Recently (2009), there was a tragic accident in the Blue Mountains in Australia where a local climber lost his life due to a bolt failing. The bolts were placed by non-local climbers who used small expansion bolts which are not appropriate for the rock (soft sandstone). To read more about this check out Simon Carter's blog.
This video demonstrates how bad the bolts were...
The take home message here is that certain bolts work in certain circumstances. Understand that rock is highly variable (very soft through to very hard) and the right hardware and technique is required to get an acceptable result. The recent bolt failure and its shocking consequence was the result of the route equipper choosing perhaps the worse possible bolt for the job. This bolt would have been 100% fine in hard granite, but is death in soft rock.
Local knowledge is key, as is arming yourself with all that we know about bolting. Now is a good time for climbers to learn more about the bolts they often put blind faith into. Check out these resources...
- 2009 - Soft Rock Bolting Guide compiled by Mike Law. All the latest research (not only for soft rock). (PDF)
- 2010 - Anchor Testing in Soft Sandstone by Mike Law
- Safer Cliffs Australia - Bolt Types
- Jim Titt's Bolt Products website which contains heaps of good info
- Steve Hawkshaw's Honours Thesis: Strength and reliability of chemically bonded rock climbing anchors in sandstone (PDF)
|The good, the bad and the downright ugly|
|READ THIS: This is for glue-in bolts. The treatment of the shaft of the bolt is|
of critical importance to the bolt's strength. If you can't get a deep thread, you
must grind and notch your glue-in bolts.
If you've got any questions, post them up here.