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Drilled/manufactured non-bolted protection


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Ian F · · Pennsylvania · Joined Mar 2017 · Points: 1,861

I was sitting in a meeting and my mind was wandering and I had a thought about protection and new route development. I wasnt sure where best to ask but I figured you guys were the ones with the drills so it's a good place to start.

Has there ever been a case of drilled threads and/or manufactured gear placements being used on a route? My thought is that this would have some utility in areas that are not necessarily closed to climbing but bolts would attract too much attention. Just a thought I had and I was curious if anyone else had thought of this before.

a d · · Los Angeles, CA · Joined Mar 2010 · Points: 5

Never heard of drilled threads, but these are interesting:  backcountrygear.com/1-2-in-…

Dylan Pike · · Sandy, UT · Joined Sep 2013 · Points: 65

I've heard of people hand drilling threads in soft desert sandstone. Obviously, that would be a pain, and a mechanical bolt would be better from a climber's perspective.

Also, there are routes in certain areas which were developed with the intention of climbers protecting the route with removable bolts. Ibex/Masada come to mind.

Go Back to Super Topo · · Back of my truck · Joined Dec 2010 · Points: 260
Ian F wrote: I was sitting in a meeting and my mind was wandering and I had a thought about protection and new route development. I wasnt sure where best to ask but I figured you guys were the ones with the drills so it's a good place to start.

Has there ever been a case of drilled threads and/or manufactured gear placements being used on a route? My thought is that this would have some utility in areas that are not necessarily closed to climbing but bolts would attract too much attention. Just a thought I had and I was curious if anyone else had thought of this before.

I would think, generally speaking, drilling threads and/or gear placements would bring more attention to an area than a single bolt (especially if the bolt is colored to match the rock) would, therefore a reason why it is not a common thing...Also does not seem like a placement that would last long or hold up well. I'm sure there is an example of this, but I can't think of any off the top of my head. 

Andrew Child · · Corvallis, Or · Joined Sep 2015 · Points: 711

I'm not an expert so this might be wrong, but here's what I learned in Andy Kirkpatrick's book:
There's an aid technique called bat holeing where you drill a very shallow hole and then hang off of it with a narrow hook. Its kind of bad form because the holes are hard to inspect and they can degrade over time so the FA party gets full confidence in their pro but repeat ascenders don't.

Jim Titt · · Germany · Joined Nov 2009 · Points: 490

There are drilled threads as trad belays/rap points on the sea cliffs in the UK where I come from.
A guy named Mark Edwards in the UK tried to promote his "eco drilling" idea which was creating placements for a Rock 4 or similar on areas where bolts were not allowed and then took the idea to Spain. It was a shit idea realisticaĺly.

kenr · · Unknown Hometown · Joined Oct 2010 · Points: 15,932
Ian F wrote: My thought is that this would have some utility in areas that are not necessarily closed to climbing but bolts would attract too much attention.

I think rather more often it's for multi-pitch routes with inconvienient top access, or long/difficult approach.

There's a reason that lots more routes at most 35 meters high with hiking access to their top get bolted than longer multi-pitch routes.
The sheer physical labor of getting the equipment up into the middle of a muiti-pitch cliff (after first bringing it in from the trailhead) becomes daunting to well-intentioned developers who happen to lack "animal" hauling capacity (or enthusiastic partners with such capacity). Enthusiasm might get you thru your first project, but the memories deter you from a second, push you toward looking harder for accessible 30-meter routes.

Especially if not certain how popular a new multi-pitch route will become long-term.

The first obvious method of reducing the hauling burden is simply to leave the intermediate protection more run-out. And install two-bolt anchors with no chains or rings.
. . . I think one of the advantages of vertically-offset anchor bolts (unlike "normal American" horizontal) is that it's easier to manage a progression from non-connected (so each climbing party must bring their own connecting sling) to connected-with-cord (so a climbing party only needs to sacrifice their own sling if the cord is getting worn out), and finally to chain (with ring?).

The next level of haul-weight-saving is to drill only the _holes_ for intermediate protection, so then each climbing party must bring their own (removable) hardware to place temporarily into (or through) the holes (e.g. like NOTs / ClimbTech removables). One of the less-expensive models requires at least 1/2 inch hole (so in hard rock you're still likely going to be hauling a drill with batteries).
. . . I recall the new West Utah Desert guidebook describes several routes around Ibex designed for removable protection.

