Monday, May 17, 2010

Bolting etc....!

Several individuals have started doing route development etc around Missoula the last couple years. This post is to help guide those folks or anyone who is interested in route development to make good choices. Remember, its not just about your FA, it's also about all the other people who may happen to come upon and climb your route between now and the next 30-50 years.

Things to Do: 

  •  Do some research prior to bolting!
  • Make sure you're not on private propery, if so ask permission.
  • Make sure you're not bolting in protected areas or on closed cliffs.
  • Place the best hardware possible, if you're too broke to buy the good shit you shouldn't be putting up routes.
  •  Think before you drill, top-rope the route to figure out the best possible placement for bolts. 
  • Make sure it can't go on gear, if the gear is there use it!
  • Make sure you're not bolting  hollow rock. Bang on it to test. If it sounds hollow it's bad
  • Drill perpendicularly to the rock surface and deeper than the length of your bolt by a good half inch incase you have to bury it.
  • Limestone is porous,  use Stainless hardware.
  • Montana is an arid climate but try not to mix your metals, zinc plated bolts=zinc plated hangers, stainless bolts=stainless hangers.
  • Camouflage hardware to reduce visual impact.
  • Make sure anchor chains form less than a 90 degree angle to limit stress on bolts where applicable and make anchors as low profile as possible.
  • Make sure your rap is good.
  • Anchor bolts should be a minimum 4 in. apart! Staggered anchors work well in some instances.
  • Consider wether or not the anchor needs chain.
  • Cheap hardware store quicklinks are shwag.
  • Try to place bolts at least 4 in. from a seam.
  • Consider the best possible bolts for the application.
Things not to Do!
  • If re-bolting, place the new bolt before you bust off the old stud. Likewise place a new anchor before you remove the old one incase something goes wrong while placing the new hardware. You don't want to leave someone way out with no pro.
  • Do not bolt a squeeze job!!!, 10-15 ft is a good distance in most cases.
  • Do not use home-made hangers. That shit is not rated and can put undue stress on the biners. Mulkey and Rattler are NOT examples of what to do.
  • Chain link hangers are NOT acceptable and place undue stress on the bolts. All bolts with chain link hangers should be replaced.
  • Do not bolt blocks! I know, sometimes you just have to. Make sure that shit is bomb.
  • Do not bolt cracks, in most cases. 
  • Do not use excess chain!
  • Cheap hardware store quicklinks are shwag.
  • Regular zinc-plated hardware store bolts are trash!
  • There is no point in putting up x-rated climbs with bolts, In my opinion. 
My preferences for bolts and Hangers:
  • Hilti KB3 stainless steel wedge bolts about $2.40 per unit, 2 3/4 in. minimum. I like the 3.5 in myself. They're made in Liechtenstein. You can feel the difference.

  • Powers 5-piece expansion bolts are arguable the best choice. Zinc-plated is standard and will cost you $2.30 per unit, SS is better and will cost you almost double that or more for the same size. SS is the best though for anchors. I use the same length as the hilti bolts
  • Fixe has the best hangers and bolts. They will sometimes cut you deals on quantity.
  • Petzl also has good hangers haven't used their bolts but the Frenchies know whats up.
  • For Replacement anchors we use Powers 5-piece 3 in x 1/2 in SS. They are burley and cost around $10 a piece. Luckily we have been graciously given these bolts ARI and ASCA

Sites to check out!

I think that about covers most of the Do's and Don'ts. These guidelines are not set in stone by any means but its a good code to bolt by. Dean Towarnicki and I have been doing work for the ARI and ASCA for several years now, in addition, we have donated countless hours, mountains of hardware and lots of $$$$  to make the climbing around Missoula safer for the masses. Remember its not just about you. It's about all the others that come after you! 

Thanks, Peace, Levi


  1. Also, Clean your route well. No one likes climbing dirty routes. Clean the choss and moss, lichen etc. Within reason of course.

  2. I've found best price on Powers 5pc bolts here:

    3/8 x 3 at $1.26/bolt + reasonable shipping.


  3. dude, I love climbing dirty routes


Keep it clean here!