Sometimes bolts get in the way of random swinging hammers. We explored two ways of heating glue in bolts to remove them so you can reuse the hole. I'm not convinced this is a good idea. What do you think?
Don't try this if it is fire season. Don't try this without bringing a way to cut the bolt when you are done in case it doesn't work, because it has been compromised.
Cutting and replacing the bolt right next to the old bolt is one solution as you can see in this VIDEO
Go see The Bolting Bible to learn all about bolting
After snapping stuff all day, we decided to finally test a theory we had about removing bolts - with heat. The idea is that the glue gets soft. Then you can easily pry bar the bolt out of the warm, sticky (but not stuck) glue. If only it would be that easy.
Instead of installing a test bolt into the concrete, we used a head-size rock. This way, we could peek behind the scenes and see if the back of the bolt was heating up. We started with the fun option - a blow torch. Measuring with an infrared thermometer that so helpfully says HOT if it’s too hot, read 120°F on the back even though the front was reading 600°F. Keep in mind, it was only 60°F outside, or in other words, big, puffy jacket (?) weather for me.
After an eternity, (10 minutes) Steve could finally pop that bolt out of the rock with a pry bar.But, ultimately we were only successful in finding out how bad of an idea that is. The rock was not only scorched but spalled, too. This left most of the audience concerned for the integrity of the hole if anyone were to reuse it. We also don’t think it’s a great idea to have an open flame anywhere we climb since the world seems to be burning down all summer long.
So what if we tried induction? I found a tool called Bolt Buster” which I had to have regardless of what it did. Provided you have an ample source of electricity near your crag, could this heat up the bolt enough to soften the glue? The crux is that stainless steel, and titanium don’t really conduct like zinc-plated bolts do. It heated up, at least on the surface, but it didn’t get to the back of the bolt the same, and we couldn’t pry it out of the rock. It’s less likely to start a forest fire and doesn’t spall the rock and leave burn marks everywhere, but it isn’t good enough for me to lug around a generator.
So we are left with our original replacement method. To cut at the base and drill a hole right next to it, burying the old bolt under the P of the new bolt. You can see that method tested in this VIDEO.
Behind The Scenes
Learning to install bolts, I heard that in scorching environments like the desert, the rock could get so hot that the glue would get soft, and your bolt would magically pull out, and you would die. Now, I don't plan on highlining on a bolt when it's 120F degrees, or doing anything for that matter. But, it made me think that if I could heat the bolt up, I could pop it right out of the hole and replace it. I saw the bolt buster tool we used in this video (naturally, I loved the name), and I thought it would be better to use induction than an open flame. That, of course, requires a generator and extension cords, but, it was worth exploring. The bolt buster could be a great option... if we used a more conductive metal. Stainless and titanium don't conduct well. I spent about a year exploring these ideas. I even did a "dry run" with Bobby with the tool months before we filmed this. It was worth getting everyone's opinion, so we did a simple no-frills video bringing everyone up to speed on our journey.
AFTER we made this video, Shawn Snyder bashed some more bolts in the bay area in California. So, this, unfortunately, became more relevant than we wanted. This was to address smashed bolts in Yosemite that are still not repaired from last year's drama.
After Posting Thoughts
The comments were engaging and helpful. I think the consensus is the rock would be too damaged even if we found a way that worked. A heat shield only stops the top from getting fried, but the rock has to heat up to hundreds of degrees which could spall it and make it unstable. Also, working with an open flame or a generator is impractical for many situations. Also, fires... yea... they are a problem.
So! Our next test will be the almighty pry bar. When we pulled bolts sideways in thisVIDEO it just lays it over and then snaps the head off. I would want it to twist the entire bolt and disengage it from the glue. That would be the easiest bolt removal process ever. Then redrill the hole clean from the glue left in the hole, and reuse the same hole, not making our cliffs swiss cheese. But I have a feeling that nothing is ever that easy. Subscribe and stay tuned!