Bolting Guidelines

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  • This topic has 15 replies, 2 voices, and was last updated 4 years ago by Olly.
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  • #1724 Reply

    This is an an invitation to anybody who wishes to make comment re new bolting guidelines CAWA would like to devise.

    Please remember CAWA can’t enforce anything.

    You may ask, in that case, why bother?

    Simple, some of the people bolting out there either don’t know or don’t care.

    I should also add, that in other areas of the world, guidelines have been put in place by landmanagers, and these can be quite draconian. This is often the result of irresponsible, ugly and/or unethical bolting by people who either don’t know or didn’t care.

    We don’t want this to happen here.

    Importantly also CAWA must show some leadership in these issues or land managers will decide climbers are just a rabble who can be ignored. So comments and suggestions are invited.

    This is one of the main reasons the bolting section was initiated.

    Cheers all.


    #1725 Reply
    Peter Thomas

    Good idea, Toc! A few thoughts from me, which won’t be comprehensive.

    I’ve recently thought there’s a lot of good new climbers coming through from the gyms, and performing well in the bouldering comps. But not many creating new climbs. So some clear guidance on bolting issues and how to “create” a new climb would be very timely and hopefully help stimulate activity outdoors.

    It would be good if eg Ross W and Matt R or Jim T could put together fact sheets on alternative recommended ways to place bolts (both the mechanics of it, and where on a climb), and have these available via the website. But need to ensure these are not labelled as CAWA (or anyone’s name), and carry all appropriate health warnings, to avoid litigation issues.

    I would like to see all retro-bolting avoided except in exceptional circumstances and with consensus approval (note support just by regulars on this site would not represent consensus of the whole climbing community, I would suggest). Re-bolting to replace dangerous old gear – fine if done properly.

    How close to put the bolts, how safe need a new climb be? Hard to be too prescriptive, but I strongly believe that the new bolting policy should stress heavily the guiding principle that lead-climbing will always involve some risk, and that those who cannot accept that should top-rope or climb indoors. Don’t remove the adrenalin from climbing.

    No bolts near good natural gear placements.

    I would support a bolting fund – to reach into the pockets not only of CAWA members but everyone going outdoors. The fund should especially cover re-bolting where required, and lower-offs where consensus favours them and/or erosion at the cliff tops would be avoided.

    That’s it for now, looking forward to the debate….. Peter.

    #1726 Reply

    The very last thing you should do is popularise bolting.

    #1727 Reply
    Glenn Sharrock


    In my opinion, the CAWA should “sponsor” experienced bolters to informally “replace” bolts on existing climbs.

    I have placed around 300 bolts and I can tell you that bolting, when done correctly, is not a simple task. It requires a high degree of experience in lead climbing – to know where to place them; a very good knowledge of the rock into which they are placed – so they don’t pull out or break the rock when loaded; and a knowledge of the process of actual placing the bolt correctly. As we all know, it also requires a sensitivity to environmental and land management issues, and climbing culture issues.

    For these reasons bolting is not a task for inexperienced climbers or people who are learning the process in isolation. For example, expansion bolts are appropriate in some rock types but not others, which require glue in bolts, and carrots in my opinion should be avoided altogether.

    Because of the complexity of the task, and the importance of the outcome, I believe we, as a community, should sponsor people who know what they are doing – and have proven they can do it well. We should protect these people from litigation through the process, which I could be informal which somewhat eliminates problems with quality control and the relatively “low” factors-of-safety associated with even well placed bolts.

    I am sure that CAWA knows experienced bolter, or can find them.

    Best wishes and bye for now.

    Glenn Sharrock

    #1728 Reply

    I agree with Glenn that bolting should be done by experienced people only, however the fact it is that sometimes it isn’t and the results can be very very sad indeed. Experienced people have been climbing for years and have probably placed hundreds of bolts and probably do not need or are not inclined to listed to guidelines.

