2ND OF 2 PARTS
Read Part 1 here!
There’s more to bolting than drilling holes and installing hangers. Sure, we bolt primarily to let climbers climb crazy cliffs in a safe way, but there are other things to ready apart from the hardware.
Don’t get us wrong. The safety aspect of bolting must never be emphasized enough. In fact, references on bolting will always say: Make sure you have all the right equipment, and make sure you KNOW how to use them.
It’s important to have the correct type of bolt, because some rock are softer than others (depending on type, age, etc.). Factor in the crag’s location – many have witnessed intense metal corrosion on seaside crags.
The nice part is, we can all learn from the experiences of others. So we’ve put together some pointers from our long-time bolting friends, and came up with this checklist of what a responsible bolter would do before even drilling a hole:
- If you’re a beginner, bolt from top to bottom, hanging from a solid anchor. It’s much easier to drill going down, as you can use the previous bolt to keep the rope in line. Stick to a vertical wall so that it’s easy to stay close to the rock.
- Visualize your potential route in relation to the whole cliff, as well as other routes beside it. Does the line make sense? Is it a squeeze job between two routes that are already good? Is the line safe from rock fall or any debris on top? Will it endanger anyone at the base?
- Examine the rock for holds that would allow a natural flow of movement. Versus forcing certain moves or positions (only to find out later that there are holds that you over-estimated, under-estimated, or maybe missed altogether). Don’t rush this part, because not all holds are instantly discernible. Train your eye to spot possible holds, even under soil and moss.
- After mentally drawing the line, clean all the holds and try to climb the route. At the very least, try the moves. Make an X-mark with chalk wherever you would like to place a bolt.
- In deciding where to place your X marks, ask yourself these questions: Do I really need to place a bolt there? What if I move it a bit to the left, or to the right? Is it on a good clipping position?Are my bolts evenly placed? How “risky” are the moves from the last bolt? Can a thread be used instead of a hanger? Can a short person clip safely from there? A tall person? Is the fall potential safe? How will the rope run under tension? Will this bolt be exposed to the rain? Or are there seasonal drips from tufas/trees above?
- Very important: Test all the rock where you plan to put a bolt, by tapping and cleaning around each point with a hammer – you’ll hear the difference between solid and hollow rock very easily.
- Try the moves again, pretending you are gliding the bolts, and change the chalk marks accordingly if any seem difficult to clip.
Only after going through these steps, can one take the drill out and install a bolt.
Well, we understand the reaction – the checklist is not for someone who’s in a hurry…and definitely not for the lazy. But if there’s another thing we learned, it’s how lucky we are as Filipinos to still have this huge access to virgin rock. Caroline told us of how in Europe and the US, there is currently an over-supply of bolters, which is why there are people who roam around the world to open new lines.
There’s really nothing wrong with that trend. But it highlights how good, climbable rock is a finite resource, and because it can run out, we must put extra thought about how we develop it.
Think about the long-term repercussions of our actions. Have you tried Googling about accidents and deaths caused by bolt and anchor failure? Or okay, on a less melodramatic note, look at all the re-bolting projects currently happening in old, popular crags. Some of them require double the cost and effort of bolting new lines.
Or simply read about poorly-established crags, where routes are lined up too near beside each other, or lines crisscross, or the rock face is just studded with holes/corroded bolts/glue marks because of hangers re-bolted or moved around.
Simon said it well:
Bolting is not about getting a bunch of lines up fast to lay claim to the first ascent or to claim having “established” a cliff. It is not about putting up the hardest line or indeed the easiest. In the end, it is about being part of something bigger, helping climbers grow in their sport - and doing so in a positive and respectful way.
The best climbs I have been lucky enough to be on seem to just flow. The bolter somehow managed to equip the route in such a way that one hardly notices as the hangers appear where you need them, perhaps pushing you a bit, but allowing you to enjoy the climb. It is an art form – to expose a wonderful climbing line that is in the cliff, set by nature.