|On the Niagara Escarpment, using fixed bolts
for climbing protection, started in the early 80ís. Some of these early
bolt efforts used hammer in Star drive bolts. These were not very
good but were the only option at that time. A few years later, Power drills
were used to drill and better quality bolts were available along with better
hangers. Bolted routes were established gradually over the ensuing years
to present. To-day some early routes are still equiped with the original
bolts and hangers while on others the bolts have been replaced. As time
passes by, the safety of these aging protection systems must be questioned
since the life of any fixed anchor is limited. Many of the climbers that
I talk to seem unaware of these risks, naively taking multi-falls on fixed
anchors even though some of this equipment is dubious.
I have not climbed at Lions Head very often over the past few years. This year I returned and climbed many of the 5.10ís and 11ís. I checked out the condition of the fixed protection on many routes. Some routes had been recently re-bolted thanks to the work of a few individuals, especially Lee Mulowney, who replaced bolts on a number of Lions Head classics. However, I noticed that other routes still had the original hand drilled star drive bolts and even more shocking, I found original fixed webbing still in place that I had placed 12 years ago on the original ascent. These webbings are definitely now useless. I was surprised that no one had thought to replace them, a relatively easy and inexpensive job that doesnít require extra equipment.
Equipment at other Ontario crags is likely to be even worse since many of those bolted routes were established before Lions Head.
We cannot depend on one or two people like Lee to do the work. The climbing community in Ontario is quite large and many climbers are regulars at Escarpment crags. In Ontario, climbers must consider developing and supporting a re-bolting program to ensure that fixed anchors are safe. Programs like this are commonplace in other climbing areas of the world. In Europe, Alpine Clubs, local guides and/or Associations take on these type of initiatives. In the USA, a National group, the "American Safe climbing Association" has formed to co-ordinate and raise funds for this work. Local groups like the Rumney Climbers Association have worked to upgrade anchors in their local area.
In Ontario, if climbers do not take initiative and replace these safety systems, one of us is likely to be badly injured or killed. Accidents impact on access since landowners would be reluctant to allow climbing knowing that serious accidents are likely to occur.
We need to organize, perhaps through present organizations, like the Alpine Club Access committee or Ontario Rock Climbing Association or perhaps through the development of a new organization designed to specifically address the re-bolting issue.
August 29, 2001