ClimbTech Wave Bolt | $6.25 climbtechgear.com or wavebolt.com ★★★★
Route equippers looking for more “permanent” anchors are increasingly turning to glue-in bolts. One-piece, stainless steel glue-ins do solve lots of problems. For example, since the hanger and bolt aren’t separate pieces, one-piece glue-ins aren’t subject to galvanic corrosion, a process where dissimilar metals react in the presence of water and cause the metal to rapidly decay.
Besides being immune to galvanic corrosion, glue-in bolts, when properly placed in good rock, are an order of magnitude stronger than regular expansion bolts. (ClimbTech wouldn’t give shear and pull-out strengths for the Wave Bolts since these values are dependent on rock type and quality, but the company did say that the bolts were well above (sometimes double) the CE and UIAA specifications for climbing: 15 kN/3,372 lbs pullout, 25 kN/5,620 lbs shear.
In addition to being much stronger than expansion bolts, glue-in bolts will last longer. The glue bonds to the rock and completely seals the hole, stopping any freeze/thaw action, and these bolts can last for decades before having to be replaced. In popular areas, like the Red River Gorge, Kentucky, or Rifle, Colorado, mechanical bolts placed in the 1990s are starting to fail and equippers need to think about finding more permanent anchors so that they don’t run out of space to drill new ones in the future. In short, glue-ins are the best option for many scenarios.
These bolts aren’t without problems, however. For example, placing bolts in very steep walls or roofs can be a hassle because the bolt (and sometimes the glue) will simply fall out of the hole. Equippers have tried to solve this problem by using duct tape to hold the bolts in place as they dry, or by simply hand-holding the bolts until they set up. This method can work, but any movement while the glue is hardening can disrupt the bond, resulting in a weaker placement.
Another problem arises from the manufacturing process. As the bolts are machined—bent and hit with carbon tools— carbon deposits can be embedded in the bolt. These deposits can weather into pits and affect the strength.
Recently, ClimbTech has started manufacturing a glue-in bolt that addresses both of these problems. The Wave Bolt is made of a single piece of stainless steel rod, bent and welded at the tip. Curves (“waves”) are bent into the rod to give the glue something to harden around which increases the pull-out strength. Equippers will like the fact that the bolt is slightly oversized and won’t fall out of a half-inch hole, alleviating the need to tape or hand hold the placement.
Those seeking semi-permanent placements in wet areas will appreciate the fact that ClimbTech has added a passivation process—basically a deep cleaning—that removes any carbon-steel embedded in the rod stock after machining. ClimbTech has also made a stainless steel Wave Bolt installation tool, which fits around the end of the bolt and protects it from carbon steel that could be embedded if you use a carbon steel hammer. According to ClimbTech, the tool also helps you to drive the bolt straight into the hole every time.
I placed seven Wave Bolts in the last couple of months and really liked the results. Keep in mind, however, that placing glue-ins (even Wave Bolts) is still a pain in the ass compared to placing expansion bolts. For the Wave Bolts you’ll need to drill a hole at least six-inches deep (i.e. bottom out a regular half-inch bit), blow out the hole, scrub the hole with a special half-inch brush, blow the hole out again, crack a tube of glue (Powers AC100+GOLD or Hilti #340225), load it into an applicator gun fitted with a mixing tip, squirt a couple pumps worth of glue through the tip to get it mixed, dispose of this waste glue somehow, fill half the hole with glue, bang in the bolt with a stainless steel hammer (about $90) or use the ClimbTech tool, wipe up any excess glue that spooges out of the hole, and then wait for the glue to dry before climbing (see manufacturer’s instructions for drying times.)
I found that it took a few tries to get everything just right. For example, you can’t really see when the hole is halfway filled. Also, you need to know that the glue dries fast—really fast. If you’re hoping to place several of these bolts in row, you need to pre-drill and pre-clean all your holes, then race to place the bolts. Even then, you’ll want to pack several spare mixing tips to use when the glue inevitably hardens in the tip you’re using. Finally, don’t forget a cloth to wipe away any glue that leaks out of the hole as you hammer home the bolt. A cheap shammy cloth works great. Finally, if you’re placing these bolts in really steep rock on a hot day, the glue can still drip out of the hole. Word on the street is that Powers glue is more viscous and sticky than Hilti glue, and is half the price.
Pricewise, a Wave Bolt with glue is about the price as a stainless steel Powers five-piece bolt. If you add the expense of the $45 installation tool or stainless hammer then you’re really laying down some dough. I talked to Climb Tech and they suggested laying a piece of denim or tough cloth over the end of the bolts if you’re using a carbon steel hammer and only placing a few Wave Bolts. I did this and it worked fine, but Climb Tech really recommends the installation tool if you’re placing a lot of Wave Bolts.
In the final analysis, Wave Bolts take a lot more work and fiddling to place than expansion bolts. That said, they are the best, most permanent bolt yet made for climbing applications. If you're looking for the absolute gold standard—a bolt that lasts decades in all environments—then you can’t do better than the Wave Bolt.
* 5.38 inches long with 4.25 inches in the rock.
• Stainless steel.
• One-piece construction.
• Fits standard half-inch hole.
• Slight expansion allows these bolts to stay in steep placements.
• Super strong.
• Passivation process removes embedded carbon.
• All equipment available through ClimbTech.
• Fiddly/complicated to place.
• About the same price as a regular mechanical stainless-steel bolt.