How to Identify Bad Climbing Bolts


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When we encounter a bolt, we have no idea whether it’s good, bad, or just ugly. The reality is, bolts can fail due to metal fatigue, oxidation, improper placement, or hidden internal processes like stress corrosion cracking (SCC), in which tiny fissures form in the metal due to chemical reactions. While the design and construction of modern bolts make this a rarity on, say, routes from the past decade, older bolts with smaller diameters can fail. Identifying these bolts can help you assess the risk in clipping and making that next move. I’ve been rebolting for 30 years, and have replaced almost 1,000 bolts. Some old bolts looked great, while others have broken with a flick of the rope. Knowing the difference can save your life.