Legacies and Motivations

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Enjoying the sea breeze whilst re-bolting with Titan Climbing titanium glue-in bolts in Hong Kong (Donna Kwok).

New routing is a particular habit…it can become an obsession, fraught with paranoia in equal measure but for sure, the motivation behind a single developer has long lasting consequences for the general climbing public. One aspect is that pleasing everyone is typically impossible; someone will always criticise something! For some regions the effort and funding behind equipping can go unnoticed by the broader climbing community.

In many ways we are experiencing an interesting phase in sport route development. The complexity of issues concerning corrosion are becoming better understood, improved fixings are available and the cost of installation has dropped over the past couple of decades.

The motivations for bolting largely have not however and this raises interesting and at times confrontational points of view as to how routes should be bolted. Developers often ‘fall into’ one of the common styles:

A minimal style – self funded and solely interested in an FA using the least amount of gear. Not bothered if the climb remains unrepeated or not.

Elitist – equips to suit their ability so ‘easy’ routes are often poorly or dangerously equipped for anyone else attempting the climb at their ability limit.

Equipped for the grade – F6a or F8a, what run outs? Well bolted regardless of funding and route difficulty.

Having equipped in many different countries it is always interesting to correlate climbing ethics / traditions and circumstances (is there a BIG uphill approach involved?!)  with how sport routes have been bolted. I’ve long suspected that the infamous run outs of Ceuse have more to do with Patrick Erdlinger’s extent of self funds at the time and the big hill up which he had to carry a sack full of heavy metal, rather than an intentional desire to have routes which can involve big falls, the ‘Ceuse style’ as one guide describes. He was also a highly talented climber so that may have had something to do with bolt spacings on ‘lower graded’ routes too!

Also the recognition of what sport climbing entails versus traditional climbing. In other words, run outs or potentially loose rock and bad gear are all aspects that traditionally protected climbs may feature and this is very much an accepted part of what this style of climbing involves.

Sport climbing however is focused purely on abject difficulty, such that the consequences of falling should in theory be reduced to the lowest level of practical risk encountered. Obviously this cannot be achieved by poorly equipped sport routes where the consequences of a fall could be hitting ledges / the ground / or falling misaligned with subsequent rock face impact.

Since most development is conducted by self funded individuals, fixing cost is a major consideration as to how many bolts are placed and the specification of the fixings used. Where they are placed is very much an expression of the developer’s opinion on what sport climbing is supposed to offer and reflects the most basic aspect of do they view the rock as a resource for others (and thus equips as such) or a more individual experience with no particular thought given to climbers trying the climb a decade later.

For self funded climbers, it’s a discipline not to bolt when insufficient funds are available to purchase the ‘right’ specification of fixing. Equally it’s a case of offering to support such individuals financially in installing a particular specification rather than just criticising their choices. This is where a major shift is needed within the climbing public; development costs for sport climbing areas needs to be formerly supported through Bolt Funds or access fees. This ensures developers have the ‘right’ tools and that climbers can fall rest assured it won’t result in a failed fixing.

Correspondingly bolt funds must use the best fixing (material, type etc) for the area the donations are intended otherwise it becomes hard to defend otherwise when public funding is involved. For individual developers, this becomes a reflection of their longterm consideration in what legacy they wish to create and recognising that rock is a finite resource.




Bolts, bolts, boing

Clip it, stick it, what’s the drama?

Many moons ago the fixing options available to developers bolting routes were limited yet this was a time of morphing away from the genesis of pure trad’ to some fixed gear and later full blown sport routes.

Typically caving bolts were the only fixing available for climbers to use however we climb in different times now and so developers should and can use plenty of rated (EN959 / UIAA 123) fixings.

There is value in climbers learning to recognise rated hardware just as they would not use traditional equipment not rated for rock anchor purposes.

The inherent issue with sport climbing is the total reliance on assumed fixings that will hold in the event of falls.

This can be a dangerous assumption.

Fixe PLX and Petzl HCR – Worth the hype?

For a number of years, decades even, the choice of material for fixed rock anchors (bolts) was pretty much limited to stainless steel grades 304 or 316.

With the development of climbing areas within highly corrosive environments, so to has been the development in both anchor technology and climber knowledge concerning corrosion and its various mechanisms as they apply to rock climbing anchors.

Stress Corrosion Cracking (SCC) and the alarming rapidity with which anchors are rendered dangerous has gripped the community on a global scale and driven the development of titanium resin bonded anchors as a direct result. The investigation of SCC in Southern Thailand has had an impact within the materials engineering world by raising awareness that SCC can occur outside of the conditions traditionally believed to be the required norms.

The well known efforts of the Thaitanium Project (http://thaitaniumproject.com) and Titan Climbing (http://titanclimbing.com) have led to a full range of titanium products that compliment the high quality stainless steel products from Bolt Products (http://bolt-products.com).

