Resin Resurrection – 26 Years

Times change and looking back over close to three decades of putting up new routes, trad’ and sport around the world, there’s nothing like revisiting an old route for a reflection of how bolts have influenced the sport.

With change you can either resist it or take the opportunity to influence it and so with that in mind, North Quarry was visited on a damp, cold autumnal day with the objective of pulling old ‘staple’ bolts and revitalising some old ‘bolt protected’ routes.

IMG_8749

North Quarry, near Bristol with the grand sweeping slab of the right wall and easy angled back wall.

Back in 1993 I bolted and climbed what subsequently became a quarry classic of sorts; Resin Resurrection, graded E5 6a or F7a and sparingly bolted with 4 bolts in around 20m plus of climbing. In current times the route would not be classed as sport given the significant run outs and the use of non certified glue-in staple bolts (Portland staples from the 90’s). Considered a ‘bolt protected’ route now, this was a spicy sport route at the time and climbed during an ethics shift from full blown trad’ towards sparingly bolted ‘sport’ routes, that led into mixed routes then mixed routes with two grades (to clip or not to clip the bolts), back to pure trad’ and what is considered modern sport bolting today.

IMG_8765

A run out Resin Resurrection.

With over a couple of decades in existence it’s clear how well a badly bolted route has fared in terms of recorded ascents. This of course raises the issue of sustainable use and the ridiculousness of insisting that badly equipped sport routes should remain in their original state rather than be acknowledged for what influenced the decisions at a particular time in the sport’s history and instead re-equip so that a piece of rock becomes a lasting contribution to the community.

A particular objective was to load test the original Portland staples to:

  • Remove them as they do not comply with EN959.
  • Obtain accurate load data from 26 year old glue-in fixings.

IMG_8768

The first staple (of four) on the route.

Testing used a Hydrajaws 2050 tensile tester linked to the fixings via a high strength steel locking carabiner.

IMG_8769

Tensile tester setup on the first staple.

And so it was time to start extracting…and the first result was shocking with the staple pulling at a paltry 3.1kN.

IMG_8774

First staple easily extracted well below the force typically generated in a leader fall.

The second staple performed much better until the ends of the legs snapped (as per the first and remaining staples).

IMG_8793

All staples pulled showing characteristic failure of the leg ends rather than failure of the 26 year old adhesive (Hilti C50).

Final results were:

  1. 3.1kn
  2. 13.0kN
  3. 10.3kN
  4. 11.0kN

The Hilti adhesive resisted the load perfectly and is reassuring that when certified anchors are involved, climbers can expect no loss of strength for decades after installation.

IMG_8766

Out with the old and in with the certified new. A Bolt Products 316 grade steel, 6mm * 80mm twist leg glue-in fixed with G&B Gebofix EPO Plus pure epoxy.

Old fixed gear was replaced on the adjacent Short, Sharp, Shock which included nails hammered into the rock and 8mm caving bolts, considered ‘bombproof’ at the time!

Hilti 22V 8Amp Battery Review

9374753488926

Having had the opportunity now to put the 8A battery to the ‘test’ it is an absolute marathon monster. Drilling in limestone and with a range of hole diameters; 12mm, 14mm and 16mm, the first charge provided 14 holes (80mm deep) and by the second charge, a whopping 30 holes!

The only drawbacks, if indeed they really are at all valid ones, concern the weight and Watt Hour rating.

The battery weights 1.15kg which is a fair increase on the 0.78kg weight of the 5.2A battery. That said, the weight is n’t particularly noticeable and in any case this is not a battery you can pack in your luggage for an overseas bolting trip, which leads onto the second point regarding the Wh rating. The 8A pack has a 173Wh rating which precludes this battery from being taken on a commercial passenger aircraft as carry on ‘luggage’. Standard carrier ‘rules’ restrict batteries to 2 pieces, as carry on luggage and each battery not having a higher Wh rating than 160Wh.

