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Bolted lower-offs on select trad routes?? (Read 6964 times)

Teaboy

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Interesting that you say this. A partner who works in rope access was shocked to see the fixed static adorning Free n' Easy (a south facing route that gets lots and lots of sun; the static had been in place for 2+ years). This was removed a week or two ago after another rope access worker badgered his friend to take it down. Apparently if static is left out on site it isn't very long at all before it is replaced. I am told there is no reliable way to visually inspect white static like this for UV damage, it needs to be pull tested and stuff that appears to be OK sometimes snaps alarmingly easily.

I understand that an industrial setting will have a stricter code to follow, but your post makes it sound like it's a complete non-issue.

At the risk of derailing the thread that static line F&E was stronger than some of the bolts it was attached to. It’s a pity they didn’t also remove the krabs cluttering up belay as they too are more of a danger than the static (although there was also some draws on the static lines which probably are a danger). There’s also the issue that when you pull the rope through it now whips down on the groove. I’ve no problem with the statics being removed but it needed more thought and effort than just this gesture. I’d be happy to get involved in helping do a proper job (possibly moving the lower off as well)

galpinos

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"The chain broke" said no one ever.

I know of a chain breaking on a tope anchor on a DAV climbing wall and a.n.other chain link failing (DAV reported) as well as multiple issues in Sardinia with corroded links.

Specifying a decent grade of chain (316L should be fine in the UK) is a no brainer imho.


Will Hunt

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I believe there is also an intention to go back and get the old maillons off which have rusted shut at various points. I went up it in March but can't remember what I thought of the bolts. It may very well need sorting out (when the book is finished I intend to get involved in this stuff but have too much on my plate at the moment).

duncan

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Bolted anchors on trad. routes: seem appropriate in mixed venues like Avon, Uphill, the slate quarries or peak lime but I’m not so sure about elsewhere. I appreciated the fixed abseil points on Scafell East Buttress and thought the natural anchors were neatly done. The Lower Sharpnose chain was a good solution. If folk insist on backing it up then just remove the detritus from time to time, per Andy Moles. Eventually the message will get through. The fixed anchors I’ve used recently in Wales (tops of Yellow Wall, Craig Ddu; Foil; Killerkranky) were all pretty messy. The worst by far is the Old Man of Hoy. Given the other belays are bolted (badly; from the TV spectacular?). I think this should be bolted properly. I’m keen to return to the area and, if it happens, will look into doing this or facilitate getting it done.

Dealing with tat: I have a single edge razorblade (gear joke goes here) duct-taped to the back of my helmet. It’s unobtrusive and you don’t forget it unless you forget the helmet. I’ve used it a few times to tidy up abseil tat or chop a rope.



Apparently you can cut through rope using 2mm cord as a band saw. Never tried myself.


Tony S

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Maybe the people who had a rope snap on them due to UV degradation didn't report it to the UIAA afterwards?   :shrug:
Equipment failures leading to deaths tend to be referred to national bodies for investigation.

The UIAA is a forum for evidence collected by all participating national bodies.

Tony S

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Fill your boots with evidence:

...

Thanks Pete. But they're a little thin on this "rotting" thing which I was mainly querying. I doubt there is much evidence since leaving climbing ropes in-situ on the ground in damp environments is pretty far from the manufacturers "intended usage".

From those papers, the evidence of soaking dynamic (rather than static) ropes with water and 3 months of continuous (daytime at least) exposure at mountaineering hut at ~3000m seems to suggest that it would be unlikely to cause problems for abseiling.

Nothing very rigorous appears forthcoming for longer term effects nor on static ropes.

Bonjoy

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Bolted anchors on trad. routes: seem appropriate in mixed venues like Avon, Uphill, the slate quarries or peak lime but I’m not so sure about elsewhere.
Depends on the case really. For instance I can't really see a sensible replacement if we suddenly decided the big bolt on top of Froggatt Pinnacle had to go.

petejh

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Thanks Pete. But they're a little thin on this "rotting" thing which I was mainly querying. I doubt there is much evidence since leaving climbing ropes in-situ on the ground in damp environments is pretty far from the manufacturers "intended usage".

From those papers, the evidence of soaking dynamic (rather than static) ropes with water and 3 months of continuous (daytime at least) exposure at mountaineering hut at ~3000m seems to suggest that it would be unlikely to cause problems for abseiling.

Nothing very rigorous appears forthcoming for longer term effects nor on static ropes.

Yeah that's what I was pointing to. The UV, rotting, degradation of static rope thing is overplayed in many people's minds. Worth noting though that significant loss of strength can occur once the core is exposed to the effects of degrading environments (as you pointed out).

northern yob

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 I am told there is no reliable way to visually inspect white static like this for UV damage, it needs to be pull tested and stuff that appears to be OK sometimes snaps alarmingly easily.



If it makes a high pitched squealing noise when weighted it’s time to replace/ avoid

reeve

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Maybe the people who had a rope snap on them due to UV degradation didn't report it to the UIAA afterwards?   :shrug:
Equipment failures leading to deaths tend to be referred to national bodies for investigation.

