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RBs – a useful addition to your trad-rack

removable bolts rock climbing

There was a buzz on the Climb.co.za forum recently around bad things happening when good men do nothing…and removable bolts (RBs) were mentioned.

I thought the idea of taking bolts out was a good idea 10 years ago, so I bought a couple from ClimbTech in the US. The truth is that they really sucked back then. After reading the posts on the forum I had another look at the ClimbTech website and discovered that the RBs had been redesigned. Simon Larsen at VSS got me a bunch to try out.

Whats the verdict?

This a true technological advance in climbing safety. The RBs are easy to place and come out just as easily, even after hanging on them. They work pretty much like friends although they are designed more like expansion bolts.

However, the holes you need for placement can be pretty hard to see and the RBs are as expensive as Cams. But if you are looking for a protection on a death run-out without the need for fixed protection, you’ll find those holes. Great for places like Paarl!

I looked into the Environmental Management Programme for Climbing on the Peninsula Mountain Chain and drilling holes rate as: Low to No Impact. The holes aren’t going to rust and need replacement after 15 years like bolts, but RBs are also not going to replace bolts in Sport Climbing areas any time soon.  So where do they fit in? Add this great piece of new technology to your trad rack and stop shaking with fear.

removable bolts rock climbing

removable bolts rock climbing

23 Responses to RBs – a useful addition to your trad-rack

  1. Derek Marshall Aug 12, 2010 at 8:06 am #

    I have ten removable bolts & have used them on “hard”(for me) mixed lines at Morgan Bay. The reality is they are a bit of a novelty….nice to have, but not a must.

    They come in diffrent sizes, mine are 14mm, yours maybe diffrent? Agreeing on a std size for SA would help.

  2. Justin Aug 12, 2010 at 8:27 am #

    Derek, what size do you recommend?
    I will mail Graham and ask him what size he used (he is currently away at the moment so he might take a while to respond).

  3. Robert Breyer Aug 12, 2010 at 8:33 am #

    removable bolts have been around for a long time. El Cap standard rack stuff.
    my business/climbing partner Charles Edelstein has owned them for years. i looked into importing them a few years ago. decided not to at the time. problem with them is that they aren’t made/available in smaller (metric) sizes. the ones from Climbtech in the USA that Simon sells are 0.75″ or 1″ diameter. that’s a 19mm or 25mm in our metric language. we use a 10 mm and maybe 12 mm holes/drills in SA for bolts or anchors. so these things require a much larger hole. and 19 or even 25mm in my books is frikken ginormous.
    so not sure what the point of this is. graham, are you advocating that we now drill trad stances on TM with 19/25mm holes? and all rush out and buy two of these? actually four, two for the leader and two for the follower?
    so i dont think we will stock or recommend them any time soon for trad climbing anywhere in SA.
    might as well take the ARF angle grinder up there and cut out a clean-looking notch and place a bomber nut.
    - robert breyer from cityrock.

  4. Stewart Aug 12, 2010 at 9:13 am #

    Oooo, does that mean we can drill a few (minimal impact) holes on Table Mountain now :)

  5. Paddy Aug 12, 2010 at 10:38 am #

    If the objective is supplementing natural gear in a low impact way then a possible alternative is the Australian system of removable brackets. What is left behind is a glued in stud (very solid if done properly). Advantages are low visibility, ease of finding placement and reliability of placement. They are also a step removed from the clip and go feel of a sport placement – u need to be secure enough to hang around and place the bracket before clipping.

  6. Daveg Aug 12, 2010 at 11:21 am #

    The Australian system is totally crap. I personally have had endless issues with studs. You need the right size biner, hanger (there are different sizes and angles) and you pray that the stud wasn’t just bashed in in 1981 (it probably was).

    The Aussies themselves have moved away from it, except for ‘historical routes’.

    Let’s face it, you either modify the rock or you don’t. If you modify the rock, then you may as well place the best quality bolt you can find i.e. a high quality glue-in.

  7. Paddy Aug 12, 2010 at 12:58 pm #

    My experience was largely different to Daveg. In my few years of climbing in the Blue Mtns I did not have a problem with this system. As regards the pre 81 stud’s, I’m not sure I’d want to be relying on a pre 81 South African bolt. Also I would not say that the Aussie’s have moved away from them. Granted, they no longer use them in sport orientated crags (and are replacing them at these crags), but I know of quite a few modern routes that have been opened using this system and personally know one route opener who has a preference for opening routes using this system. If one’s objective is a reliable method of supplementing natural gear that does not detract from the trad feel of the route, then in my view the Aussie system is a great alternative.

  8. Goo Aug 12, 2010 at 1:38 pm #

    Mmm, I like this idea instead of mixed bolting. Maybe a better idea for places like Yellowwood and other crags of this nature. You would also get rid of the problem of not knowing how old the bolts were.

    But short of painting the rock with a large arrow how do you get past the problem of not being able to find the holes?

  9. RiaanV Aug 12, 2010 at 1:57 pm #

    so how traditional is trad climbing if one has to drill holes to place gear? why would I drill a hole if I can simply slide a piece into place? This contrivance is as superfluous as men’s pyjamas, caravans and vibram 5 fingers. Climb the rock, don’t riddle it with holes.

  10. Derek Marshall Aug 12, 2010 at 2:22 pm #

    I’m not sure I can recommend them. There is just so much sport, trad & bouldering to do, before this is an option.

  11. Paddy Aug 12, 2010 at 2:54 pm #

    I’m not sure Graham was suggesting that RB’s replace existing natural placements, just that they supplement existing placements. For example where the ground might stop your fall before the last gear placement. This sounds fine to me. But as Goo says, not too sure how you would reliably find the hole.

