Changes to Southern Sandstone bolted anchors

Posted by Rob Dyer on 24/09/2021
An example of an equalised and extended anchor on southern sandstone

Following a review of bolted anchors on Southern Sandstone, the way we all use bolted anchors in the area is changing. Read on to make sure you're following the latest method.

The current system of a main bolt (which takes all of the load), secured to a backup bolt with a swaged steel cable, has been used on Southern Sandstone for 30 years or more.

However, updated expert advice has recommended that this changes to both bolts equalised to a central point, in line with standard practice elsewhere.

It is not possible to equalise the bolts with in situ equipment in a way that is both strong and will not cause damage to the rock, so you will now need to equalise both bolts as part of your top-rope setup.

In the short term, all swaged wire backups will be removed from bolted sandstone anchors as soon as possible. Additional bolts will be placed where needed at Harrison’s and Stone Farm Rocks as part of an ongoing BMC program of renewing and updating bolted anchors.

You should arrive with equipment to allow you to equalise the double bolt anchors to a central point. There are many ways of doing this but the most common and easiest is to use either a sling or rigging rope with screw gates on each bolt.

Remember to extend the anchor point sufficiently to prevent your climbing rope from wearing the rock. It’s a good idea to use rope protectors over any rigging to prevent damage to slings/ropes and the rock from normal movement whilst belaying.

Above: one example of how to set up and equalised top rope anchor on two bolts with a sling. Note that here the sling is long enough that the central point hangs over the edge, which is essential to prevent wear from the moving climbing rope. In some cases, you will need to extend the central point to ensure it hangs over the edge of the crag, (as in the top photo).

The BMC would like to thank and acknowledge DMM for their assistance with testing.

WATCH: Respect The Rock // Southern Sandstone Bouldering

 

WATCH: Respect The Rock // Southern Sandstone Top Roping


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Anonymous User
24/09/2021
Is there any information on the reasoning / testing that was done?
Anonymous User
26/09/2021
I see the new bolt changes on the Sandstone as more dangerous than before. Not everyone will get, understand or know about the new system and like in times gone by may just use one of the bolts or put a screw gate and sling to another screw gate between to two bolts or even a quick draw. The knotted equalised sling will be liable to significant wear on the knot and will also be so tight to undo that it may just be used for all the bolts and not be equalised at all. I really do feel this is a retrograde step and that there is potential for more to go wrong. There is a lot of talk on the two Sandstone Group chats that I am on about these issues
Anonymous User
27/09/2021

Those knots on the equalised slings will wear very quickly with rubbing on the rock. Dangerous as shown.
Rope protectors over them will help though the sandstone rock also likley to be subject to serious abrasion.
Anonymous User
01/10/2021
I think that the suggested method of equalising bolt anchors is problematic because it involves knotting slings which, in addition to creating knots which are hard to undo, tends to create abrasion / wear points on the knots. Might it not be better to use specific lengths of (longer) static rope which can be tied directly into the bolts and then equalised with an overhand or figure of eight knot at a point which is over the crag edge. Additionally, putting the ropes into tubing at the point where they go over the crag edge would also be good practice.
Anonymous User
01/10/2021
If the cable in between was unsafe then this new scenario is fine. As long as you use a static sling and the climbing rope hangs over the edge, then there’s no problem with the new system. If a person doesn’t know how to set up / equalise or back-up their set up then maybe they shouldn’t be climbing outside yet and they should go and learn. Outdoor safety skills are needed everywhere. It’s not an indoor climbing wall after all.

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