Climbing Bolt Removal Techniques

Climbing bolts are the central piece of in situ equipment climbers rely on almost every day they visit a crag whether it be sport or traditional. Like any piece of equipment left to the elements the time eventually comes to replace or upgrade. As one begins learning the process of replacing aged bolts one of the first questions the uninitiated asks is “why are we not reusing the existing hole by removing the old bolt?”

Replacing bolts  requires time, work and a bit of knowledge.  Motivating climbers to replace bolts is one thing but that effort is of lesser gain  if they do not have a foundation of knowledge about removal techniques that are commensurate with hole reuse. New bolts should always be Stainless Steel and preferably adhesive bolts, but that is a topic for another day.

The central thrust of this post is detailing bolt removal techniques and their application to bolt and rock  combinations so existing holes can be reused for new bolt placements.

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Bolt Spinning Technique

This technique can be useful when dealing with wedge bolts. The results are best when dealing with bolts in weaker stone types, but they can be equally effective even in very strong rock. Step one of a a two part removal process is outlined herein. Step two requires the use of a hydraulic tool which will be outlined in a later article.

Basically, the stud is fitted to the drill using a custom “Drill Spinner” and then spun at a high speed for a few minutes, grinding a bit of the collar away and widening the hole diameter slightly. In softer rock types like wingate sandstone it is possible to completely remove the bolt using this technique.

Again, the idea here is to wear down the collar on the wedge bolt so that it can easily be removed with a hydraulic tool.  If you are dealing with soft sandstone, it is possible to spin the bolt completely out of the rock.


A SDS-plus rotary drill that has the option to turn off the hammer mode is necessary.  Assuming your working on a 3/8″ bolt you will need following:

  1. Drill
  2. Wrench
  3. Hammer
  4. Bolt Spinner: A custom SDS-plus shank adapter that fastens the drill to the wedge bolt.  LEARN HOW TO MAKE ONE
  5. 3\8-16 die

Note, if the bolt threads are damaged you will use the 3/8 “-16 die to try and salvage what threads you can.


  1. Remove the nut and hanger.
  2. Adjust the setscrew to allow the wedge bolt to bottom out, leaving enough room between the bolt spinner and the rock to release the collar.
  3. Spin the bolt spinner onto the bolt threads without it being attached to the drill.
  4. Lightly tap on the end of the bolt spinner with a hammer until the bolt loosens.  This is an attempt to release the collar from the cone.
  5. Attach the drill to the bolt spinner.
  6. Make sure the drill is NOT ON HAMMER MODE and spin clockwise.
  7. Remove the bot spinner from the wedge bolt.  If it wont come off, remove the shank from the coupler and back off the setscrew with an allen key.

Bolt Spinner Bolt Spinner Bolt Spinner Set Screw BackSet Screw Front Wedge Bolt Collar

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2013 Elk Camp

2013 Elk Camp


It has been a few years, probably three, since I last hunted Elk. My regular hunting partner, John Hayward, injured a knee this last winter at Cross Fit and I didn’t bother bringing up hunting all summer as it seemed best to let sleeping dogs lie. In late August I mentioned the impending season opener date and even though both of us knew we rarely hunted early in the five week Fall season it was a good ice breaker on the topic.

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Eldorado Canyon State Park Flood September, 2013

Eldorado Canyon State Park Flood September, 2013


Record rains in early September reeked havoc across the front range of Colorado. Eldorado Canyon received 14″ rain September 9th – 13th, 2013 with seven inches alone falling September 12th. Here are some photos of the damage in Eldorado Canyon State Park.

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Chiefs Head: Birds of Fire Thoughts

Chiefs Head: Birds of Fire Thoughts


August 31, 2013 Rob Kepley and I decided to make a play for the famous Birds of Fire route on the West end of the North face of Chiefs Head. Given a questionable weather window and a late start we were fittingly weathered off Birds of Fire from the top of the crux third pitch by  an up slope micro burst rain storm. In retrospect the trip was a lot of  fun and a great experience for personal and team growth. This is not a trip report but a reflection on things learned from being humbled in Glacier George.

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