Why our bolts are breaking

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Andy Davies
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Why our bolts are breaking

Postby Andy Davies » Wed Feb 05, 2014 3:42 pm

I see the usual discussions have come up regarding bolts with many experts :wink: voicing their opinions. So here goes a very belated [sincerest apologies] explanation why our bolts in the Western Cape have been breaking:

I sent about 10 of the broken bolts off to UCT for a decent investigation and after some cutting, polishing, etching and looking they concluded that the bolts in question were a poor quality stainless steel with sulphur stringers. Here you can see some pics showing the scary spiderweb cracks in the bolt:

SMALL Cracks travelling along stringers.jpg
SMALL Cracks travelling along stringers.jpg (172.4 KiB) Viewed 1644 times


SMALL Radially placed longitudinal cracking extending below the nut.jpg
SMALL Radially placed longitudinal cracking extending below the nut.jpg (174.09 KiB) Viewed 1644 times


KalkBay project fail surface SMALL.jpg
KalkBay project fail surface SMALL.jpg (31.12 KiB) Viewed 1644 times


These sulphur stringers essentially allow for rapid corrosion in localised planes which is why a perfectly good looking bolt can fail so catastrophically. I stand to be corrected, but I would not classify this as true Stress Corrosion Cracking as no stress is necessary for corrosion to occur. Lets call it SRSC? (Shitty Rotten Steel Corrosion)

So essentially our cheap local anchors we used were crap. Now we all make mistakes and I am guilty of making a few myself, but I cannot believe people are still using cheap local bolts. I mean seriously guys & gals, would you climb on a cheap locally made rope that has been shown to fail? Placing bolts is a huge responsibility as they need to remain there for many years and its not only your life you have to think about, but many folks after you. To put it in perspective, bolt the route for your unborn kids.

There are many discussions regarding materials, rolling, pressing, cutting etc. on various forums and I respect the interest and healthy debate. However when it comes to actually placing bolts please stick to the following 2 bolts:

• Fischer FBN 10x90mm A4/316L
• Hilti HSAR 10x90mm A4/316L

These 2 companies have formidable quality assurance systems in place to make sure their anchors are reliable and safe. It is in their best interests not to have any failures so they put systems in place to check the quality of materials and processes. Their quality assurance systems are similar to those used for climbing gear, aircraft and nuclear power plants (where safety is paramount). Local companies and maybe some imported varieties [I am looking east] do not have these quality assurance systems in place and this is how seemingly innocuous problems creep in that could hurt us.

I realise bolts are not cheap, but please get your buddies/MCSA to help out or maybe don’t bolt that not-so-good line. But please only use the best – for yourself and the rest of us.

PS if anyone would like to have any other suppliers assessed, I would be happy to help out.
AndyDavies

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Xenomorph
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Re: Why our bolts are breaking

Postby Xenomorph » Wed Feb 05, 2014 5:23 pm

Keep up the good work,
You are a fine Sir!

Andy Davies
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Re: Why our bolts are breaking

Postby Andy Davies » Wed Feb 05, 2014 6:28 pm

One of the big problems we sit with is, what bolts are we climbing on now, that we placed 20 years ago. A true mark of a good quality assurance system is a batch / model number. Check your carabiners for a batch number, CE /UIAA logo. Its tricky for bolt manufacturers to to do this but at least we can see from the outside who is who:

Local manufacturer with no head stamp:

Local NoStamp.jpg
Local NoStamp.jpg (10.39 KiB) Viewed 1570 times


Fischer FBN with a faint D-stamp

Fischer FBN - Dstamp.jpg
Fischer FBN - Dstamp.jpg (201.2 KiB) Viewed 1570 times


Hilti HSA-R with distinct C-stamp

Hilti HSAR Cstamp.jpg
Hilti HSAR Cstamp.jpg (239.35 KiB) Viewed 1570 times


Feel free to check your buddies bolts to make sure he isn't being stingy at your expense. And if you have any old local bolts in your possession, feel free to give me a call so we can try get them replaced.
AndyDavies

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Forket
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Re: Why our bolts are breaking

Postby Forket » Thu Feb 06, 2014 12:41 am

The Fixe bolts don't have the C imprint, so this mean cannot be the only one used for identifying good bolts

eT

mokganjetsi
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Re: Why our bolts are breaking

Postby mokganjetsi » Thu Feb 06, 2014 7:26 am

awesome work andy :thumleft:
this means a lot of rebolting needs to done.....?
and, can the MCSA not buy bolts bulk (discount) and then on-sell it to (approved) bolters at friendlier prices? Would be happy to help fund such a venture.

