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How safe are loose bolts really? What to look for


Original Post
Alex Langfield · · Colorado · Joined Dec 2011 · Points: 65

I’ve been climbing for a while now (8 years) been in some sketch situations. but I was in a situation with really sketchy loose hangars and wanted to open the topic. The hangars I was rapping on were loose and had no choice but to use them. I would tighten and they’d still spin. What should I look for, and what to do in the event. 

FrankPS · · Atascadero, CA · Joined Nov 2009 · Points: 275

How were you tightening the bolts/nuts? With your fingers, I'd imagine?

As long as the bolt is not loose in its hole, and the hanger is as close to the rock as you can get it, you're safe. Even if the hanger spins. As a general rule, you want a full nut of thread engagement.

Alex Langfield · · Colorado · Joined Dec 2011 · Points: 65

Nah, the hanger I was tightening was with a nut tool and it was spinning in the hole

FrankPS · · Atascadero, CA · Joined Nov 2009 · Points: 275
Alex Langfield wrote: Nah, the hanger I was tightening was with a nut tool and it was spinning in the hole

In that case, your options are:

  1. Use the bolt
  2. Don't use the bolt (rap or lower on one bolt only)
  3. Downclimb
This is assuming you can't back it up with gear or natural protection. Not sure what you're looking for?

Edit: There has been discussion on previous threads about some people not cleaning the last draw until you are being lowered. Just for the reason of a suspect anchor.

So if you are the one cleaning the route, as you come to the last draw, you clip it to the belayer's strand. Then, as you are lowered, you clean the draw, because you have some assurance the anchor will hold.

I've never done this or seen an anchor that bad, but apparently it makes some people feel better.
T Roper · · Chosstown · Joined Mar 2006 · Points: 865

Sketchy rap anchors make you learn to rap very carefully. Its good training. 

FrankPS · · Atascadero, CA · Joined Nov 2009 · Points: 275

One more trick you can employ, which I think is illustrated somewhere on Petzl's website:

Let's say you've just led a bolted route and the anchor bolts look dangerous. As you are lowered through the rings, attach a prusik from your harness to the belayer's strand. As you clean each draw, the prusik continues down the rope, tended by your hand. If the anchor were to completely fail, the prusik would theoretically limit how far you would fall. (this method could also be used to bail by downclimbing a bolted route)

It is unlikely I would ever be in a situation where I would need to use this, but I suppose it's worth knowing.

Mike Mooney · · Silverthorne, CO · Joined Mar 2006 · Points: 0

Could you share where this anchor is?

Alex Langfield · · Colorado · Joined Dec 2011 · Points: 65

Yeah in vedauwoo, off to the right of Walt’s wall it’s a three bolt rappel. The last bolts over the big overhang. One of the two bolts was sketch, super rusted. 

Guideline #1: Don't be a jerk.

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