    With my second breath I will readily admit that I have committed some bolting sins myself, before I learned better ways (there was a good article in Rock a few years back, copy is in the Montain Designs Perth store, in the black New Routes book). So – I think that bolting info should be provided on the CAWA web site to show inexperienced people who are hell-bent on bolting, if not how to bolt well, then at least how not to bolt badly. I can write a “How to” sheet on how to do bolting my way (and the limitations of that), but I won’t pretend that this is the bees knees and am not interested in arguing over it. Matt can write about his way, etc. People are still free to do what they want ultimately but it is better to make an informed decision by listening to a few opinions first (screened by CAWA perhaps).

    As far as not encouraging bolting, I disgree. In appropriate areas, done to a good level of craftsmanship, it is a great way to promote climbing, and that is what CAWA is for (ie refer to constitution).

    Replacing old bolts suffers from an ingherent problem: not many people will go out to fix other people’s mistakes and get nothing for it, ie not even a FA credit in the guidebook. But it needs to be done so should be encouraged by sponsoring the gear.

    If CAWA does that, it should also produce well defined guidelines for bolt replacement, unless the Committee wants to review these on case by case basis: I think not as this would kill the initiative.

    I also think that first ascentions need not be contacted for bolt replacement jobs, if good guidelines exist. After all, the dodgy bolts or rusty pitons were bomber solid when they first climbed the route on them, and other climbers (ad infinitum) have a right to the same level of safety as that enjoyed by the first ascentionist.

    I believe loweroff anchors should be installed wherever this decreases the level of erosion (due to walking down), just like was done at Wungong 2 years ago.

    I am against adding bolts to existing routes and bolting new routes within easy reach of trad routes. I am also against bolting with non-robust materials and with poor workmanship in bolt placement, spacing, highly visually obtrusive bolting in public areas, bolting in non-bolting areas, the usual.

    I would like to see a draft #1 of the CAWA policy displayed on the web and in the W/Climber for comment ASAP. Thanks, Toc.

    #1729 Reply

    I for one must admit to being a big fan of bolts (let the snorts of disgust begin!!) but I would rather a climb be unbolted than bolted badly! At least then I wouldn’t get on it and get hurt when something pulled. [Not to say that I think a well-placed bolt would never pull, but there’s more chance of that with a badly bolted climb . . . .]

    And I would happily support a bolting fund to pay for bolts (and even pay someone who knew what they were doing to go out and place bolts). Every time we climb something bolted we’re taking advantage of someone’s time and expertise in placing those bolts- I for one am happy to give back what I can which in the case of us unequipped and uneducated to bolt, would be $$$.

    #1730 Reply

    Some good ides above.

    CAWA needs to keep in mind that there are no absolutes and the aim is to produce *guidelines*, not rules.

    Some appropriate aspects are:

    Encourage minimalist bolting.

    Permit retrobolting of old bolted routes where appropriate.

    Support the placement of new lower-offs when there is environmental justification. Lower-offs for convenience should be avoided.

    Discourage bolting for commercial purposes on natural cliffs. eg Do not support the wealth of bolts at the top of Willyabrup.

    Do not impose no-bolting zones that have already been bolted. e.g Bluff Knoll, Peak Head etc.

    Remember – for non-climbers there is NO difference between bolting and chipping ! Places like Kalbarri and Mt Frankland need special care to avoid negative impact on other user groups.

    Keep a suitable physical margin between bolt protected climbs and trad routes.

    Acknowledge natural cliffs need to be treated differently from quarries.

    Permit the use of stainless steel carrots (bash in or glue in) as appropriate.

    #1731 Reply
    Glenn Sharrock

    Hi All:

    This is an excellent discussion. Like Ross I am long past arguing – just interested in getting on with it. I want to share some ideas with you from past practice in queensland: we hashed out these arguments in the mid-90’s and not without some people coming to blows over ethics and a lot of pulled-out bolts on the cliff….

    Diane hit the nail (or bolt) right on the head. Bolting is expensive and can also take a lot of time. For example, manual or “by hand” drilling takes around 1hr per hole (in say a strong quartzite). With manual bolting a drill bit is rotated by hand and is hit with a hammer to create a percussive force, slowly deepening the hole.

