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Cleaning brass nuts in sandstone

Original Post
George Perkins · · The Dungeon, NM · Joined Apr 2006 · Points: 3,351

Did a sandstone C2/C3 wall this last weekend, with many micronut placements in pin scars on one of the pitches.  As a follower, I wasn't able to clean a few of the bounce-tested brass nuts, hammering on a normal BD nut tool with other gear on my rack didn't work (we didn't bring a hammer), just seemed like I was messing up the cables more than anything so I left them fixed.   Any tricks or advice? (other than offering beer and karma for their return)

I don't mind that we left the gear, other than that it takes the challenge and fun away from the next group; and maybe we'd have wanted it on higher pitches. I've done many trad climbs over the years, and a few other sandstone walls, including Desert Shield, and never had an issue with cleaning gear before, and would like to avoid this in the future.  Thanks.

Rob WardenSpaceLizard · · las Vegans, the cosmic void · Joined Dec 2011 · Points: 130

A thin steel nut tool, or somthing like a straight dental pick 

Luc-514 · · Montreal, QC · Joined Nov 2006 · Points: 11,268

Carry a hex to bang on your nut tool? or carry a flat rock in your chalk bag.

CThornton · · Boise · Joined Sep 2015 · Points: 66

Using the sides of a heavier cam like a BD #3 to hammer on the end of the nut tool can be handy for stuck nuts. I've heard spitting on stuck gear in desert sandstone can make it easier to remove by dissolving the bond between sand grains, but that's kinda gross and probably contributes to the slow widening of often-climbed cracks. Brass nuts are just kind of a PITA to clean sometimes. 

Ryan Hamilton · · Orem · Joined Aug 2011 · Points: 5

I made a "clean aid" hammer for just this purpose. It is a small 6" ball peen hammer. drilled a hole through the handle and now it hangs on a carabiner on the harness of the follower. So much easier to clean bounce tested nuts. Lots of practice with brassies in sandstone on Moonline Buttress and The Titan. Also used on El Cap. Heavier than no hammer, but you don't lose those expensive brass stoppers. 

Sam Keller · · Unknown Hometown · Joined Jun 2013 · Points: 30

Knifeblade piton + hammer or hex is my go to....

tooTALLtim · · Boulder, CO · Joined Apr 2007 · Points: 1,325

After leaving a few micro nuts (they're expensive!), I did the same as Ryan H.

Kevin Mokracek · · Burbank · Joined Apr 2012 · Points: 302
Ryan Hamilton wrote:

 Lots of practice with brassies in sandstone on Moonline Buttress and The Titan. 

Where on Moonlight did you need brass nuts?  Moonlight should be all cams and NO bounce testing.

Ryan Hamilton · · Orem · Joined Aug 2011 · Points: 5
Kevin Mokracek wrote:

Where on Moonlight did you need brass nuts?  Moonlight should be all cams and NO bounce testing.

P8, often called the nutting pitch. This was my 2nd aid route ever so it's possible that now I might be able to get more cams in, but at the time it seems like mostly small nuts. I probably wasn't the smallest brass off-sets, but I recall fishing in more than a few small sizes. 

kalockwood · · SLC, UT · Joined Apr 2013 · Points: 341

+1 to using a small hammer with a nut tool. This comes in handy and makes cleaning nuts very quick and doesn't damage the rock.

Sara Paradis · · Lincoln, RI · Joined Aug 2016 · Points: 5

I had similar experience on P2 of Touchstone, after the roof I placed mostly nuts and my second couldn’t get them out. I’ve never left a nut except as a bail piece (never climbed sandstone before) so I rapped down to get them and had to beat them with a palmed grigri, most of the wires were so kinked I ended up retiring them anyway. I won’t be getting back on clean aid on sandstone without a hammer. That said I have heard a small spray bottle with plain water helps free stuck pieces in sandstone. 

rgold · · Poughkeepsie, NY · Joined Feb 2008 · Points: 526

Maybe you can find one of these (Lowe-Camp weighted nut tool) on eBay...

Combine with a screwdriver to get at the base of small gear...

Alex Fletcher · · Las Vegas · Joined May 2016 · Points: 239

What I’ve found in Zion is that the freeze thaw cycle of an overnight will loosen any kind of stoppers. 

Also, the surface of sandstone in Zion is such that nuts that have taken only body weight can sometimes crush the molecules and imbed themselves within the harder subsurface providing a lot of bite. Not much seems one can do about that. 

John Clark · · Reno, NV · Joined Mar 2016 · Points: 707

Swing your gri gri (or any ABD) at your nut tool like a flail from the biner. Works a charm since you almost always have it handy.

Mike Robinson · · Grand Junction, CO · Joined Nov 2006 · Points: 4,771
Sara Paradis wrote:

I had similar experience on P2 of Touchstone, after the roof I placed mostly nuts and my second couldn’t get them out. I’ve never left a nut except as a bail piece (never climbed sandstone before) so I rapped down to get them and had to beat them with a palmed grigri, most of the wires were so kinked I ended up retiring them anyway. I won’t be getting back on clean aid on sandstone without a hammer. That said I have heard a small spray bottle with plain water helps free stuck pieces in sandstone. 

typical, your second never gets a nut

Alex Fletcher · · Las Vegas · Joined May 2016 · Points: 239
John Clark wrote:

Swing your gri gri (or any ABD) at your nut tool like a flail from the biner. Works a charm since you almost always have it handy.

Definitely tried that for quite a while myself to no avail. Came back up the next morning and they were all less than finger loose. 

Then I brought a hammer the next time around and still nuts stayed stuck although only my partner tried. 

I have decided to try the hammer + knife blade as a chisel combo next time and we’ll see where it goes. 

Spider Savage · · Los Angeles, ID · Joined May 2007 · Points: 540

Consider them fixed now and buy some more.  Keep the economy flowing.

Guideline #1: Don't be a jerk.

Big Wall and Aid Climbing
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