Then each party needs to decide how much time to waste "leapfrogging" their removable protection versus carrying more pieces.

. . . (If the route becomes popular, a developer can later install permanent bolts into those holes -- likely after some re-drilling).

Substantial problem for future climbing parties carrying removable protection for using drilled holes (which lack cord or stud) in interesing well-featured rock is for the Leader to find each hole.

Ken
the schmuck · · Albuquerque, NM · Joined Feb 2012 · Points: 115

". . . I recall the new West Utah Desert guidebook describes several routes around Ibex designed for removable protection."

This actually really intrigues me. How common are "new wave" RB routes?  How often are they done? How do the holes hold up over time? Are the holes hard to locate as you climb up to them?  

If practical, this would be a really cool way to develop new routes as it would be cheaper, and one would not need to be concerned with hardware deterioration/replacement. One may need to drill a new hole or enhance the old one every few years or so.

NegativeK · · Nevada · Joined Jul 2016 · Points: 40

I believe it was the Hubers that drilled a hole in a flake on an El Cap free route.

It still seems weird to not fill the hole with a bolt; you've already left your trace.

Case · · Unknown Hometown · Joined Nov 2014 · Points: 0

i have drilled threads in Thailand at the thin part (back) of a tufa due to the cost of titanium bolts and rusting of other bolts. Threads were bomber, used static line.

drewp · · Unknown Hometown · Joined Jul 2012 · Points: 825
the schmuck wrote: ". . . I recall the new West Utah Desert guidebook describes several routes around Ibex designed for removable protection."

This actually really intrigues me. How common are "new wave" RB routes?  How often are they done? How do the holes hold up over time? Are the holes hard to locate as you climb up to them?  

If practical, this would be a really cool way to develop new routes as it would be cheaper, and one would not need to be concerned with hardware deterioration/replacement. One may need to drill a new hole or enhance the old one every few years or so.

The problem is you need to tap the RB's with a punch or something similar (3/8 drill bit..) and a hammer to get them out once they've been loaded. A bit hard to do with out ruining the Tronsight.

Gunkswest · · CA · Joined Jan 2010 · Points: 8,526

Similar to what Case wrote about above, Wadi Rum in Jordan is loaded with drilled threads. These are typically drilled through a fin of rock (like a limestone tufa). If the fin is thick enough, these are bomber.

Also in Wadi Rum, some people have drilled actual V-threads and run static rope through them. The V-threads we ran into had really sun bleached and tattered rope that could only be replaced on rappel with a bunch of fiddling.

In the US, I can think of two places in the 1980s where 1/4" holes were drilled in seams to make RP placements - a 5.12a route on the Lens at Lumpy Ridge in CO and on Clairvoyance at Lost City at the Gunks in NY. Like the bat hook holes mentioned by Andrew C, the edges of the RP holes eventually eroded, making the placements worse than they were originally.

The sawing a crack into the rock idea that Climber Pat mentions below was done at a quarry in PA in the 1980s. I don't think the folks that initially made the crack would do it again if they had a do-over.

dnoB ekiM · · Unknown Hometown · Joined Aug 2009 · Points: 3,131

If one is tying this, you will find these far better than RB's.  https://www.petzl.com/US/en/Sport/Anchors/COEUR-PULSE 

These are truly bomber and really easy to install and remove (even after being fallen on).  They also make a 8mm version that is pretty great for certain purposes (but not sold in the US).  I have used the 8mm extensively, and I love them.
Hole cleanliness and stability will be a big long term issue.  As well as seeing the holes.

Forthright · · Unknown Hometown · Joined Oct 2011 · Points: 130

There are a few routes up in the far NORTH west parts of California that are made for those Climbtech RB's, the majority of them are right on the beach and came before ti bolts were a bigger thing. 

the schmuck · · Albuquerque, NM · Joined Feb 2012 · Points: 115
NorCalNomad wrote: There are a few routes up in the far NORTH west parts of California that are made for those Climbtech RB's, the majority of them are right on the beach and came before ti bolts were a bigger thing. 

What is your experience with these? How do they climb? How difficult are the holes to locate on lead? How do the holes hold up? What type of rock?

climber pat · · Las Cruces NM · Joined Feb 2006 · Points: 241

I have thought about taking a circular saw with a diamond blade and sawing a groove into the rock that you could then use a cam in, probably a ball nut.  Never pursued it or even know if a battery powered circular saw could cut a groove in the rock.  I just thought it would be nice to avoid leaving bolts all over the place.

J A · · Unknown Hometown · Joined Jun 2006 · Points: 45

We have been experimenting with drilled protection pockets.  Three ½ inch holes next to each other horizontally followed by removing the peaks between the holes makes a good slot for a .3 X4.  Other small units also fit.  We are putting them in on sections of routes that are easier than the crux sections with regular bolts through the crux sections.  (Routes with 15-20 feet of 5.11 or 5.12 and 40 or 50 feet of 5.9 or 5.8.)    They mean fewer bolts to maintain, camouflage and replace in the future.  They mean less visual impact, especially when the easier section is the bottom of the route.  The drilled protection pockets are invisible to non-climbers and the slots are less likely to draw objections than bolts.  While it is true that the pockets can be used for climbing – so can a bolt – and they are not in the hard sections where “cheating” is an issue.  Also, although a hard fall may crimp the cam stem, they are on sections where you might want some protection, but falls are unlikely.  The cams are easier to work with than the removable bolts.  The cams can handle imperfections in the pocket from the initial drilling or from wear over time.  I don't think this is true of holes for rbs or the Pulse.  There are places where land managers have banned “sport” climbing which they define as all bolted or bolt intensive routes.  These routes are a way around those prohibitions.    Whether or not climbers have the flexibility to accept such changes to standard practices or will just add bolts so that they don't have to carry a few cams in addition to their draws is another question.
      I would prefer single hole removable protection like the Pulse, but I am not sure about how well they work over time in soft rock or how easy they are to place and remove in comparison to a cam.  I think a better solution might be a shaft with a few tiny cams that fits a larger hole.  
      Additionally, although it isn't something people talk about much, there are already routes that have had some modification of existing seams or cracks or pockets to allow for a few solid gear placements.  Have you ever climbed a route that looked like it might be difficult to protect but ended up being surprised to find a good placement every ten feet or so?  

Forthright · · Unknown Hometown · Joined Oct 2011 · Points: 130
the schmuck wrote:

What is your experience with these? How do they climb? How difficult are the holes to locate on lead? How do the holes hold up? What type of rock?

I haven't actually climbed on the routes. But in this day and age of easily bought ti bolts it doesn't seem like a good solution. You're already going to that trouble of drilling holes, and buying the RB's ($70 each). So if you don't bolt them all you've done is put scars into the rock, and made a potential profit center for Climbtech (nothing against them, just why?). Or you could spend less money and just equip it with Ti glue in since you've already done the damage and spent the time drilling and now you've created something that has WAY more value to the climbing community.  

If you're using them because of an access issue, SHOULD you really be putting up a route there?

The RB's alone are a good tool for doing bolting work, but making an RB specific route is dumb imo. 

The Morse-Bradys · · Lander, WY · Joined Aug 2012 · Points: 3,508

Being that it hasn’t been covered yet those ClimbTech removable bolts are rather fickle.  If you place them too deep or they bottom out they are stuck.  I find that drilling the hole with a considerable downward angle is the only way to keep the cable from kinking.  I have always needed to use a hammer with a pointy object to remove them after I have weighted them.  Perhaps I am not doing it right but they are quite different in usability than a standard climbing cam.

t.farrell · · New York, NY · Joined Aug 2016 · Points: 60

What about planting trees/bushes/jungle vines on route? I think this could work

Francis Haden · · Unknown Hometown · Joined Dec 2016 · Points: 9
dnoB ekiM wrote: If one is tying this, you will find these far better than RB's.  https://www.petzl.com/US/en/Sport/Anchors/COEUR-PULSE 

These are truly bomber and really easy to install and remove (even after being fallen on).  They also make a 8mm version that is pretty great for certain purposes (but not sold in the US).  I have used the 8mm extensively, and I love them.
Hole cleanliness and stability will be a big long term issue.  As well as seeing the holes.

Great for static rigging (new routing especially) but Petzl specifically state they are for static rigging only...

An anchor should never be used alone; follow the principle of redundancy: use two anchors in a complementary manner.
Always stay below the anchor.
Avoid prolonged use in a marine or corrosive environment.
Maximum load before deformation: the anchor undergoes irreversible deformation above loads of 6 kN (COEUR PULSE 12 mm) or 3 kN (PULSE 8 mm).

Guideline #1: Don't be a jerk.

Fixed Hardware: Bolts & Anchors
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