    In my opinion manual bolting is a good way to learn for the following reasons: the time required in drilling makes you think very carefully about every bolt placement, the angle at which the bolt is drilled, the rock into which you are drilling etc. Its also a good skill to have on a big cliff incase a bolt is required and you don’t have an electric drill with you!! The equipment required is very simple, and is light-weight. However, the skills for “manual drilling” have almost been lost I think. When I teach someone to bolt I always start with manual drilling. Its better for the learner, the environment, and the climbers that come afterwards.

    Now in my opinion, the CAWA should not encourage bolting – because of the safety/cultural issues with poorly conceived bolts; but not discourage it either. I really believe the CAWA would be better to “advertise” advice, instruction and mentoring rather than advertising bolting practices on the internet. My reasons are as follows: like Ross, my early bolting was quite poor, and required direct mentoring and practice to improve – not a book on bolting. In addition, there is already stacks of info on bolting on the internet anyway. With bolting, the necessary skills can only be learned on-the-job by trial and error, or preferrably from a mentor. Also, there are environmental considerations – bolting is not favored in any of these camps and the CAWA is unlikely to receive “good press” for advertising bolting practices.

    PS: The cost for placing 5 bolts, including drill bits and fixed hangers is around $90…. Expensive eh?

    #1732 Reply
    Glenn Sharrock

    I just had a wonderful idea:

    The CAWA could sponsor experienced bolters to mentor learner-bolters by replacing dodgy bolts.

    ie supervise the newbies in replacing dodgy bolts under supervision!!!

    This would be great community service.

    CAWA, I have my cash ready to donate whenever you are ready…

    PS: I have a bolt-puller if the CAWA requires it.

    #1733 Reply
    Kath Gray

    Great discussions being generated here. If a bolting fund was established, to be managed by CAWA, it could be set up just as a normal bank account. CAWA to approve and manage withdrawls for bolting/re-bolting, and the account number publicised so that anyone can simply walk into a bank to donate their money. it could probably even be done over the internet. Disadvantages as always would be the bank fees. Boxes in climing gyms, shops or at crags while a good idea, require regular checking/emptying. Any volunteers for next year’s committee???

    #1734 Reply

    Just read through the replies generated so far. Thanks guys



    Webmaster: Toc, I moved your new reply about a missing bolt to a new Message (same category).

    #1735 Reply
    Glenn Sharrock

    Hi Kath:

    I have a suggestion that is sure to promote discussion – why doesnt CAWA include an “optional” $10 bolt replacement levy in its yearly membership to start things moving?

    #1736 Reply

    Hi all,

    Several things.

    How about the interested parties go and have a meal one night, then adjourn for coffee. I will bring a notebook.

    Don’t know if you have seen the message I put in last night Glenn, but that bolt was installed with Hilti HY 150, and it concerns me greatly that it is no longer there.

    On Sunday just gone, I fell on another bolt installed that day with the same glue, and have no problems with it. Have you any thoughts on this material.

    I have used a hand drill and can vouch for the fact that time and effort are involved. They do however give a better surface for the glue to attach to.

    I noticed that any new bolts at Joshua Tree will have to be installed by hand in the future, and only with permission.



    #1737 Reply
    #189502 Reply

    Hi All. As this topic is about bolting or essentially creating a permanent rated anchor to allow sport climbing then we are discussing mitigating risk in a dangerous activity.

    As Climbing is growing rapidly in popularity assisted no doubt by the prospect of a gold medal for some.

    Many climbs in WA are under bolted and a slip while clipping would result in bottom out.

    Whoever set the climb only holds rights to a name and the grade.

    The Bolting for at least half the distance of the climb should be (bolted at intervals that allow safe catches at every clip or zero chance of bottom out.

    If its adrenalin you crave then dont use a rope but if you have decided to use a rope than mitigate that risk.

    PS: have drills, glue, bolts and time for bolting. Would be keen to meet up and chat off line regarding contributing towards this important job.

    Kind regards.

    #189731 Reply

    Hey Adrian, there is some Rebolting we are in the process of organising in the near future, if you like to come down for a meet up and potentially contribute, it would be good to get in touch for a chat.

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