The Peak Bolt Fund is managed by a small community of climbers who are putting in the time and effort to get out there and replace some of the tired and ageing bolts of The Peak. James Jacobs spoke to some of the active members of the fund to explore the motivations behind the rebolting.
The Peak Bolt Fund has been revitalised over the last couple of years - we've had some new faces join the old guard and all are doing their best to get out there and update some of the lower quality bolts around the Peak. This means that many popular routes now have new bolts and improved lower-offs, often sporting maillon-ring combinations to reduce wear on the lower-off bolts. A number of neglected routes have also been brought back to life with new bolts and a good clean.
You have rebolted some of your old routes such as Love Amongst the Butterflies (8b) at the Chee Dale Cornice. Can you reflect on why the route needed rebolting after 20 years and what do you know now that you didn't know then?
Last year, I was surprised when I looked up at the route to see non-stainless bolts. It was one of the last routes I climbed on the Cornice and I thought I had switched to using 316 stainless in everything by then. I do recall having some old non-stainless studs mixed in with the stainless ones, which might explain the fact that most of the route had stainless and some of it non-stainless.
The non-stainless were not in bad condition but I wanted to change them anyway since I think you should take pride in the way you bolt a route. (I did the same with K3 after I climbed it since the original bolts were all non-stainless hand drilled caving bolts).
About the same time I was given some Fixe bolts by my neighbour and after discovering their poor quality and use of substandard steel I did not want to use them. Martin from Titan climbing very kindly agreed to 'swap' them for some of his titanium bolts. I did not want to do half the route in titanium so bought some more to finish the job properly. One of my decisions to re-equip Love Amongst the Butterflies was that it had become a popular route and I would've hated it if someone had had an accident due to my bolting. Also, replacing the through bolts with Petzl hangers for P shaped titanium bolts made from titanium bar would be better for carabiners and lowering off etc.
It's interesting that you've chosen to put your own money into rebolting, I guess that shows that you enjoy it and think it's important. Do you enjoy bolting? What do you get out of it?
I don't mind putting my own money into re-equipping my own routes, especially if I did not get it right in the first place. When I look at K3 I see that the bolts are still in really good condition even after 24 years, so I can see the value in getting it right. I also think that if you have put a lot of work into climbing a route then it would be better if it was equipped with good bolts, in the right places. Think of how many routes are spoilt by badly positioned bolts or poor equipment. Why make your own route one of those when you have the choice. I mean, you don't need to ask the first ascensionist if he/she minds if you move a bolt.
Do I enjoy bolting? I guess I do more than most. Most climbers, when I talk to them about doing new routes they tell me that they would be reluctant to give up that time and would rather use it to go climbing. I don't look at it like that. I enjoy the process of starting with a blank piece of rock and ending up with a new route that other people want to climb. It's a lot of work but it's worth it. I re-equipped a lot of routes on the Cornice between '94 – '98 but now I do not do so much due to lack of time. I normally just re-equip stuff I am climbing at the time since at least I will get the positioning correct.
It's quite a general question. I guess I'm hoping the article will encourage people to donate so with that in mind. Anything else you would like to say about the PBF?
Yes, another reason I wanted to get involved in the PBF was that I wonder what visiting climbers must think when they see the state of our bolted routes. Imagine arriving from Spain or further away to find some of the UK's most famous routes with old non-stainless rusting bolts in them and manky lower offs and belays. I have been to dozens of countries and none have bolts as bad as those here in the UK. Since we don't have a local town or national organisation helping us in a big way, it needs to be done at a grass-roots level with donations from local climbers and the work done by local volunteers.
A lot of the time if I am doing a route and I have a bag of bolts and a drill at home then it just seems natural to re-equip it. As for costs and paying for my own re-equipment, I just see that as my contribution. I do think that climbers are inherently selfish and lazy. Many climbers do a route and then leave it in the same state they found it in despite complaining about how bad the bolts are. The best way to fix a badly bolted route is to buy the equipment and re-bolt it. The second best way is to give some money to the bolt fund.
The rebolting work is important as there's a real mixed bag of bolts in The Peak. Many are made with substandard materials which have rusted over the years. Homemade bolts have also been used in the past. Lots are as old as the routes they protect.
^ Steve the pro's homemade hanger and chunky Rawl bolt from SHIBB at the Tor. Cadburys Flake from Dreadnought - Cornice. Mammut hanger from Hubble. Camp rings often found on Andy Pollitt routes. Aid thing high on Mecca and a Troll Lego.
You've done loads of rebolting in The Peak (more than anyone?) Do you have a proudest moment in rebolting (I'm thinking the bolts in the old peg holes on Rooster Booster or the re-assembling of the Mecca block?)
