolting a top-rope anchor. I managed to get one line lower down on the side of the rock by threading the rope through a notch, suspended on a directional slung on a horn, with the belayer belaying from the opposite side, but this cannot be done for the other sections.

I may want to place the bolts by hand if this is the cheaper option. Since I don't plan to place too many, or to do it again elsewhere, I don't want to invest too much money into fixing up the area for dry-tooling.

Thanks for the links and suggestions everyone!
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