The news broke my heart: the most-used single piece of climbing protection, one that has reliably caught millions of falls around the world, was not being made anymore.
“Yup,” said Grear Wilson at ClimbTech down in Austin, “The Powers five-piece bolt has been discontinued.”
Wilson added that I could, however, “quit rubbing your cry-baby eyes,” because Powers was replacing the old workhorse bolt with the PowerBolt+.
What’s the “Plus” for?
The new bolts cost about a dollar more, and there are other changes, small and big.
1. The blue plastic dust cap on the end of the old design is now a large blue “retainer” bulb, and the metal expansion cone is slightly smaller. The new style plastic bulb grips the back of the hole, holding the expansion cone in place, making “spinner” bolts less likely. This improvement will save some botched bolts. The new, smaller metal cone lets the bolt seat in the drilled hole with less pounding, so you are less likely to damage the bolt or hanger during this process.
2. The Bolt+ uses harder grade 8 steel while the old used grade 5. The nuances of 8 compared to 5 and which is better for what would fill a wizard’s magic book. Just know that the grade 8 is a bit tougher and less likely to mushroom when you bang it with a hammer.
Not that it matters if you use an adjustable wrench, but the new 1/2-inch has a larger hex head. I didn’t know this, and went up on a wall only to have to come down and go home and get a different socket.
Defying logic, the new bolt is weaker than the old. The 1/2-inch PowerBolt+ holds two to 13 kN less, depending on the base material strength and whether you are talking tension (pull out) or shear (perpendicular load) strength. Still, the new 1/2-inch tests to at least 35 kN in any orientation or matrix, and has a strength that far exceeds any climbing rope or carabiner.
The new 3/8-inch PowerBolt+, however, might raise eyebrows. This one now uses a 1/4-inch internal bolt shaft, while the old PowerBolt used a larger 5/16-inch internal shaft (the 1/2-inch bolt shaft is unchanged). The smaller internal bolt diameter comes with a loss of strength. The 3/8-inch bolt now has an ultimate strength of 19.7 kN in tension, compared to 21.8 kN for the old design. The reduction in strength of 2 kN means the new bolt doesn’t meet the UIAA requirement of 20 kN, although it only misses the mark by 67 pounds.
Finally, equippers in marine or wet environments will have to look for another bolt. The Bolt+ is only made with a zinc plating. Powers does still have the old version in stainless steel for $10.69, but a better option is the Legacy Bolt, reviewed next.
This article was published in Rock and Ice issue 230 (November 2015).