“As soon as it comes out, everything gets sticky.”
The Bolting Bible
The Book of Glue
Welcome to our free course as our way of contributing to the bolting community. It's nice to understand what you are clipping and trusting with your life, even if you never plan on installing or removing bolts. Also, if someone is going to spend their time and money to bolt something, I assume, they probably want to do it as good as possible. Hopefully the Bolting Bible gives you the tools you need to do a great job. Get it?
Our courses are A-Z content in blog format, glued together with an over arching blog we call a text book. A blog format is easy to read, easy to update, and easy to translate. Be sure to begin at the TEXTBOOK and at the end of each episode we'll point you to the next.
Glues come in different colors, chemicals, dry times, cure times, lifespans, capsules, tube styles, resistance to extreme temps, and costs. I have rigged highlines, or I should say “tried”, where the glue in bolts (that somebody else installed) literally were sitting in a pile of goo because it didn’t mix and therefore never hardened. What if someone rigged an anchor that was “partially” cured and therefore looked cured… until they took a whipper and they all came out? This same scenario has happened many times to climbers causing some to be hesitant to make these the new standard. So let’s all take a minute to understand the chemistry involved in making the best bond possible.
The colors are just a manufactures choice more than anything. I love the wonderful qualities of the Hilti 500 V3, but it is red, very red, and that’s not very nature friendly. However, in UV light over time, it does change to a dull brown. Other glues come in a grey and brown and everything in between. This could be a deciding factor in what glue you use.
The chemicals that make “rock hard” glue are a resin and hardener. Resin bases fall into one of the following categories: epoxy, epoxy-acrylate, vinylester, and polyester. Epoxies have 4x the bond as polyester, are stronger, are not porous like polyester and therefore last decades longer. The epoxies do take a little longer to cure but like cement, it cures harder if it dries slowly. Epoxies tend to be a bit more runny which can be a negative if the rock is overhanging. Polyesters don’t last as long and are weaker, but they cure really quickly and are cheap. We feel Polyester is too weak and has too short of a life span to be used as “permanent” anchor that holds your life and others. Vinylester (like AC-100) and epoxy-acrylate is a middle ground between strength, cure temps and times, and costs. It feels more like grout than liquid plastic so in steep rock it won’t drip out of the hole. It is super good enough for many placements but not as good as epoxy.
MIX. YOUR. GLUE. WELL! We talk about it in this book but if you are scrolling quickly we hope you stopped here for a moment because this is important. Your first squeeze doesn’t “equalize” the two chambers exactly the same in your glue cartridge, meaning you don’t have both components at first. You must squirt out the first few squeezes to make sure it is the right color. You can see that process at minute 29 in this VIDEO. Also, take the first squirt (that you plan on using) and the last squirt home in a little baggie so you can make sure it hardened, which you can assume any glue used between the two is also hardened. MIX. YOUR. GLUE. WELL!
Dry times or gel times are the amount of time you can spend installing the bolt before you risk damaging the bond. If you yank on a bolt that is half cured, you could damage that bond significantly. An epoxy that takes 6 hours to cure, lets you play with it for around 30 minutes, but a vinylester that takes 20 minutes to cure gives you about a minute or two to get that bolt in.
It’s important to know your cure times because it matters! Don’t use bolts that “look” cured. Follow the specs so you don’t die. This is very temperature based. The colder it is, the longer it takes.
So many jokes here but I’ll hold back. Many adhesives are rated for wet installation. Wet placements typically takes twice as long to cure.
Lifespans or shelf life all depend on how they were stored and can vary as short as 9 months like Liquid Roc 300 (a polyester) to 18 months, or even as long as 24 months like most epoxies. If you are installing something that could last for generations and people will depend their life on probably best to follow the manufacturers instructions. I have experienced and others reported to me that their vylnester glue (AC100) did not cure and it was because it was past expiration. However, we have used expired epoxy Hilti 500 v3 in Bolt Buster and had great results, it tends to just cure slower, but its not exactly cool to be using glue outside of manufactures specs on bolts people will be depending their lives on.
These look like big pills that you would stick up your ass, but if you want to shit again, I wouldn’t do that. They are a more convenient method as you “just” put the capsule in the bolt hole and hammer in your bolt, BUT you can do this wrong a lot easier than when using a tube style. They come in both hammer and screw styles, and it is important to read the installation section below before using them!
Tube style or cartridge style are either a single tube that fits most standard caulk guns. Check this first as a trip was ruined because the plunger didn’t fit! And many glues require a gun designed for denser materials or a very special double tube dispenser tool. Some dispensers come battery powered if you like it fancy.
Curing really depends on temperature. For example: some epoxies like Simpson XP require a minimum of 50F (10C) for 3 days which can be unrealistic in the mountains but others can cure as low as 14F (-10C) in half a day. And, did you know some glues can even lose strength AFTER they are cured if exposed to really extreme high temps? If an area gets too hot like the desert, it can drastically reduce the strength of some glues. In fact, a heat gun is (in theory) one trick to removing glue ins. However, is 75% of the strength of a quality epoxy really a concern since it is so overkill? And do you plan on taking whippers when it is 110F (43C)? Wildfires have been known to compromise the glue on entire crags. Working times are also sensitive. If installing on a hot day, keep your cartridges out of the sun! It can limit the working time or make it too runny. Too cold is a thing also, we took liquid rock 500 to the desert in winter to do tons of testing and we couldn’t get the glue out of the tubes! At 32F (0C) it was practically frozen inside, but our backup Hilti glue worked great. Know your area, and know your glue.