The usefulness of a battery with this capacity is therefore for local domestic use, rather than overseas, where the extended long run can reduce the need to take 2 or more batteries and eliminating the chance of a dropped battery, especially when drilling over water.

Introducing Climbing Bolt Supplies Ltd

CBS-logo-black@300x-100

Pleased to announce the launch of distribution for Titan Climbing and Bolt Products throughout Asia.

Sourcing premium quality anchors in Asia is often difficult because the key manufacturing occurs in Europe and any suppliers in Asia tend not to specialise in bolts or have access to the necessary range developers need to suit to their circumstances.

Titan Climbing are well known for producing the only certified anchors made from titanium and are specialists in working with this metal for glue-in anchors. We have worked with this award winning company in the past to develop additional products and look forward to supporting their sales growth in a geographical region that experiences aggressive corrosion.

Bolt Products are equally recognised for the anchors they manufacture from stainless steel. Their unique glue-in anchor design has won awards and is the strongest anchor type in its class.

Together both companies manufacture any product solution a developer may need and have the capability to fabricate anything to order.

We operate to promote their products regionally while providing the expected technical services support to customers.

Hilti TE 2 A2-22 Performance Update

Having drilled with the new Hilti for a several days the performance is very impressive.

With a 5.2A battery I was achieving 14 holes drilled at 12mm * 90mm in hard coarse grained granite.

Hilti have just released an 8A battery..! So while a slightly heavier battery at 1.1kg, the extended run time must be significantly extended.

 

9374753488926

D for Drilling…Hello Hilti…Bye bye Bosch

The availability of lower voltage power drills has brought reduced weight and other advantages for climbers needing a cordless power drill however this means nothing if the lighter drill won’t perform…reliability remains a key consideration.

During February 2016 I posted a review of Hilti’s TE 6-A36 against the new Bosch GBH 18V EC and the stats at the time favoured the Bosch, which without doubt has proved to be a lighter and more synergistic tool compared to Hilti’s product line of the time which did not have interchangeable batteries and matched the performance but at an increased weight.

Ultimately the comparable drilling performance (for reduced weight) and use of the same battery packs for the popular 18V cordless grinder were stand out advantages.

Background

Annually I install around 1,000 glue-in anchors, mainly in hard rock (granite, volcanic tuff) but also limestone and this repeated heavy use typically ‘roots out’ any non performing kit. I literally wear drills out (amongst approach shoes and harnesses) and so issues like repairs become important.

After wearing out the hammer units and battery packs for the Bosch GBH 18V EC it is now time to conclude the overall performance of this drill and review the arrival of Hilti’s 22v range.

Broken Bosch

The 18V Bosch is definitely a great drill but a number of issues have emerged over time.

  • Battery chemistry – perhaps I was unlucky however the 6A packs I purchased have not retained capacity over time and in fact some of my original 3A packs now outperform the 6A packs.

Note: the performance of higher capacity battery packs is critical to the advantage of the Bosch over the Hilti 36 V drill in a weight for weight comparison versus drilling output.

  • The chuck / hammer on the Bosch wears out when drilling hard rock, especially when needing to drill 14mm or occasionally 16mm holes.

The real knock out issue though…

  • Servicing. Or the complete unavailability of it and suggestion by Bosch to simply ‘ buy a new drill as it’s not worth it’ to service used drills. Bosch seem to use ‘planned obsolescence’ and simply chucking out an old drill and buying a new one is not something I prescribe to. This is my experience trying to get a drill serviced in Asia and the UK.

For drilling softer rock such as limestone, the Bosch is likely to last however for the most arduous conditions the Hilti 22V now provides an alternative where previously there was no comparable product in the voltage range.

IMG_8073

Bosch GBH 18V EC alongside the Hilti TE 2-A22

Comparison stats…Bosch left, Hilti right.

Weight (with highest capacity battery): 2,753g vs 3,069g

Run time: 108 Watt hours vs 114.4 Watt hours

So for a slight increase in weight (316g) we’re getting a slightly longer run time but increased serviceability.