Andy Davies
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Re: Why our bolts are breaking

Postby Andy Davies » Thu Feb 06, 2014 9:37 am

Willem a lot of rebolting has been done for coastal areas where the failures are prevalent. However we need to remember the 1st failure was in Montagu and we have had problems in Oudtshoorn. I don't intend spending the rest of my life rebolting routes so not too sure how to treat the inland crags. The important message here is use good bolts on new routes.

Forket is anyone stocking FIXE bolts in SA? I can only comment / recommend easily available anchors in SA.
AndyDavies

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Justin
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Re: Why our bolts are breaking

Postby Justin » Thu Feb 06, 2014 10:09 am

Thanks Andy :thumleft:

I've only bought Fischer and Hilti bolts in the past.
What concerns me is that I went to Upat yesterday (suppliers of Fischer), asked specifically for climbing bolts (mentioned 316/SS, rolled) and they gave me Upat, cut bolts.
FYI It's been a long time since I bought from Upat

We can't expect the Upat guys to police everyone who comes into their shop, but if someone asks specifically for climbing bolt's then it would be nice if they were able to recommend the correct spec bolts.
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Andy Davies
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Re: Why our bolts are breaking

Postby Andy Davies » Thu Feb 06, 2014 2:05 pm

Hey Justin - thanks for your commitment to stick to the specs. The UPAT guys are usually pretty good with making sure climbers only use the Fischer FBN product so I'm sure it was an honest mistake. Just ask for the Fischer FBN and check for the stamped head.
AndyDavies

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Justin
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Re: Why our bolts are breaking

Postby Justin » Thu Feb 06, 2014 4:03 pm

No doubt.
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WarthogARJ
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Re: Why our bolts are breaking

Postby WarthogARJ » Tue Apr 22, 2014 2:23 pm

Hi,
I was speaking to Bob Tait at UCT about this failure analysis a few months ago.
They hadn't finished it up yet.

Is a good point to make that not all corrosion-type failures are indeed SCC.

And maybe this is a slight quibble, but I suspect that the steel type in question wasn't really a sub-standard variant, but is actually type 303.
Which deliberately contains sulphur in it (as stringers) to make it easier to machine.
And the trade-off for that is it's corrosion resistance is poor.
So it might be a good choice for indoor use in construction but not outdoors.

My point is that it's quite possibly NOT a failure of the company's quality control, but actually more the buyer's fault for trying to buy something that wasn't appropriate.
I mean the company most likely intended to use grade 303, it was likely NOT a mistake for their intended purpose.

The problem with 303 and climbing anchors has been known for decades.
In fact the climbing anchor standards specifically say that 303 should NOT be used.
However until recently there were some climbing anchors being made out of 303: however the people have seem the light and have stopped that.
None of them were UIAA or CEN approved though at the time (well, the company that used to do it is now UIAA approved, and uses 316).

In fact there was a failure analysis of some similar anchors made from grade 303 that failed in Greece, done by the Greek UIAA Safety Commission Delegate. Although I don't quite agree with their conclusion that it was SCC, I think it was a pure corrosion issue.
Like this one.

And I completely agree with Andy that people should be using anchors that are known to be suitable for climbing use.
There's been some problems in the UK recently with people using construction type anchors: they were cheap.
And a death in Australia because some tourists bolted with the wrong type of anchors: they pulled out.

Best,
Alan Jarvis

andrew p
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Re: Why our bolts are breaking

Postby andrew p » Wed Apr 23, 2014 8:43 pm

Hi Andy, about Warthogs question. What type of steel were the failed bolts? 303 0r 316?


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