“”As soon as it comes out, everything gets sticky.”
Chapter 1 - Glues
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 never mixed right 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. 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 bolts but not as good as epoxy.
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. It is OK if the hole is wet when you install your glue, but 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. We have used expired glue 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!) or a double tube that requires a very special dispenser tool. Some 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? 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.
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.
Chapter 2 - 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.
Epoxy… Color: Red
2 year shelf life
Available only in 11.1oz dual cylinder at $50.00ish each
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 $66.99
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
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
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. 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
Cures at 14F (-10C) in 24 hours
Cures at 68F (20C) in 45 min
Cures at 104F (40C) in 15 min
Opinion: This seems to be the go-to glue for climbers probably because it cures in 15 minutes, anti-drip friendly and is a good price. Better move fast because your working time is only a minute or two. You may not die using this but the epoxy is going to give better, long term results. It can be very sensitive to shelf life and storage temps. However, this wins the “bang for your buck” award. This is cold friendly and people bolt when it is too cold to climb.
Download tech sheet from product page
18 month shelf life
10oz costs $32 ish and also comes in 28oz
Cures at 14F (-10C) in 15 hours
Cures at 59F (15C) in 1 hour
Cures at 86F (30C) in 20 minutes
½” rod in 9/16” hole at 4.5” embedment at 4000psi concrete has a WLL of 5,439lbf Tension 4,674lbf Shear
Opinion: This is the best performing glue for really cold conditions. A bit pricey but is strong and drys fast. If I was installing glue ins in 14F, I would just use Powers AC100+ Gold. If you need glue for even colder, Hilti Ice is your glue.
Amine base epoxy
Download tech sheet from product page
24 month shelf life
Long term loading
8.5oz costs $19.86
Cures at 80F (26C) in 6 hours
Cures at 60F (15C) in 24 hours
Don’t use below 40F (4C) - like seriously. I was fucked in moab when doing our sandstone tests. It doesn’t come out of the nozzle.
⅜” rod in a ½” hole at 4.5” embedment at 4000psi concrete
Opinion: A comparable epoxy to Hilti 500 V3 when it is nice outside. This won’t cure below 40F but it is less than half the price. It is also 20% cheaper than Set XP and drys twice as fast as it. It also fits a standard single cartridge dispenser. SUCKS WHEN IT IS COLD OUT!!!!