Climbers equipping new routes have the choice of an excellent range of stainless steel products for normal use and equally titanium where SCC / harsh corrosion is affecting hardware. With Fixe introducing their PLX range and Petzl with an ‘HCR’ product line, what are the benefits and are those products anything better?

Fixe PLX

  • The Fixe PLX range is based on duplex stainless steel grade 2304, although may contain a blend of other duplex stainless steels.
  • Duplex stainless steels have good resistance to SCC however remain affected by pitting and crevice corrosion, both types of corrosion that can act as initiator mechanisms whereby SCC develops at a later stage.

Petzl ‘HCR’

  • Stainless steel grade 926 expansion bolt and a 904L grade stainless steel hanger
  • 926 grade stainless steel should contain a minimum of 6% Molybdenum and generically is described as a high corrosion resistant steel.

UIAA studies underway intend to determine a range of materials as matched to a set of environmental conditions since simply stating something is corrosion resistant is meaningless without equally specifying the corrosion it is supposed to resist. The use of the term HCR is misleading in that regard.

Duplex steel has high resistance to SCC and high quality steels in the 6% Molybdenum range resist SCC so where does that leave climbers trying to ascertain the relevance of these new products against what already exists on the market? Two considerations foremost in mind is the cost of the fixing and known performance in real world climbing applications. Looking at pricing online with no discounts applied:

  • 304 Grade Stainless Steel glue-in bolt (Bolt Products) – $5.00 (inc $1 for adhesive)
  • 316 Grade Stainless Steel glue-in bolt (Bolt Products) – $5.21 (inc $1 for adhesive)
  • Fixe PLX (MEC Online)                                                     – $11.60
  • Titanium glue-in bolt (Titan Climbing)                         – $13.12 (inc $1.28 for adhesive)
  • Petzl ‘HCR’  (Petzl Online)                                                – $36.00


316 grade stainless steel is a cost effective option in areas not affected by SCC.

Fixe’s PLX hardware is roughly around the same price band of Titan Climbing’s titanium hardware but the Petzl ‘HCR’ is quoted at an astronomical US$ 36 (pack of 20 list price).


316 and Titanium already has proven use in a variety of regions with varying degrees of corrosion. Where SCC is occurring, a titanium bolt glued in with pure epoxy is currently considered the best form of fixed protection.

Fixe have just initiated a batch recall for their PLX bolts in response to severe corrosion affecting hangers. The reasons for this are not currently in the public domain but this does highlight the issue facing developers when new products are launched to either build in company liability where the product line was only 316 based or perhaps to counter titanium based products. Without a ‘track record’ developers take the risk in installing hardware only to find it won’t last some 5, 10 years or longer, later.

Technical materials knowledge within the oil and gas industry says 6% Moly’ steels will resists SCC however the UIAA is yet to issue a guideline to climbers to this effect. The fundamental issue facing the use of Petzl’s ‘HCR’ range however is cost and it is simply too expensive unless the unit price is reduced to become competitive with titanium glue-ins. The drawbacks associated with using bolt ins however are not eliminated.

Ultimately when the track record of certified titanium glue-in bolts is considered, the advantages this type of fixing offers, and the pricing for a known SCC resistant material, why switch to duplex 2304.



Thailand Bolting Trip – Nam Pha Pa Yai Camp

A successful visit to the Nam Pha Pa Yai camp a couple of hours North of Bangkok to bolt new routes and enjoy the riverside climbing featuring unique zipline access.


As always, lots of hardware…but a balanced load


The zip line access across the river.


Great quality rock and plenty of new lines to equip. Gluing in Bolt Products 8mm * 80mm marine grade stainless steel bolts with Hilti RE500 pure epoxy adhesive.


Glue-in bolts are great for traverse anchors; no loose hangers or need for linking hardware either, just tie direct!


South China Morning Post Interview

Recently interviewed by the SCMP for an article and video regarding the climbing that Hong Kong has to offer.

Seven of the best places to go rock climbing in Hong Kong, plus preparation tips and why it_s good for your health and fitness



X-Life Magazine

A recent interview for a popular Chinese outdoor magazine and link to the pdf below. Hope your Chinese is good!19897659_10213093420707754_1745095874_o



Bangkok Bolting Seminar

On 22nd April I travelled to Bangkok and delivered a presentation on bolting as a guest of the Bolting and Re-bolting in Central Thailand Group.


The seminar covered a range of topics covering risk, bolt types, standards, corrosion and  the materials from which certified bolts are manufactured. Key objectives of the seminar were to assist climbers in recognising suspect bolts and the need to be aware of whether bolts have failed before climbing in unfamiliar climbing areas.

This well attended event also provided the opportunity to discuss Stress Corrosion Cracking (SCC) via a question and answer session.