Climbtech Removable Bolts
Climbtech is a great company that makes some really cool and unique bolts. We tested their 1/2” Removable Bolt (RB). Climbtech says their RB's are perfect for new route setting, industrial rope access work, and search and rescue. That all makes sense to us, but Climbtech also says the RB is ideal for alpine climbing, belay anchors, top-roping, and haul lines. This is where we are dubious, so we evaluated the RB and broke a few to see what the hype was about.
A few years ago Climbtech released a commercial about their RB's. The video is clearly intended for the climbing community. It kind of makes it sound like RB's should be a staple on every climber's rack. In the beginning of the video the editor of Rock & Ice magazine states the RB is the most useful tool he has ever come across for new-routing. Their cofounder Karl, inventor of the RB, takes a huge whipper on an RB. If you listen carefully though, he whips on a 3/4” RB. Kuddos to him for such a big fall but we have some issues with this demonstration.
A 3/4" hole is absolutely massive. It is extremely unlikely that any climber will ever encounter a hole that big.
Climbtech states that their 1/2" version, a size hole climbers will actually encounter, is only intended for static weight and not to catch falls. The 3/4" RB's are rated for 22kn and are intended to catch falls.
Karl's feet are at the bolt, but he falls around 50 feet. That means there was an unreasonable amount of slack in the rope which absorbed a lot of the force.
We estimate that the bolt saw no more than 4kn.
Any belayer that lets a fall of that length happen so close to the protection should probably consider partaking in a different sport.
The largest bolt hole we've ever drilled was 5/8” or 16mm. It was tough to drill a hole that big, even in sandstone! It just doesn’t make sense to drill a 3/4”, basically ever. It would require a ton of battery and forearm power just to create a lot of extra and unnecessary impact on the rock. Climbtech even makes a 1” version, which is a heinously large hole!
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The 1/2" RB has an MBS of 11kn (2500 lbf). They both broke at the cable.
In Tension - 14.12kN
In Shear - 13.48kN
The shear test actually made the rock fail at 6.58kN and then we drilled a new hole and it still got over MBS despite the instructions saying pulling that cable over the edge was bad for it. It shines better in tension because it doesn't kink the cable but maybe that's more forrepetitivee use.
The 1/2" RB is not meant for whippers and is a tool for new route development. In that context there is a cheaper removable alternative - Titen HD Concrete Screws which cost about $1 each. We used them a ton in our Bolt Buster tests to hold down our hydraulics and catcher systems. They were strong and economical. You can technically install Concrete Screws by hand but we used an impact driver. Note that for permanent use bolts should be stainless steel. To find out how Titen HD Concrete screws perform as temporary and permanent anchors please subscribe to our Youtube Channel, we will have a specific episode about this later this year. Also, check out our Book of Numbers in The Bolting Bible to discover in 15 minutes what took us 5 years to learn.
We love Climbtech and they make some great gear. We are just picking on this one product. The RB is a niche product. It seems to work well and we found it to be much stronger than Climbtech stated. That said, it's just not something that most climbers will find useful or necessary.
Thank you Kevin Kent for giving us these two bolts to test and to my patrons who make it possible for me to work 30 hours a day 8 days a week on this channel.
The comments in the video have been very helpful. A summary of two great use cases are when you need to just have a safety backup around a tall concrete building and it would take thousands of bolts + hangers, OR, just drill a 1000 holes and keeping popping these in and out as you work. The other use case is if you want to reuse a hole dozens or hundreds of times but don't want to leave the bolt. Titen concrete screws are not good for that scenario. Please note these both technically require 3/4" RBs as 1/2" is not designed to take fall on them.
Jon Lindquist messaged me and this is what he said in defense of the RBs
" Just saw your video on the RB. Kinda cool to see tested numbers on them after using mine since like 2010-11 for various slacklines, and climbing shenanigans. So one of the most unique ways I’ve used them was to climb and re-equip a bolt-stripped climbing route. The route originally used 1/2” powers 5-piece bolts. The person who is still unknown stripped all but the top anchors, making the climb unclimbable essentially. After scratching my head and thinking about the best and least intrusive way to assess the possibility of fixing the route. I remembered I had those removable bolts. Now interesting fact when you remove the power la bolts the wedge and one of the sleeves and sometimes the plastic spacer is left behind. And the cone of the RB actually fits perfectly into that sleeve. Making it relatively easy to place the RB into that same hole and ground up aid/ climb up to a high point and fix the bolts below you. I only own 6 of these RB bolts, so I had to kinda go up and down a bunch to leapfrog my protection up with me. But it was a very unique solution to that problem without having to drill and glue full more of the rock. And help re-establish a route that had no access to get to the top anchors left by the person who stripped the route. Also as I mentioned before I have used these bolts in various slackline anchor solutions. Where we were permitted to drill but not very deep into the concrete. To say the least we had some fun on a trick line with those as the anchors paired with the standard a-frame setup. I also did some mild testing using them as highline anchors, which I’d whip on but damn it was kinda questionable. After I just filled the holes with standard bolts. One thing I’d always recommend Is to never allow to cone to reach the back of the drilled hole, as this will not allow the removing tap hammer function to work any more. Just my 2 cents sorry for the length of the wind.
Check out our video on another removable bolt - the Petzl Coeur Pulse