Bolting Ethics - When and Where Should We Bolt
“Thou shall not penetrate virgin rock without feeling guilty.”
“Thou shall not penetrate virgin rock without feeling guilty.” The Bolting Bible The Book of Bolting Ethics 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. Since this is called the Bolting Bible, let's start with the ethics of bolting. Should we bolt just anything we want? Is installing just whatever bolts we have super good enough? Bolting for climbing and highlining can create access issues in areas that we share with other people. So let’s dive into if and how we should be placing bolts to make our vertical sports bomber for everyone. Ethics In the beginning, bolt ethics have been in heaven and on earth. No, seriously though, ethics just take into account how it affects everyone, not just rope monkeys. Laws regarding bolting do not always address the current situation, but that doesn’t mean it’s ok to do whatever we want. A bolt is a permanent human object out in beautiful nature. Think twice, or 3x before placing a bolt. Here are some examples of areas that it that may be legal(ish) to bolt but highly frowned upon: National Parks in USA All natural climbing crags Wilderness areas Single use highlines that won’t be rigged often or climbs that won’t be repeated High traffic pedestrian areas (ie lookouts or next to popular trails) Rules Learn the rules for an area before bolting! Rules are only created because of problems in the past. Bolting is such a permanent change to the rock that we need to respect the rules. Power drills cannot be used in National Parks, everything must be hand drilled, and this is to prevent over bolting (and it does because hand drilling sucks!). Wilderness areas in Joshua Tree and Arches National Parks are the specific areas drills are not allowed, but need a permit. Also, different countries have different rules. Know an area well before putting in a metal version of graffiti. Many bolters get the same dopamine response as graffiti artists after seeing something in public that they created. The feeling will be there, that is fine, just make sure you are not installing bolts just for that feeling and that it is helpful and legal and ethical. The Area If you choose to bolt and it is ethically and legally ok to do so, then thank you for taking your time and money to do it. However, please choose the spot carefully!!! Does this location deserve a permanent anchor? Will this line or climb be repeated and is it a benefit to the community? If bolts are required, Can you use removables instead (more applicable to highlining)? Is there a good spot for bolts to be placed? What is the quality of rock like? Can you strategically place bolts to minimize no fall zones? Can you strategically place bolts so they can’t be seen by those not using them? Can there be a hybrid of natural anchor/bolts? Maybe only one side of a highline needs bolts and the other doesn’t. Maybe part of the climbing route can be climbed with trad gear. If the highline anchor is directly above a climbing route, can the bolts be placed elsewhere to avoid conflict and confusion. Are there enough other routes and lines already at this location? Will this area benefit from another line or are you just doing it for your ego? HowNOT2 SWAG 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. Culture Within climbing, highlining and caving, there is a community and culture for each one. Then specific areas have their own culture. Yosemite bolting culture (beyond rules and ethics) is very different from Moab culture. Yosemite has a lot of history and a lot of people sharing that space so it creates a “who are you to be bolting” environment where as Moab is cowboy central. Need another bolt for something? No problem! It’s not just about adding bolts, but replacing them. If the original installers of a bolt is still around, oftentimes they can get offended if you upgrade the bolts, even if they are corroding. Here is a culture clash case study when Lost Arrow Spire in Yosemite got rebolted. Get lost in the comments if you dare. The ownership and pride/ego that goes into bolting often serves as effective self regulation. For many areas (NOT ALL!), you don’t need a degree, license, permit, blue print, or anything to go change a beautiful area forever with a bolt that people you don’t know are going to trust their lives to... until… it gets replaced or someone dies. Its amazing things are as good and self regulated as they are and it has to do with the cultures that get built around it. Sometimes if a culture is too aggressive instead of educating, it can lead some to pirate bolt, or do whatever they want however they want with disregard to the “rules”. Today, many popular areas have actual bolting clubs or organizations, or just clear legal laws in place to better organize and structure what goes where. Be sure to understand your culture, of your area, for your sport before you go pounding holes in a rock. Let's keep this world looking as nice as possible, we don’t exactly have a Plan B. YOU YOU are the #1 risk of any bolt failing. It is a huge responsibility to install a bolt that other people will literally depend their lives on. It is practically impossible to inspect a bolt after it is installed so we just “hope” it was installed correctly when we show up to climb or rig a highline. Realize what kind of role you are playing and respect the responsibility, educate yourself and please please practice. This VIDEO shows bolts being pulled out with body weight after someone died using them in the area! Practice at home in concrete. If you practice on a rock, be sure it is in an area no one will ever see. Don’t make a major crag or highlining area your testing grounds. If your first thought was, “I don’t want an ugly hole at my house,” then you are well on your way to really understanding the issue some people have about bolts being in our beautiful shared public lands. Spend the money on a tube of glue to understand how it mixes and to make sure you have the right caulk gun. Install a glue in at home to understand how that shit gets everywhere. Pull it out before it cures and clean off the bolt with goof-off if you don’t want a bolt in your yard for the next 50 years. Spend the time hand drilling one bolt in your backyard to understand what is involved and how to make sure the hole stays straight. Install a mechanical bolt with a torque wrench at home and with a normal wrench so you know how tight to make it in the field if hiking in a torque wrench is not practical. Practice. Practice. Practice. Again... PRACTICE PRACTICE PRACTICE. So many people share with me about their bolting epics, and I asked if they practiced first…. NOPE! 95% of your problems you will encounter can be solved at home if you practice A-Z. Rigging Naturally Hey highliners! If possible, please rig naturally. This means rigging a highline without any use of bolts and “naturally” is a “leave-no-trace” method of highlining. Generally trad gear like cams, tri-cams, nuts, etc is used or trees and boulders are wrapped with ropes and spansets. I find that rigging a line “naturally” brings more satisfaction as it requires more creativity. Though it can be screwed up easier than just building an anchor on bolts, it generally should be built with enough redundancy that it is just as safe if done right. 10% Supports HowNOT2 Climbing, Caving and Canyon Gear & Over 30 Bolting Products HowNOT2 Contribute If you see a typo, or see a resource online we haven't linked to, or have something to share, we'd love to add it. If you are contributing a video, image, or words, please be kind by delivering something ready to add and tell us where you think it best fits. firstname.lastname@example.org What's Next? This course is free but not free to make. If it really helped you, please consider SUPPORTING US.