Hilti provide a 2 year warranty for their battery packs which is not something I’m aware that Bosch provide.

Time will reveal how the Hilti performs but from previous experience I’d expect it to be excellent and in a lighter package now.

Introduction to Bolting Workshop

Khao Yoi, Thailand in conjunction with Thailand Mountain Sports Club

Mid June and 12 climbers arrived in Khao Yoi for a 2 day course mixing theory and practical workshops.

The course started at 9am on Saturday morning with a presentation focused on glue-in fixings, adhesive type and selection, stainless steel and titanium, cliff development strategies, comparison of top down versus bottom up development, case studies, standards and practical information on choosing a drill. Additional topics were covered during the morning with a break in-between.

The afternoon saw the group practice drilling different glue-in bolts and preparing holes for gluing. Discussion around adhesive type from the morning presentation carried forward into the afternoon session with a focus on the practical aspects of the bolting process. A number of test bolts were installed for the following afternoon tensile testing demonstrations.

35514191_1698412570278892_827540816690937856_o.jpg

Course participants practice drilling a range of different glue-in fixings and cleaning holes prior to gluing.

35463356_1698412760278873_7780213869498073088_o

Gluing in a Titan climbing titanium bolt.

Saturday concluded with a fantastic Thai dinner, discussion of the day and plenty of beers!

Sunday morning kicked off with an interactive workshop reviewing a new routing rig and equipment required for bolting.

35479191_1698412833612199_6774069616646815744_o

With the morning session concluded, it was time to revisit the crag and finish the course with 6 tensile tests performed by the attendees themselves. The tests demonstrated important aspects of using glue-in bolts and the impact of different adhesives on certain fixings.

35486456_1698412873612195_4350760613392154624_o

Radial tensile testing of a Fixe 316 glue-in fixed with Hilti RE500 epoxy.

35415846_1698412890278860_7007247647459246080_o

With the course over the day finished with climbing!

 

 

Thailand Bolting Workshop

32089660_1657349704385179_6244088257391362048_o

Come join the fun mid June in Khao Yoi, South of Bangkok, where I will be running a 2 day workshop covering bolt installation and a number of tensile pull tests to demonstrate key aspects of bolt performance. The workshop also includes a technical presentation and a number of practical activities performed by attendees.

Details can be found here:

https://www.facebook.com/events/1940135279393780/

Sampling life

The UIAA embarked upon a comprehensive study last year that involves chemical sampling of rock faces with the objective of identifying any impact of present chemistry on the corrosion of fixed protection. This work is performed by volunteers and supported by a technical specialist who receives the samples upon which laboratory analysis is conducted.

IMG_7182

UIAA Chemical sampling conducted in Chiang Mai, Northern Thailand last month.

The various corrosion mechanisms (eg pitting, crevice) that affect bolts are understood, with more detailed investigative work on Stress Corrosion Cracking (SCC) performed by Tomas Prosek and others in recent years however an unknown is why certain climbing regions are notably aggressive towards fixed hardware and others are relatively benign. Tonsai, in Southern Thailand, is recognised as requiring only certified titanium glue-in fixings due to SCC and most understand that to be solely the fact that it is a coastal limestone sport climbing area in the tropics. Why then does Long Dong, a sandstone sport climbing area in Taiwan also suffer from aggressive SCC? Entirely different geology, tropical yes but certainly not covered in significant quantities of jungle foliage and yet bolts have failed just as badly. The answer must be related to the particular presence of chemical precursors that promote faster rates of corrosion.

The rate at which bolts have corroded at different crags within the same region is so far supported by conclusions drawn from samples analysed to date and whilst this remains a work in progress (and not yet for public release) it is encouraging. The goal being to really define fixing specification for a given crag to a level of detail past the historical minimum of 304L.

96cd0008-d303-4be0-9bf2-9d7b7a73a949

UIAA Chemical sampling below Hourglass Crack F6a, Technical Wall, Tung Lung Chau, Hong Kong.

