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Bolting Bible - Book of Pulling Out

Replacing Climbing Wedge Bolts with Powers Bolts at Sugar Loaf in Tahoe

The Bolting Bible

The Book of Pulling Out

Pulling out isn’t as much fun than leaving it in there, but sometimes it is safer”

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.

You’re about to hit the crux and you get to a bolt that looks more sketch than a 000 cam in wet sandstone on Friday the 13th. Unfortunately, some bolts installed do not pass the test of time and need to be replaced BEFORE they kill someone. It’s not ideal to have a bolt pull out while you are in the midst of using it, but when our bolting angels go to replace bolts, they can be tricky to remove in such a way that the hole can be reused. This chapter talks about all the different ways to remove old bolts.


Ethics are important when re-bolting. Retro-bolting is when you add bolts to an existing climb. This is frowned upon by most of the climbing community but in some situations this can be done to improve the quality of the climb or make it safer, if the F.A. (first ascensionist) is consulted or if they are unavailable, community consensus is obtained. The goal of rebolting is to reuse every hole so our rocks don’t turn into swiss cheese.

If quality stainless or titanium bolts are used, then no one in our lifetime should have to change them, except for the high use lower offs where the rope grinds through the metal over time, but that is just a maintenance thing.

If bolt holes are not reusable, there are several ways to fill them so they don’t show much. You can use glue you already have if you are installing glue ins and apply dust and pebbles you have collected from the new hole you drilled. If you aren’t using super red hilti glue and properly apply the dust, this can camouflage it well.

Another option is any epoxy putty like Pool Epoxy or Damn Good Putty at about $9. May brands have many colors to match the rock type you are using. You knead the two parts together, shove it in the hole, camouflage it with tiny rock chips or sand on top or even mix some into it as you kneed it, and it is as hard as the rock in 20 minutes. Any two part epoxy putty can work. LamLock Rocket Gel comes with the two parts and then 8 color bottles to get fancy if your rock isn’t boring and grey, but this is expensive and bulky. InstaCrete is another great option and is only about $14. Clear silicone, in a squeeze bottle, can also be used if you smash a small pebble into hole after filling it with the silicone. Keep in mind the silicone and even clear epoxies, can yellow over time, so consider your rock color when doing this.

If you are using a mechanical bolt that relies on the hole being the correct size, you may have to drill the hole to the next size up. Oftentimes you are replacing a ⅜” (10mm) bolt and so you just go to ½” (12mm) for a fresh hole. Sometimes the bit can get jammed in there and so you have to baby it. If you are installing a glue in, then as long as it is the right size hole, not being perfectly cylindrical doesn’t matter. However, additional drilling might be required if you need a notch.

Chop Chop

Some bolts can’t be saved. They are so corroded the heads will snap off way before you could get the shaft out of the rock, or they get stuck as you try to extract them.

Chopping usually is the term used for removing bolts in general and doesn’t mean an ax is used, but this can mean use brute force to wack it back and forth so much it breaks. On really rusty bolts, once the hanger is removed, hammering the stud back and forth just two or three times, stress bends it where it contacts the rock and it breaks right off.

Just know you aren’t reusing that hole. See an example HERE. Bigger bolts with more substance can be cut off if you can’t use the techniques we explain below. The lightest and simplest way to do this is using a metal cutting hacksaw blade. Attach key rings to each side as handles. You can also use a battery powered angle grinder or Sawzall or get a wheel adapter that works on your drill called a Mandrel. This can be tricky to get under the hanger and/or not grind a half circle out of the rock. You can cut the bolt head off above the hanger, then remove the hanger and try to smash the bolt into the hole flush with the rock. Don’t make cut marks on the rock!

Sometimes you can just “over tighten” the bolt with a 18” breaker bar and ping! The head will snap off and will be ready to patch. SS studs break pretty easily, carbon steel has more elasticity and tends to be harder to snap. 5 piece bolts tend to spin in the hole before breaking. Either way this gives you insight on why we shouldn’t over tighten them when installing!

FANCY TIP: To leave less of an impact and to prevent our rocks from turning to swiss cheese, you can bury the old bolt under the notch of the new one if you are using a glue in as you can see in this photo above.

You need to pound the bolt slightly below the surface to do this and some might be concerned about a compromised strength but after breaking hundreds of bolts, I can’t see how that is possible. We will be sure to test this in BoltBusters.

Forking up - Button Heads