Of course Gary's bolted more than anyone else put together. But yes I have bolted more of the routes in the high 7's and the 8's. Proud is a strong word but it was good to have sorted out some iconic routes at Raven Tor and turn forgotten crags like Moat into one of the most popular mid-grade sport crags in the area. I do feel a bit guilty about making some places popular as they are getting a bit trashed, maybe I should start using my angle grinder more.
Why is re-bolting so important/necessary? Do you think UK bolting is particularly bad because it was taken up fairly early and done by cash strapped climbers on the dole in the '80s? Do you think the new bolts will last a lot longer?
There are bad bolts worldwide, but of course sport climbing in this country really started in the '80s and was more for the elite few. It was for the here and now; whacking in what you could afford or get hold of. If you're star drilling or using a weak drill by today's standards you're certainly not going to be over-bolting stuff. Bolts that are going to stand the test of time cost more than what you get on UB40! Perhaps the good bolts now will outlive our sport as we know it.
The Peak Bolt Fund exists to re-bolt existing routes. We do not retro-bolt trad routes or fund the bolting of new routes. We use single piece 8mm stainless steel bolts glued-in with epoxy resin. Placed well and used properly, these bolts should last for a long time.
To give an idea of the cost of re-bolting a route it is roughly £3 for a bolt, £4 for a belay bolt and £15 for a tube of glue which easily adds up to over £50 even for a short Peak route. Added to this is the hundreds of pounds worth of kit - drill, drill bits, glue-gun, brushes, angle-grinder, batteries, etc., etc. - that needs purchasing, maintaining and replacing over time.
The Bolt Fund has taken a more active approach to fundraising this year (2017). Spearheaded by Seb Grieve cajoling people at the crag and some active posting on our Facebook page we've managed to raise over £1000. We've used this money to purchase £900 of new bolts, glue, a replacement battery for the angle-grinder and various bits that broke over the year (mainly drill bits). Without the money donated this year the fund would really be struggling, so thanks to everyone who has donated; you know who you are. We still need more donations to continue the re-bolting so please help if you can.
You tend to seek out and rebolt neglected routes - such as Day of the Long Knives at Rhubarb Buttress in Chee Dale. Why?
I was quite nervous about re-bolting a classic and making a mess, getting in people's way on a busy day, or putting a bolt in an awkward to clip position, etc. I started to enjoy the process of cleaning up an old route, working out the moves, the best clipping positions, doing the work, and of course climbing it. Bolting can be quite time-consuming and hard work, so having a bit of a relationship with the route is important for me. It's also great to try and spread the load away from the more popular crags, especially as climbing itself becomes more popular.
Moving on to some of the work that's been done recently...
Down Chee Dale some of the more popular routes at the Cornice have been re-equipped; 42, Love Amongst the Butterflies (done by the original bolter, Seb Grieve, who reportedly had to ab in as a high river made the normal approaches impossible for all but ducks!), Beelzebub, Armistice Day (where the awkward bolts have been repositioned) and Egyptian Bizarre, which has been brought out of retirement and has already become a neo-classic.
If the queues at the Cornice are getting you down, why not head round the corner to Rhubarb Buttress which plays host to a trio of refreshed routes; Turbo Charged Monster Mouse, The Fat Ginger Cat and - the standout classic - Day of the Long Knives. A real #hiddengem!
Up river at Embankment, Beef it, Breamtime and Fishing without a Licence have new bolts and Beef It even has a new finish - Superbeef 7b+ (Jamie Sparkes 2017). At the Nook there are new bolts on A Bit of Nookie and The Storm.
Crossing over the river and going further upstream one old and one new route; A Man Called Horse 7b+ and My Lovely Horse 7c (Mark Rankine 2017) at Moving Buttress have also received the treatment.
Down Water-cum-Jolly, Moat Buttress continues to develop into a very good crag with an impressive list of routes being overhauled this year; Nude Moatorcycle Girl, Out of the Shadows, Drawbridge down, Over the Moorhens, Two Sheep to Leicester, Agent Provocateur and Lady of the Lake. The latter was originally bolted after the lake drained when the dam burst back in 1988. It now starts above the water and, for those without access to a rubber dinghy, the start can be reached by a line of aid bolts. The aid line has been freed by Chris Plant, creating a route at 7a+ called Watery Bint or Watery Tart depending on how accurate you want your Monty Python references to be.
On Central Buttress, Belladona has been re-bolted, seems to have lost a hold, and now climbs at around 7b+.
Finally, Little Plum at Stoney - once the hardest route in The Peak - has new bolts and lower-offs.
Re-bolting routes is a tiring and thankless task, so I'd like to take this opportunity to say a BIG thanks for all the bolting done by the volunteers this year. In addition, I want to thank Dan Middleton for support from the BMC and for running bolting workshops.