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Unread 09-26-2005, 01:29 PM
ricardo's Avatar
ricardo ricardo is offline
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Join Date: Jul 2005
Location: Okinawa
Posts: 628
I'm pretty new to sport climbing and have only done it while here in Korea. my assumptions about bolts were shaken up a bit yesterday (at halmei bawi) and I'd like to hear some opinions/experiences from anyone (about bolts or user error).

-if a bolt is meant to stop a fall, shouldn't you be able to lower from it?
-is a 2" (5cm) bolt the standard length?
-are anchor bolts any longer?

Halmei Bawi, 9-26-05 accident (new routes)
-Part of our group on the route next to me, bailed halfway up the route (3rd bolt) and lowered down. He cleaned while lowering.
-We had a couple beginners with us that wanted to try climbing and didn't want to go high so they didn't try to finish the route and clip the anchor. It was low and easy enough where there were no falls or hanging, just lowering.
-The second climber (3rd lowering) was being lowered when a commotion broke out about how the second to last draw was not in as a backup. There was a delay b/c of the language barrier and he just decided to lower anyway to get off the wall.
-At that moment the rock the bolt was in popped off the wall, he fell a little over 15' (5m), and landed on his feet then butt. The rock and/or the bolt hit the belayer in the head but he is fine. The climber has two compressed vertebrae, feels ok, but his prognosis is unknown.

-I know toproping off one bolt is wrong and at least there should have been a draw on the next bolt, but I've seen climbers bailing or hanging midroute many times.
-Someone should have climbed to the anchor or bailed on the route altogether.
-Note: I couldn't pay attention to the lead up to the accident and the commotion since I was in the middle of belaying someone.
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Unread 09-26-2005, 04:48 PM
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Eric Eric is offline
Join Date: Apr 2004
Location: Owen Sound, Ontario
Posts: 681
firstly, I'm glad your buddy is not seriously injured. it could have been much worse.

secondly, thanks for the good beta. i was considering heading down there soon.

This is a good reminder of the freak & not-so-freak things that can happen, especially in places where knowledge of routes and their historys are limited.

I am sure we have all bailed off a bolt a few times in our climbing lifetime. I have done it countless times and sometimes there is no other choice. Of course a bolt should be placed to hold a fall, let alone a lowering. And no, there is no reason you have to climb to the anchor to bail off of the route.

The difference between bailing on a route and setting up a top rope off of 1 bolt is redundancy. If i lead a route and bail on the 3rd bolt, i have at least 1 more to catch me before I'm decking. Top roping off a single bolt is strictly out of the question. It's not redundant. Persoanlly, I never feel like I'm safe on a climb until I have at least 2, sometimes 3 bolts clipped. (but im a scaredy cat :))

The key to staying safe is assessing the risks. Look at the situation and ask yourself if A happens, what is in place to keep me safe? If there is nothing in place to protect you when A happens, then you're screwed. There are so many things to consider when climbing. Things like:
- your rope dragging over an edge if you fall and swing
- pieces being pulled on at a direction they weren't intended to be pulled.
- falling on a 5.6 because a piece of rock snapped off in your hand.
- a bolt snapping on a fall.
- the number of times other climbers have taken whippers on that bolt.
- something happening to your belayer

after you assess your situation, then you can do what you need to do to get yourself safe.

I'm not sure how long the bolts are in Korea. i have seen pretty short ones placed in the rock at Yeongyeong which isn't overly solid. There are too many unknowns when climbing sport routes (especially in a foreign country). it's hard to know when bolts were placed, who placed the bolt, did they know how to place a bolt, how long is the bolt, how many winters has it lived through, how long the bolts are, how much rust is on the inside, etc... you mustn't wholly rely on bolts to keep you safe. you must rely on yourself and your judgement.

anyway, that's my $0.02.

curious as to what others think about the question.

Fall: To retreat in dynamic fashion from a climb.
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Unread 09-26-2005, 06:57 PM
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shanja shanja is offline
Join Date: Apr 2004
Location: Daejeon
Posts: 1,386
Well I'll throw my say in, as Eric has requested. Newly bolted routes area conundrum. It's not easy for the bolter to be sure how good a job he or she has done, especially if they are relatively new to bolting. Hence it is always, repeat ALWAYS prudent and ethical to get lots of hands on instruction and practice from an old hand. This includes a good knowledge of rock morphology and it's limitations. From what I understand, it was the rock that broke, rather than the bolt popping out (is this true?). In that case it's likely this dreadful accident was caused by poor bolt placement (like sticking your ice axes in a bulge!), and/ or by using a type of bolt unsuited to the rock type. Softer rock, and more brittle rock (Halma-bawi) needs a longer bolt, period. Many bolts in Korea are designed for granite placements...and do stirling service when placed correctly. Maybe this was a such a bolt?
Top-roping off a single bolt is dicey, but it should not cause bolt failure...mixed censure here, and a good lesson for us all. Lets all try and keep redundancy (back-up) in our rope systems at all times, and send all our best wishes to the victims here for a speedy recovery.
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Unread 09-26-2005, 07:16 PM
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skinsk skinsk is offline
Join Date: Jan 2005
Location: Jochiwon (Sejong City)
Posts: 2,552
Eric answered most of your questions, and I'd agree. Here's my 2 cents. . . sorry if I sound lecture-y. . . 3 surgeries, a month in the hospital, a year off of climbing, $10,000 poorer I got a lot smarter!

