About a year Chris Weidner and I were chatting at a Flatirons Climbing Council (FCC) board meeting about a recent event I had organized for another organization who's board I sit on, the Boulder Climbing Community (BCC) - rebolting all of Anarchy Wall in Clear Creek Canyon. Chris was picking my brain about re-bolting some routes up at Mickey Mouse Wall outside Eldo in Boulder and through our conversation, we had decided to organize another massive re-bolt day. Re-bolting an 80-foot tall, 200-foot wide sport crag 300 yards from the car was one thing, re-bolting a quarter-mile wide by three-pitch tall crag an hour uphill from the car was another. And yet, we got after it. The first step is acquiring the hardware. I pitched the idea to all three local climbing organizations (LCOs), FCC, BCC, and Action Committee for Eldorado (ACE). All of them were in, with the BCC and FCC splitting the brunt of the expenses, and ACE contributing 18 bolts/hangers. Let's talk for a minute about expenses. We bought stainless steel bolts and stainless steel hangers. These are way more expensive than what many developers choose to put in the rock for their first ascents. However, your children's children should not have to replace these bolts. The cheaper, plated steel options? I've seen numerous cases of 10-year old bolts already rusting to the point of needing replacing. Greg German is replacing all sorts of bolts that are only 10 years old in Eldo already because of how rusted they are (especially from people mixing stainless steel hangers with plated steel botls)! The extra few bucks a bolt is worth it. So, for $2,500 we could outfit an entire crag, anchors and all, thanks to our phenomenal partner ClimbTech.
Hardware acquired, we had to get volunteers and an event like this serves two purposes. First, to make the climb safe. Second, to educate and mentor new developers. When I started re-bolting routes and trying to organize events like this, I could count on one hand the number of people that had any experience in removing bolts (that's different than chopping and patching mind you) and that included myself in that list. That's an unsustainable idea to think those few people would be replacing the thousands of bolts in the Boulder area, let alone the Front Range. And so we needed help. But we had to teach that help. Matt Reeser started a Google Group for developers to talk about ideas and techniques for removing bolts and Greg German and I organized two clinics where people were shown all the tools needed to remove old bolts, and were able to do hands-on trials to do it themselves. We save the old bolts we remove and use them in these clinics so newbies get a chance to experience it first hand. This allows the mentorship to begin on the ground where it's easy to get new tools, talk to other people about ideas, and expedites the amount of real work that will happen at the cliff. Volunteers were expected to attend the clinics in order to participate in the event. Now that may seem overkill but after talking to all the volunteers, they all said it was invaluable and only wish the clinic was longer.
Then came logistics, how do we get ropes on all these routes, some of which are three pitches tall!? Guidebook author Steve Levin, Chris, and myself all sat down together and planned our attack - how could you get up a 5.11 R route without climbing it? We came up with 5 strategic staging areas that would cover all the routes, and organized for fixed lines to be hung before the re-bolters arrived so all they had to do was jug the line and get to work. We also pulled a massive amount of permits since Mickey Mouse is on Boulder Open Space and Mountain Parks land - permits for each route, permits to be such a large group - lots and lots of paperwork
So yesterday was the big day: at 6:45 am the trailhead was already abuzz with people getting ready (the meeting time was officially 8am). 37 volunteers, including: Steve Levin, Stefan Griebel, Alan Doak, Steve Annecone, Brett Ruckman, Mike Schlauch, Terry Murphy, Dave Holliday, Mark Roth, Curt Stevens, Greg German, Lenny Miller, Tyler Miller, Charles Swann, Chris and Heather Weidner, Jim and Erika Wong, Jesse Greater, Matt Clark, Dan Hickstein, Steve "Crusher" Bartlett, Matt Reeser, Chuck Fitch, Joe Crotty, Ian King, Scott Massey, Evan Howell, Stuart Paul, Dylan Cousins, Ted Lanzano, Evan Horenovsky, Todd Felix, Eric Thomson, Greg Barnes, Gannon the OSMP ranger, and myself, all gathered for the big event. Teams of two were created, we loaded the OSMP truck with our packs, and watched as it drove our gear halfway up the approach to where the gated road ends. As we set off up the hill, burdened by our crushing loads, Gannon then hiked up this massive generator for us so that we could re-charge batteries all day. Burly!!!