Epoxy cures slower, but that is one reason it is stronger… a lot stronger than polyester. Vinylester and Epoxy-acrylate is in between but epoxy always stands above them all.
Nothing sticks well to stainless or titanium. All of our BoltBuster tests where the bolt was pulled out instead of breaking, there was no glue left on the metal. That is why all the glue in bolts have twists or notches or threads where the glue will surround it so it has a physical mechanical grip on the bolt itself. Sometimes roughing up the metal helps the glue to adhere but shape is way more important. Threaded rod ends are the most secure way to get glue to stay on the bolt.
Money is often a factor for the bolter. To spend almost $60 on just glue and buy special dispensers for $163 like Hilti’s setup, could make an installer cry, but then again, this could be an anchor that could last for 100 years if done right. Or you can buy some stainless wedge bolts for around a buck each plus a hanger for about $2 and that doesn’t require much more than the drill. However, if money is a deal breaker for you… should you really be installing anchors that hundreds of people will risk their lives on? Get your dispensers used on ebay, ask your buddies that will enjoy the route or highline to help chip in $20 each, and you can have something you are proud of when you are done.
Believe it or not, bolting companies are not lining up to sponsor us; mostly because there is no money in such a niche industry. $1 per episode helps a ton and so does grabbing MERCH if something grabs your eye. Lots of designs and options.
Glue Buying Guide
Quick Tip: If you want the best Hilti 500 V3 is a high quality epoxy that isn’t temperature sensitive and naturally isn’t cheap. If you want a super good enough vinylester that is a user friendly and cost effective product, then AC100+ Gold is your answer. You want something in the middle, Liquid Roc 500 is my favorite glue.
○ Epoxy… Color: Red
○ Lots of technical info on their site
○ 2 year shelf life
○ Available only in 11.1oz dual cylinder at
○ Installable at 23F to 110F (-5C to 43C) with a lot of working time
○ Cures at 23F (-5C) in 7 days ○ Cures at 72F (22C) in 6.5 hours
○ Cures at 105F (41C) in 4 hours
○ Opinion: This is the best stuff you can buy. It cures fairly quick for being an epoxy
and can handle the extreme temperatures. It is very red and one of the more
expensive options though.
○ Epoxy… Color: Purple
○ 2 year shelf life
○ Available in 11.2oz dual cylinder at $19.25
each (and 16.9oz and 47.3oz)
○ Installable at 41F to 104F (5C to 40C)
○ Cures at 41F (5C) in 3 days
○ Cures at 68F (20C) in 24 hours
○ Cures at 104F (40C) in 4 hours
○ Opinion: This is the cheaper epoxy that Hilti sells. Its range of temps is worse, takes
much longer to cure and is about half as strong as 500 V3, but it is still a solid epoxy.
There are better epoxies in this price range.
○ Epoxy… Color: Unknown
○ 10.14oz costs $59.99
○ Installable at -10F to 110F (-23C to 43C)
○ It is 64% of its strength at 155F
○ Cures at -10F (-23C) in 3 days
○ Cures at 40F (4C) in 1.5 hours
○ Cures at 70F (21C) in 45 minutes
○ Gel time is only 5 minutes at 60F and 1 minute at 90F
○ ½” threaded rod in a ⅝” hole at 4.5” embedment at 4000psi
■ =5,780lbf tension
■ =12,445lbf sheer
○ Opinion: You won’t bleed from the price because you would only use
this in places your blood would freeze before coming out. This is an expensive option
for really cold applications. Half as strong as Hilti’s V3 500 but still plenty strong for
being the only glue in this guide that goes -10F.
○ Epoxy… Color: Grey/teal
○ 8.5oz costs $18.16
○ Normal caulk gun dispenser for 8.5oz or a Special dispenser required
for the 22oz and the 56oz versions
○ Installable at 70F to 110F (21C to 43C)
○ It is 67% of its strength at 135F
○ 2-year shelf life ○ Working time is quite a while
○ Hole can be submerged in water
○ Cures at 50F (10C) in 3 days
○ Cures at 70F (21C) in 24 hours
○ Opinion: This is good ol’ epoxy. It cures really slowly and the temperature range is
lame. It’s going to last a long time but you need to put it in days before you need it, and
in garden of eden like conditions.
○ Acrylic…. Color: Grey/teal
○ 9.4oz costs $15.92
○ Special dispenser required for the 30oz but not for the 9.4oz
○ Installable at 0F to 100F (-18C to 38C)
○ It is 76% of its strength at 150F
○ Cures at 0F (-18C) in 24 hours Cold temp install notes
○ Cures at 68F (20C) in 1 hours (gels up in 4 min!)
○ Water saturated applications require double the cure time
○ Opinion: Simpson’s version of acrylic. A lower temperature, quick
drying glue that is a step above polyester and a step down from
epoxy. Very runny in normal temps. Hitli’s Ice does colder temps but costs 4x more.
○ Vinylester… Color: Gray
○ 10oz costs $15.00 to $20.00
○ Available in 10oz single tube and 28oz dual cartridge
○ Installable at 14F to 104F (-10C to 40C)
○ It maintains 85% strength at 105F (41C)
○ 18-month shelf life
○ Use to be Powers, now it is dewalt