The UIAA is a forum for evidence collected by all participating national bodies.

Well yes, thank you; I wasn't being completely serious in case that wasn't obvious.

It's not a massive surprise that the UIAA don't have a record of any deaths from UV damaged ropes, as the white bleaching of ropes associated with UV damage will act as an obvious visual warning to not use that rope. I know that wasn't precisely what your query was about (I think you want to know about the real-life combination effects of UV, water, mould etc) but that was the quote in your message. Anyone, this tangent to the topic is really about the longevity of anchors which could be used as lower-offs, not whether they are strong enough after exposure to the elements, but how long they will last.

And Fiend, I can't believe you haven't included a Pink Anasazi or French patisserie option!

Tony S

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Yeah that's what I was pointing to. The UV, rotting, degradation of static rope thing is overplayed in many people's minds. Worth noting though that significant loss of strength can occur once the core is exposed to the effects of degrading environments (as you pointed out).

Thanks Pete. Yep, agreed.

I call upon some non-rigorous, slightly tangential empirical evidence of (somewhat abraded) quickdraw slings (much more affected by UV due to all threads being exposed):
https://dmmclimbing.com/Journal/July-2011/Mecca-quickdraw-test
Estimated 5 year exposure at Raven Tor on Mecca (fairly sunny): 7-11kN (rated at 22kN new)

https://www.ukclimbing.com/news/2016/09/permadraw_strength_testing_the_results-70689
Estimated 2 year exposure at Kilnsey on Indian Summer (not so sunny): 14-18kN (rated at 22kN new)

These forces are so far above those generated by gentle abseiling (probably up to 3x weight, say ~3kN) that, if anything, I am extremely re-assured.

Tony S

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Well yes, thank you; I wasn't being completely serious in case that wasn't obvious.

It's not a massive surprise that the UIAA don't have a record of any deaths from UV damaged ropes, as the white bleaching of ropes associated with UV damage will act as an obvious visual warning to not use that rope.

Strange, as both your posts appear to be critiques of selection bias effects.

I know that wasn't precisely what your query was about (I think you want to know about the real-life combination effects of UV, water, mould etc) but that was the quote in your message. Anyone, this tangent to the topic is really about the longevity of anchors which could be used as lower-offs, not whether they are strong enough after exposure to the elements, but how long they will last.

What is it that you think affects the longevity of materials if not the impact of exposure, etc.? Longevity, in this case, would surely be defined as still having a certain strength after a certain period of time.

Fiend

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Bolted anchors on trad. routes: seem appropriate in mixed venues like Avon, Uphill, the slate quarries or peak lime but I’m not so sure about elsewhere. I appreciated the fixed abseil points on Scafell East Buttress and thought the natural anchors were neatly done. The Lower Sharpnose chain was a good solution. If folk insist on backing it up then just remove the detritus from time to time, per Andy Moles. Eventually the message will get through. The fixed anchors I’ve used recently in Wales (tops of Yellow Wall, Craig Ddu; Foil; Killerkranky) were all pretty messy.
Should they be removed / replaced with the neatest possible natural fixed anchors / replaced with bolts, though??

Fiend

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I think Sam T's response has covered things quite well, and I'd say I'm generally in agreement with you  ;)

The danger with polls like this, is that they can establish a precedent.
We can all think of excuses for where bolts would work, that we wouldn't complain too much about.

Bolts aren't immune to decay and poor fitment. They end up getting placed for "reasons" of convenience. Surely a major part of the trad experience is the reward that comes from things being less convenient.

I can think of few situations where an established ab-station can't be found/placed just a short distance from the top out of most classic trad routes/crags.

I think the question really pulls us closer to turning all crags into tourist traps.

I'd say it's simply not necessary, and the question of whether they are/not, even less so.

That's not the same thing as saying I wholely or always object, but I'd never object to anyone removing bolts from the trad environment.
Good post DT90.

Could this set a precedent?? Lol, it would be cute to think it could have that much influence or any at all.

Despite posting this partly tongue in cheek, I do definitely believe there is value to be had in discussing these things. If there's any precedent I'd like to see, it would be that of habitually discussing and getting feedback or even consensus (cue those who will predictably moan how idealistic this is) on changes to fixed gear situations. It seems many problems occur when people just go ahead and make a significant change (invariably adding fixed gear, whether it's retrobolting Ratho or Rhoscolyn, creating Spad™ routes elsewhere, or putting in bolt anchors wherever), knowing full bloody well that the decision will create controversy and be potentially ethically dubious, so just going ahead and doing it and hoping they'll get away with it by presenting it as a fait d'accompli (with or without outright lies about the type of fixed gear used). I think it would be much better to have more debates (sensible and serious ones), see what the options are, see what the alternatives are, see what the consensus might be. Even if the final result goes against what I personally want, I'd feel much better if it's been discussed out in the open first and the viewpoints have been acknowledged at least.