Once at the base of the wall, teams attacked their respective routes with tap and dyes, Green-Lee punch driver extractor tools, funkness devices, tuning forks, you name it we had it in the bag of tricks. Some bolts came out with scary ease, while others were more stubborn. Matt Reeser kept trying to get a sleeve to a 5-piece bolt out as it continued to flake off and disintegrate. Bolt after bolt, Matt hung in there to make sure the same hole could be reused. And re-use we did. A Mammut Ring bolt was pulled and a glue in was placed in the same hole (the only option for how large a diameter a hole it was), pieces of a bolt snapped off in the hole and Joe Crotty was able to drill through the old bolt and place a new one in the same hole. Jesse Greater and Jim Wong hardly had to put any effort into fully removing the rusted wedge bolts on Zen Effects. Sketchy!!!
All said and done, I arrived at the trailhead at 6:45am, only to return back to the car at 8:30pm. Then it was off to the pub to celebrate with everyone! The event was an incredible success. We replaced 121 bolts on 18 routes and were able to upgrade the old webbing anchors for the main rappel route to bolted anchors. It was a tremendous effort with tremendous support. It could not have been pulled off without all the incredible volunteers, OSMP for making everything smooth as can be for us, and support from ClimbTech, Trango, PMI, and Fixed Pin Publishing. Dylan Cousins and Greg German went above and beyond and were given advanced copies of FP's new books (including the one I wrote) to Clear Creek Canyon and the Southern South Platte (Vol. 2).
The routes that had bolts replaced on it were: Better Red than Dead, Rodent Lust, Vergin' on Perversion, Perversion, Boxcar Willie, The Mausoleum, Zen Effects, Lifesteam, the rappel route between Middle and North Tower, Green Dihedral, Red Dihedral, Plane Geometry, Three Mouseketeers, Mighty Mouse, Captain Beyond, Sidewinder, Simian's Way, Monks in the Gym, Asahi, and Fuzzy Details.
Of the 121 bolts placed, over 60% of the bolt holes were re-used. This is a huge improvement over previous efforts and the typical mentality of chopping and patching. Some bolts had to be moved slightly (bad rock, etc) and some bolts/bolt holes were not salvageable. Still, the main point is an entire crag is safer today than it was yesterday. While 60+% re-usable holes is very respectable, we hope to continue to improve that ratio, even when we run into 3/8 sleeves, 3/8 wedge, 5/16 wedge, 5/16 sleeve, Mammut ring bolts, button heads, star drives, 1/2 sleeve and 1/2 wedge, nail drives, drilled angles in bolt holes, and the list goes on. It takes a lot of specialized tools to do this kind of work, especially to address all the different types and different sized bolts. This knowledge is somewhat in its infancy but we want to share that knowledge. If you're a Front Range climber, stay tuned for more clinics and another (annual?) big re-bolt event next year. If you have a crag in mind for a make-over, let me know!!! Maybe we could also tie a trail day into the event, who knows! It takes people like you to get these things off the ground, so get involved!
Thank you to all that came out and supported us as well as to all of those that posted positive comments about the event on Facebook, mtnproject, etc. I'd ask one thing of those that have read this far and are willing/inspired by this report (as boring as it was). If you were unable to attend the event but wanted to help, or still want to help, consider making a donation to the BCC to pay for more bolts. We replace bolts throughout the year and 100% of the money you'd donate goes to the bolts. It is my dream to make this type of thing an annual event. We'd love to have you involved as a volunteer but we also need financial support to pay for the hardware. Without the funds, there are no events. Also realize the money you spend to become a member of the BCC in general goes straight into programs like these. Your membership dues pay for two things: bolts and wag bags you see in those boxes throughout Eldo, the Flatirons, and in Boulder Canyon. Every dollar! As for additional donations, even as little as $5 gets us a bolt. There are well over a thousand climbers in Boulder alone; every donation helps and if everyone pitched in, we'd be in great shape. Join or donate here: https://www.paypal.com/us/cgi-bin/webscr?cmd=_flow&SESSION=0XLEPMC7uUStTE4UsCtxkAXjv_TBmFKq2816MsZkn1JqzVhF-6RwE9PK2jy&dispatch=5885d80a13c0db1f8e263663d3faee8dbd0a2170b502f343d92a90377a9956d7
Also shout out to ASCA and Greg Barnes who leant us a ton of tools for the event and came out towards the end of the day when his other obligations ended so he could help carry gear out.
Here are a few more photos from throughout the day to entice you: And one last thanks to Erika who was my amazing ground support helper all day - we wouldn't have gotten half as much done without her help running up and down the hill to get people tools they needed.
Thanks for reading and we hope you'll go clip some of these new, super-safe bolt!
- Jason Haas