In an ideal world, every bolt would catch every fall. Two bolts are better than one, 3 better. . . obviously, you CAN lower from a bolt (but you MAY not) as most of us do often when we fall and/or give up. I guess you've seen firsthand why TRing from a single bolt is not a good idea-- weighting and falling are quite different (hence the "no falling" rule in hard aid), even TRing (though given the fact that the rock broke, it seems more like it was a matter of time). . . still had it popped when it had been backed up, would the climber have decked? There is no need to "clean up" when lowering from a single bolt-- just imagining lowering from it makes me nervous!. Even in the most solid bolt, a single draw can fail, a bounce on the rope can cause it to free itself from a biner. . .

Bolts are usually 1.5"-3" (x3/8-1/2"). Stainless steel is preferred because it is resistant against corrosion. Expansion bolts are also popular, and epoxy is sometimes used for glue-ins and to reinforce bolts on soft rock (heck, holds are often "reinforced" with epoxy). On most sport routes, the same bolts are used as anchors (on some multipitch and trad routes where there are anchor bolts, beefier bolts are used as several people will be clipped in, they are being belayed from, and/or they are used for rappelling). Some things to consider before bolting/climbing on bolts include: will/does this route see many falls? what type of rock is it? how hard is the rock? (thump on any iffy rock or flake and listen for a hollow sound) what is the climate like? (freeze/thaw, rain) proximity to the sea (salt is corrosive). . . spinning hangers are indicative of loosening bolts, rust suggests corrosion. Also consider that in Korea, most first assents are documented, but this does not necessarily mean you can blindly trust them. (In "vacation" destinations, primarily developed by visitors, people often skimp, and there is no accountability for bad routes.)

Placement likewise depends upon multiple factors. Ideally routes would prevent a leader from decking after the first bolt. Relative ease of each part of the climb, the solidity of each section, clipping stances, possible rope drag, ledges, how much $/W for bolts the 1st ascentionist is willing to invest, etc all play a part in determining placement. Most routes here were rap-bolted, if that helps.

Just because you "see" people doing something doesn't mean it's safe. If it doesn't seem right, be suspect. That said, a rock with a bolt that pops could be indicative of poor placement, and should raise questions about other routes by the same bolter (one reason guidebooks/signs list first ascentionists). As I've learned first hand, be super cautious about loose rocks/holds on newly bolted routes; sure stress is cumulative, but new routes that have not been "cleaned" by multiple ascents are more likely to shed the less-solid holds!

Thanks for the report AND the reminder: use good judgement and common sense, keep in mind that climbing is inherently risky, and be sure you have accident insurance.

Last edited by skinsk : 11-04-2005 at 05:42 PM.
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Unread 09-26-2005, 10:15 PM
CHOI BAWI's Avatar
Join Date: Apr 2004
Posts: 59
i'm sorry to have heard this happen so recently after i discovered and mentioned the new routes just a few weeks ago. but, hence, let us not forget it's name, "halmae bawi" (a.k.a "grandmother rock").

this incident, of loose rock, is somewhat typical of newly bolted crags mostly because they have not stood the test of time, the on-slaught of climbers; and unfortunately, the route-makers didn't do quite enough pre-smashing to insure more safety for future climbers. certainly, they could have done a better job, but they are not to blame--caution and redundancy ought to always be heeded.

there are no rules as to whether or not any thing "probably" or "should" do whatever it is "meant" to do. the only rules are, nature's rules; and hence the need for redundancy. i've never liked rapping off a single bolt--ever. and, i never will enjoy rapping off a single bolt.

read more books, ask a lot more questions and keep an open, but critical mind to any of those answers.
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Unread 09-29-2005, 11:32 AM
ricardo's Avatar
ricardo ricardo is offline
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Join Date: Jul 2005
Location: Okinawa
Posts: 628
thank you all for your input and concern.
friend will be functional (off bed rest) again in a couple of weeks, but with a long rehab.
there are more variables than i thought of that contributed to this sobering accident and even more possible failures that didn't happen. your input has definitely given me more to think about when assessing a route.
these new routes are a catch-22 for the newbie; great juggy holds on a lower grade, but with sketchy pro. let's hope it was an anomoly (of course 'hope for the best, prep for the worst').

thanks again!
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Unread 04-07-2006, 01:01 AM
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rockboy rockboy is offline
Join Date: Apr 2006
Location: Seoul, Sodaemun-Gu
Posts: 61
Yeah I have pulled a bolt/piece of rock off at this place, same situation, rock failure, wasn't climbing on it but it looked dogy so i gave it a tug. you know the rest.
Craig McVie
Seoul, Sodaemun-gu
South Korea
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