Sport Climbing — The novice climber’s fear is usually that of falling. Bolts provide the beginning climber with a sense of security. If placed properly, the bolt will hold several tons of force. That’s much, much more than a falling climber could ever generate. However, it is up to the sport climber to inspect that each bolt was properly placed before trusting it to hold a fall. Assume nothing.
Check it out
There are many ways to test a bolt placement. You can tap around the bolt to see if it sounds tight or hollow. Or try pulling on it. But never put your finger inside the hole of the hanger. Instead, grasp the bolt with two fingers and give it a jiggle. This will let you know if the hanger is sitting flush with the rock. If it doesn’t feel right, don’t trust it.
Believe it or not
The longer you climb the more you’ll find interesting bolt placements. One of the most unnerving is the dreaded “swinger” bolt. This happens when the bolt was not drilled deep enough in the rock before the bolt was tightened down. When you grab a swinger with two fingers and wiggle it, the hanger will spin around like a Ferris wheel. The bolt may hold a fall, but you just never know.
The best thing?
Find a way to protect around it. Or you can ‘clip it and skip it,’ where you explain to yourself that although you’re protected by the bolt, you pretend like you aren’t. Better yet, put a Yates Screamer on the bolt. This will cut down on the force applied to that substandard bolt in the event of a fall.
Another bolt occasionally found is the quarter inch button head bolt. This is an old type of bolt found on some older routes. A hole is drilled into the rock, and a ¼ inch wide bolt is inserted through a hanger and then hammered into the hole. You will recognize this bolt because there isn’t a head to tighten down, just a deadly round knob. This type of ancient bolt will probably not hold a substantial fall and should not be trusted.
Bolts provide the beginning climber with a safe way of protecting a fall on a cliff face. Proper safety instruction is critical to learn before casting off on a rock climb. Be safe and not sorry by learning how to clip bolts, thread the chains and how to back yourself up with simple knots at the belay stations. Rock climbing can be a potentially dangerous yet very rewarding sport. Be safe and learn the “ropes” before you go.
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