  12. ThiaanL Aug 12, 2010 at 3:05 pm #

    Drill Holes in the rock! It’ll be a nice workout to find these little buggers on Paarl Rock though, Many times I’ve found myself spending time looking for bolts. I think we should rather just grind rails into the rock, It’ll be easier to find and I can slot a nice Cheap Hex or Nut in there..

  13. Snort Aug 12, 2010 at 3:21 pm #

    A 10mm hole in a place where nothing else will work seems reasonable, but a 25mm hole No way!. Rather make a slot for a nut placement or small cam placement then in those rare places where you really need a piece. You can use a 25 mm hole as a good finger hold.

  14. Graham Aug 12, 2010 at 4:42 pm #

    The RBs that I got from Simon are half-inch. I found that drilling a 13mm hole works fine even though its just bigger than half-inch.

  15. Phlip Aug 12, 2010 at 5:20 pm #

    Does falling repeatedly on these not damage the hole it is placed in?

  16. Graham Aug 12, 2010 at 9:57 pm #

    @Phlip, probably not more than falling on a nut placed in a crack damages the crack. Although I have hung on the placed RBs, I haven’t fallen on them.

  17. Derek Marshall Aug 16, 2010 at 6:20 pm #

    Mine are also for a 13mm hole. I am also just too chicken to fall on them.

  18. pointless article Aug 17, 2010 at 2:10 pm #

    Graham, your review is incomplete and misleading. You said “The RBs are easy to place and come out just as easily, even after hanging on them. They work pretty much like friends although they are designed more like expansion bolts.” Since you have not tested their effectiveness in full (ie falling on them) you can’t say they work like Friends, which I’ve often fallen on, and which have a range of sizes they will work with.
    You are advocating using metric size holes with an imperial sized unit. This is not designed this way. While it may have held the tiny force of hanging on them, I wonder if you have any idea how much force a decent fall generates. I’d put money on them failing at even minor fall factors with the incorrect hole size.

    You said “I found that drilling a 13mm hole works fine even though its just bigger than half-inch.”, again, misleading as you haven’t fallen on it at all.

    You ended your review with “I looked into the Environmental Management Programme for Climbing on the Peninsula Mountain Chain and drilling holes rate as: Low to No Impact. The holes aren’t going to rust and need replacement after 15 years like bolts, but RBs are also not going to replace bolts in Sport Climbing areas any time soon. So where do they fit in? Add this great piece of new technology to your trad rack and stop shaking with fear.”
    I fail to see where they fit in. Firstly, most trad routes in the Cape are easily protected with standard gear like stoppers and cams. With the advent of smaller cams like aliens, we can now climb even radder lines safely. What you are advocating here is nothing short of CHIPPING. Just look at how the community went loco on Snort after he mildly modified a tiny slot to fit a nut (Snort, you should have just kept quiet about it, nobdy’d have been the wiser;). Graham, how will one find these tiny holes? Nice in theory, not so nice when you are pumped, strung out and searching for a placement. Would you suggest these holes be marked with chalk to find them?

    I find you article to be unresearched and misleading. While I am familiar with RBs, I personally don’t feel they have any place in our hills. I can see their place in high access work, construction etc where one might need to secure a position for a short period of time, where it’d be easy to drill a hole in the concrete, use it, and move on. Seriously, what is wrong/lacking with the current gear we have? I’ve never ever needed anything else. As for replacing bolts on sport routes, again, a total waste of time. Rather bolts should be replaced with decent stainless glue ins that will last for a long time. The whole point of sport to me is the elimination of fiddly placements. You can clip and go. That was the point last time I looked.

  19. Graham Aug 19, 2010 at 5:23 pm #

    Good point about the metric/imperial holes. I’m getting some 1/2inch imperial bits and will try them out. Maybe then Derek and I will try falling on them!

  20. Graham Aug 20, 2010 at 8:55 am #

    On Aug 19, 2010, at 8:03 PM, Karl Guthrie wrote:

    Graham,
    1/2″ is the exact same size as 13mm

    Cheers- karl

    Sent from my iPhone

    On Aug 19, 2010, at 8:25 AM, Graham Shillington wrote:

    Hi Karl,

    I wrote an article on your RBs:

    It generated a lot of comments – mostly negative as these things usually go.
    I am still very passionate about their use.

    Just wanted to find out:
    We don’t have imperial drill bits here, so I was using a 13mm bit. Do you think these holes will be too big?

    Cheers,
    Graham

  21. Wietz Sep 15, 2010 at 8:32 am #

    RB’s work very well. Ive used them in 13mm hole and shockloaded with 300kg off single placements without failing – sorry no data. If the hole is angled downwards less slipping occurs. I bought some from Pika Mouintaneering over 8 years ago ( not sure if they still sell any), these have a usefull loop to pull the slider(and bolt) back out after shock loading. Sport climbing? I dont think so, it is difficult to see the holes, except maybe in sensitive areas, but if you just want to clip and go, preplace them, or be adventerous. I dont think they are good for sandstone as the hole will definitely wear bigger with repeated use. They can be usefull during bolting glue ins, but if used as stances on trad routes, bailing and rescues will become very costly, plus not everyone will have them. We might end up with mountains looking like swiss cheese…

  22. endy heaney Dec 27, 2010 at 3:20 pm #

    hi there im trying to find Derek Marshall who has a brother Stuart Marshal and mum Jean?
    im in Bonnie Scotland , can you help?

  23. Willians May 5, 2012 at 5:55 am #

    You could forgo the bolts and stitch weld the plate to the raanetgulcr tubing. The weld can be ground out pretty easily and redone if necessary about as easy as bolts. Probably more rigid than bolting. I like the use of large diameter pipe as a structural element.

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