My personal perspective on this (which partly responds to your post above) is that I believe lower-offs / ab points definitely have merit in certain situations (the specifics of which can be explored later). Yes sometimes it is more for convenience (personally I like almost all my "inconvenience" on the route, rather than getting to it or getting off it!), but I believe there's a bigger issue at stake: Increasing numbers of trad routes are falling into disuse and suffering so much from neglect that they're unfeasible to be climbed normally and will either remain neglected or get retro-bolted despite their inherent qualities. Often this neglect is very much the main reason given for retro-bolting. In many cases, part of that neglect is due to getting off the top of the route, particularly when the finish of a route would naturally deteriorate over time (increase in vegetation, decrease in rock quality), and also when a horrendous top-out is very different to the qualities of the rest of the route and the skill-set of most climbers that would climb the route proper (see my "Millstone for 15m, Llyn for 5m" description of some Lancs routes).

In such cases if a lower-off /ab point would increase traffic enough to keep routes clean, climbable, and not retro-bolted, I'm for it - for the sake of trad climbing. If that lower-off is "better" (neater, safer, less intrusive, more sensibly positioned etc) as bolts rather than other in-situ gear....then I'm for that too.

(But equally I do respect your opposing viewpoint, as I often do with people arguing for stricter ethics  ;) )

mrjonathanr

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Ethics have always been very locally agreed based on specific circumstances. I think it should stay that way. The Lancs quarries are man made so I doubt there would be too much resistance to a lower off or two. Fixed gear on sea cliffs is a bad idea IMO.

Like Dave says upthread, part of the appeal in trad is that ‘it’s not fast food’. Move the needle on that much and you’ll have bolts at the top of Idwal Slabs before you can whisper ‘Gary Gibson’.

Fiend

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Ethics have always been very locally agreed based on specific circumstances. I think it should stay that way.
The problem with that approach is that until Greta gets her way, climbers do travel all around the country for climbing, and should be considered in decisions made as they will be affected by those decisions. When half a dozen Bethesda locals decide bolts at the top of Idwal Slabs would be just fine, it's going to piss off the team from Sheffield who have travelled over specifically for an authentic and pure mountain trad experience.

But conversely....

Quote
Like Dave says upthread, part of the appeal in trad is that ‘it’s not fast food’. Move the needle on that much and you’ll have bolts at the top of Idwal Slabs before you can whisper ‘Gary Gibson’.
Except no-one will see them because they'll have decided Idwal is too much faff, and be sticking to Penmaen Head or RAC Boulders instead  ;)

mrjonathanr

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Except no-one will see them because they'll have decided Idwal is too much faff…RAC Boulders instead  ;)

You can bolt them if you like.

grimer

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Having skim-read Fiend's post above, I think that's how I feel.

Fiend

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Except no-one will see them because they'll have decided Idwal is too much faff…RAC Boulders instead  ;)
You can bolt them if you like.
Can I debolt Penmaen Head without any consensus instead, please??

northern yob

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Except no-one will see them because they'll have decided Idwal is too much faff…RAC Boulders instead  ;)
You can bolt them if you like.
Can I debolt Penmaen Head without any consensus instead, please??

Get on it, basically anyone can do whatever they like, I kinda got involved in the Gogarth debate on the other channel and the subsequent BMC area meetings in relation to that. Unfortunately there won’t ever be consensus, the proliferation of stealth bolts is only gonna continue. Whilst there are lots of circumstances where lower offs might have some merit, the spirit of that will only be abused and they will definitely end up in places they shouldn’t.
  My take away from it all was a general apathy, I agree debate is healthy, but it also felt like it achieved absolutely nothing. I never thought I’d agree with Ken Wilson but maybe he was right…..

Fiend

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I never thought I’d agree with Ken Wilson but maybe he was right…..
I might have been thinking that for several years now!! In his heyday I thought he was going too far, too dogmatically the other way. But seeing how climbing is changing overall.....hmmmm. For all that he was extreme and militant, maybe that is needed to balance out the ceaseless tide of lowest-common-denominator convenience climbing...

(But still, I tend to like the idea of lower-offs / ab-points to preserve trad and encourage trad climbing, rather than let it be eradicated by disuse).

northern yob

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I never thought I’d agree with Ken Wilson but maybe he was right…..
I might have been thinking that for several years now!! In his heyday I thought he was going too far, too dogmatically the other way. But seeing how climbing is changing overall.....hmmmm. For all that he was extreme and militant, maybe that is needed to balance out the ceaseless tide of lowest-common-denominator convenience climbing...


Exactly this. Amazingly prescient. I thought he was a raving lunatic

northern yob

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(But still, I tend to like the idea of lower-offs / ab-points to preserve trad and encourage trad climbing, rather than let it be eradicated by disuse).

If I thought lower offs would help I’d be all for them, I don’t think they will, if anything I think they would help speed up the death of the Great British climbing experience.

spidermonkey09

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If I thought lower offs would help I’d be all for them, I don’t think they will, if anything I think they would help speed up the death of the Great British climbing experience.

Loweroffs and ab stations are quite common in Australia. They have a very strong trad climbing ethic still. It does help that they have always had a more open relationship to 'mixed' routes, which have the odd bolt but are almost entirely trad, than the UK, but trad climbing is alive and kicking over there. Is it perhaps British exceptionalism to think that British trad is *so* unique?

 

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