Three sets of bolt anchors have appeared at the top of the wall at Alberton Rock. Upon investigation, concerns about the placement of several of these bolts were discovered, with one set judged to be at significant risk of failure. Due to this high risk, the hangers have been removed from all bolts in order to protect the climbing community. We will be removing the hazardous bolts when time allows.
Early last year, we reported about another incident in Patapsco at Friction Wall, where an unknown party chopped the anchor for The Truth, presumably in an effort to replace said anchors with something newer. We were unable to find the party responsible, nor did we find anyone in the climbing community that had been consulted on the issue prior. Similarly, our inquiries thus far have not yielded any information on who did this more recent bolting or any community discussions.
Bolting can be a contentious issue. The climbing ethics for a crag is often heavily influenced by that crag’s history. When a party wishes to make changes and deviate from that history, it is an act that should not be taken lightly. It is an act that should be considered and discussed openly with the broader community. It is an act that should be done transparently. In Patapsco and other areas, our strong relationship with the land manager allows us a certain degree of freedom without much direct management, allowing us to self regulate. It’s important to recognize the value of this state and not take it for granted.
With regard to the bolts themselves, we found several areas of concern.
The most concerning anchor placement was set on the right side of the main wall between the climbs of Dai and Limelight.These bolts are placed very close to the edge, which is not considered safe placement. There should be a greater amount of rock from all directions of the bolt. As is, this placement has an increased risk of rock fracture unseating the bolt and making it insecure. Additionally, as can be seen in the photo, carabiners and quicklinks used on these hangers will be cross-loaded, a well known bad practice.
The other anchor that was of concern is on the far left above Buddha Paste. The right bolt of the set was placed within an inch of another bolt hole. The bolting standard is to keep at least 5 to 8 inches from other existing bolt holes as this can weaken the rock and cause the bolt to fail without any warning.
All these errors in bolt placement lead us to have serious concerns about the experience and skill level of the party responsible for this bolting and the safety of all bolts placed. Bolting is a serious matter, and mistakes can cost an individual his/her life. Because of these concerns, the lack of community collaboration, as well as a general concern about the rock quality at Alberton, the remaining bolts hangers were also removed.
We realize this is a decision not everyone will agree with. Authority can be a tricky thing when the climbing community self-regulates. We encourage both the party involved in this bolting as well as the broader climbing to reach out to us to share your thoughts on this matter. We are more effective in our efforts working together and honest, transparent discussion is best for all involved.
John Kelbel, Patapsco Crag Steward
Edwin Bachetti, President