Route Development in Chiang Mai, Thailand

Late December and an arrival into familiar surroundings to develop more new routes for Chiang Mai Rock Climbing Adventures with 1,200 glue-in bolts.

IMG_7113

Lots of premium Bolt Products glue-in bolts from Jim @ Bolt Products plus a few ladder rungs.

Only a few weeks into drilling pretty much everything in sight and CMRCA host their first Northern Thailand climbing RockFest and Thailand premier of Reel Rock #12. A strong turn out by community non climbing locals who derive income from visiting climbers, visiting climbers and the locals who climb themselves created a festive atmosphere that provided just the backdrop for acknowledging area activists and contributors from the past 15 years who have ensured Crazy Horse is one of the most carefully developed sport crags in the world. Adopting a ‘Golden Bolt’ award, CMRCA Founders Kat and Josh Morris presented awards to Kraisak Boonthip (Pi Tom) and myself for significant contributions toward establishing Crazy horse as it is today. Local longtime climber (and a developer himself) Jens Glasgow added to the Golden Bolt (24K Gold plated) with a fantastic leather drill bit pouch – no more melted Hilti drill bit containers.

IMG_7277

With good cool weather, equipping progressed in earnest yielding fantastic new additions such as The Darkness Beckons, a wild 5 pitch new route in the Anxiety State Crisis Cave. Equipping the 80m line required multiple static lines, mid air rope to rope transfers and trickery such as threading ropes through holes with bamboo to work position after transferring ropes. The result, at F6a+ complete with a caving squeeze and wild exposure must rank in country as one of the most nutty multi pitches to do.

IMG_7211

Looking up into the roof Aven of the Anxiety State Crisis cave and a mass of rigging. The 4th pitch traverses the lip of the roof and disappears into the darkness before emerging from a cave crawl and final 5th pitch.

Friends visited which led to harder additions to the area. Baz Durston (ex British Team Comp Climber) came out of retirement to swiftly tick a hard F7c extension to one of my F7b+ routes and narrowly missed the FA of a hard F8a on the Aircon Wall which was ultimately bagged by Alex Deschamps from Canada. The ultimate prize; a project equipped and called Bristol Fashion on the Anthill has so far repulsed all prospective attempts, the consensus being a minimum of F8b+ which would result in the hardest climb in Thailand outside of Tonsai.

In-between days of drilling and glueing, chemical sampling was completed as part of my volunteer work for the UIAA Anchor Working Group with the results populating data gaps on the current data trend. The results further reinforced the current understanding of what precursors are required to enable corrosion, not least underscoring why Chiang Mai does not suffer the Stress Corrosion Cracking issues synonymous with the South.

IMG_7182

UIAA Chemical sampling conducted at 6 sectors, seen here underway at the Heart Wall.

Finding time to do anything other than equip new lines is difficult in a target rich environment however in March CMRCA hosted their first C.R.A.G talk of which I was the first guest speaker and gave a presentation on new route development, bolts and an update on progress made at Crazy Horse.

IMG_7747

This led to a bolting clinic in which attendees were given an introduction to bolt installation, equipment and placing practice anchors themselves. The day concluded with actual pull testing of different glue-in bolts.

29512943_10157537658503508_681507904147995345_n

Image: Ray Kam

The clinic led onto follow up training with Ray Kam from Canada, who went home with a  number of foundation skills during the course of 2 days and having bolted and sent the FA of his own new route.

 

IMG_8001

A happy customer! Ray Kay having been through the process over 2 days which ended with his own new route.

IMG_8019

Hotspotting in the parking lot, the CMRCA Crag Database is updated with his FA live.

Back to bolting and climbing continued during March with more cave climbs and additions in the F7’s.

29066316_226881794543450_2968511417369493504_o

Image: Alex Deschamps.

As the high season closes, bolting continues despite the summer heat with the following stats below:

44 Days drilling and glueing

1,410 glue-in bolts installed

Yielding over 92 new routes, some of which are multi pitch.

 

 

Legacies and Motivations

FullSizeRender 7

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.