Yesterday I took part in a bolt placement training and work day at Cathedral Cave, Little Langdale. The day was led by Dan Robinson who is the Chair of Cumbria Bolt Fund and trained, experienced and also pretty passionate about the appropriate placement of bolts. His aims are to renew existing bolt protection on climbs where considered necessary for safety, and to place bolts that will reduce the impact of climbers and outdoor groups on the crag environment.
We started with a briefing session from Dan, and an inspection of some of the old fixed gear that had been removed demonstrated the obvious safety issues it presented. This led on to an introduction to the gear currently available and commonly clipped by all of us.
The bolt of choice being deployed in Cumbria is the twisted leg P bolt manufactured by Bolt Products These are stronger than the alternatives, have a very long service life and when they require replacement they can be removed and the same drilled hole re-used for the new bolt. However, as we found out during the course of the day, a controlled environment and plenty of time is required to fix these bolts. The holes need to be prepared by drilling, cleaning with air and water, drying and it’s best to actually glue the bolts in batches for efficient use of the resin. Also the temperature needs to be above 4C.
Expansion type bolts are in use all over the Alps and elsewhere, and they can be placed in situations where it might be impractical to use the glue in products. They can however require core drilling to remove the fixings when they need replacement, and this is very costly and time consuming. The alternative is to leave the old bolt fixing in the rock and drill a fresh hole for the replacement. Repeated drilling of the rock is clearly undesirable, and where space is limited or the position of the bolt is critical, core drilling might be essential.
The old bolt protecting the crux of Darklands was loose and removed by hand, a reminder to check the fixed gear when climbing! Look out for glue in bolts that have come loose and for corrosion of expansion bolt fixings. Corrosion commonly occurs behind the hanger close to the surface, where water can accumulate and air is present. Check for rusty bolt heads, and even expansion bolts that were never intended for climbing being used, sometimes in conjunction with branded hangers. This Petzl webpage is worth a read if you are heading off cragging in a tropical marine location this winter!
During the course of the day we achieved all our objectives, which were:
- An AMI CPD workshop
- Equip the top of the big abseil with belay bolts to prevent further damage to the trees and facilitate optimal set up when multiple groups are present, and also to encourage abseiling away from the line of Basilica. Minor improvements were also made to the ground surface at the top of the crag.
- Replace a key bolt on Darklands that was previously rotating and was removable by hand.
- Mark positions for replacement bolts on Basilica.
The day provided a very useful insight, understanding and appreciation into the work being carried out on our behalf. Many thanks to all involved!
More photos here.