Tuesday, January 17, 2012

Bolt Failure in Australia

Okay, so I'm going to wag my finger a little bit in this blog post.  Here it goes.

Don't place bolts unless you know what you're doing!

There really is only one way to learn to place bolts correctly.  That is to find a mentor who has done a lot of bolt placement -- or even better, bolt replacement -- and learn from that person.

The problem with placing bolts without understanding the different issues behind such a process is that with bolt failure a person could easily be hurt or killed. When you place bolts, you are essentially placing gear for someone else...so that gear has to be good.

The following video is absolutely terrifying, but it shows what could happen if a person gets out there and starts to put in bolts who doesn't know what he or she is doing.   Nick Kaczorowski was killed at this crag outside Sydney, Australia due to inadequate bolting...

Forty kilograms is approximately 90lbs. This is akin to nothing in a climbing setting.

It appears that the person who placed these bolts, placed them in a form of very weak sandstone. He used expansion bolts instead of glue-ins, which are considered standard equipment in Australia's Blue Mountains, Nowra, and Mittagong climbing areas. The expansion bolts, as you've seen in the video, rip out very easily.

In may rock types, expansion bolts are really good.  But not in this setting...

This goes to show that beyond getting training and mentorship, knowing how to place one kind of bolt may not be good enough. To really do a good job, one must know not only how to place a bolt, but exactly what is standard at a given crag. In other words, how much torque should there be? Is this a place where glue-ins are appropriate? How long should the bolt be? Should this be a wedge bolt or a 5-piece bolt?  And so on...

Bolting seems simple enough...but when it comes to other peoples lives, simple enough might not be good enough...

--Jason D. Martin

No comments: