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Bolt Placement   

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The most important aspect of any hammer used for placing bolts is weight. While lighter is generally better in climbing, a hammer of adequate weight is needed to place bolts with success. However, a hammer with too much weight is difficult to transport and harder to control in the swing. In general, a hammer weighing 20 – 35 ounces is a good balance of heavy enough but not too heavy.

Hammers should be equipped with a way of attaching it securely to a harness or over-the-shoulder sling via a long cord for the duration of the vertical activity. This keeper cord prevents dropping a potentially dangerous tool and allows for the hands-off activities as the hammer dangles below. It is best to attach the keeper cord to the butt end of the hammer, which allows the head of the hammer to be used with little interference from the cord. In addition, a holster is also nice to have as it can keep the hammer close when not in use (as opposed to dangling below foot level on the keeper cord).

The advantage of climbing specific wall hammers is that their heads often have a hole to accommodate a carabineer. These holes shine when using a “funkness” device, a length of metal cable with loops swaged in both ends, that can act to reverse-hammer pitons or remove stuck bolts. One end is clipped to the hammer and another to the gear at issue. The funkness devices create tremendous outward pressure by applying the force of a hammer swing to the gear over with a sudden stop made possible with rigid steel cable. Fiber slings can also be used, but they are not as durable or effective.


Mechanical bolts require a wrench to be tightened. The size of the wrench will vary with the bolt type and diameter. Many people prefer a box-end wrench, as this is light and not prone to slipping (and causing bashed knuckles), as an open-end wrench is, especially when working around irregular features that may not allow for a perfect perpendicular angle.
Racketing wrenches are a little heavier but can be easier to use and also allow the lever arm to rotate with more clearance from the rock. Sockets are easy to drop/loose, so many people also carry a small backup wrench.

One of the most useful wrenches to add to a bolting or rebolting kit is an adjustable wrench. This can be used with different bolt types, a major benefit when a climber may not know what old bolts they will encounter during a rebolting project.

Torque wrenches are advisable when placing bolts, as the torque must be high enough to properly set the bolt but not so high as to cause stress on the bolt that can diminish its strength. That said, very few first-ascensionists regularly carry torque wrenches in the field. At a minimum, someone new to bolting should place a few bolts with a torque wrench in order to get a feel for the force required to achieve the manufacturers torque specs. These figures can vary by bolt type and diameter.

Next Topic » Bolt Removal

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