Either lost in obscurity or hidden in plain sight, what could possibly be a rad new first ascent awaits.
I’ve been fortunate enough to come across a number of these gems while climbing in southeastern Utah and western Colorado over the years, all of which have taught me something new about the magical places we all flock to every season.
I’ve spent my fair share of time installing and replacing hardware in our backyards. Mistakes will always be made, and the learning will never cease. Here’s some of the knowledge that I’ve gleaned that might help the prospective first ascentionist—or just the curious climber.
Consider the following your starter route-development kit!
NOTE: This is not an instructional or ethical how-to. Consult either an expert or a sanctioned resource before installing hardware of any sort on any wall. We would recommend to start with your Local Climbing Organization (LCO), as only they are dialed in with the local beta. If that doesn’t help, start asking around and you gotta be resourceful.
Let’s just get this out of the way first: You do not need a 36-volt rotary-hammer Bosch to get the job done. At half the price, 18-volt drills come damn close to or even exceed the Blows per Minute (BPM) and the No-load Speed (RPM) of a 36-volt. Though the impact energy is significantly lower in the 18-volt, I’ve had no problem getting (20) 3/8”x2.25” holes in granite on just one 6.4 amp-hour battery. As such, a Bosch 18-Volt Rotary Hammery Drill should more than do the trick.
Maybe you’ve got your eye on a desert splitter, deep in Canyonlands or tucked away in the Creek. In that case the best two options for are the nimble Petzl ROCPEC or a Bosch 12-Volt Hammer Drill. The former—-the best for a climber on a budget—-has been a go to for years among hand-drill enthusiasts. The ROCPEC handles well, is pint-size, and can take a beating. If you don’t mind having to spend 5 to 10 minutes per hole in soft sandstone, this is the drill for you. And the best part? It’s just $74.95!
Moving on to the Bosch 12-Volt Hammer Drill. This is my favorite tool in the arsenal. In Wingate Sandstone, I can get up to seven 3/8” holes on the standard 2.0 amp-hour battery. At a hair over the weight of a full Nalgene, there’s just no excuse not to use it.
Runout Customs HD Bolt Bag is by far the strongest, smallest bolt bag you’ll find. Primarily used as a mini-mini-mini pig, I load this miniature haul bag up ahead of time with everything I will need on the wall, then yank it on up with my Petzl Micro Traxion. The HD Bolt Bag sports inner pockets for a drill bit, an epoxy nozzle and a wrench.
Another great feature is the hammer holster on the side. Personally, I back it up with a bit of cord tied through a pre-drilled hole that is tied off the rest of the bag, but that’s just me.
The Petzl Tam Tam Hammer is like the hairy, T-Rex-postured, ram-headed animal that Luke Skywalker rode through the arctic-esque abyss of Planet Hoth, only to gut and bivy in it after riding it to it’s death: this hammer is the epitome of a multi-tool. (Actually, that was a tauntaun Luke rode, but no matter…)
Light, compact, and equipped with a 13-millimeter socket to fit 8-millimeter bolt heads, this “caving hammer” has found a permanent home in my bolt kit. Though I would not suggest it for heavy cleaning of a route (i.e. busting chockstones out of corners and prying death flakes off by the dozen), I’m a big fan of keeping it light, and this fits that bill.
Other Tools: Bolts, Hangers and Hole-Preparation Tools
There are all sorts of other, little pieces of gear you’ll need to get bolting, and I’ll just touch on those here.
Bolts and hangers come in all shapes and sizes—there are wedges, glue-ins, five-piece bolts, etc. Determining what kind you need for your purposes is not an easy task nor one to be taken lightly. For more information on this, refer to trusted sources listed at the bottom of this article.
Other things you’ll need: blow tubes, brushes, and wrenches.
If you’re looking for one place to get all those things, look no further than the late Dave Pegg’s business, now run by Jeff Achey and Amber Johnstone: RapBolting.com.
Primarily a retailer of hardware, they sell all of the nuts-and-bolts essentials, from titanium bolts to various brushes to drill bits to blow tubes. RapBolting.com is a great one-stop shop for all the other little tools you’re need to start developing.
Warning! Route development and bolting is inherently dangerous. It is your responsibility to seek out instruction by a qualified professional to learn the proper techniques and good judgment to bolt safely and correctly use the equipment in this article. The above is a gear list only. Contact your local or a national climbing organization if you would like to learn hands-on, proper technique in bolting practices.
Other Good Resources to Consult To Learn More About Bolting!
Feature Image: Lea Linse bolting in the Frying Pan Valley, Colorado. Photo: Jordan Hirro.