Forum: GLOBAL / Editorial / How close should bolts be placed? Login in to contribute
How close should bolts be placed?
  2016-06-01 00:00:00    
The French Climbing Federation (FFME) was one of the first to give specific guidelines on how close the first bolts should be placed. #1 at the most on 2.8 meters above ground, #2 at four meters and the #3 at six meters. Even if this guideline has had a great impact on reducing a number of "old school" potentially deadly routes, the FFME recommendation does not make hitting the ground avoidable when clipping the second or third bolt.

If you fall while clipping the second bolt, based on FFEM, at least 1.5 meter rope will be out. This means that your feet will actually hit the ground before the rope gets tight. (First bolt 2.8 meter above ground but including the hanger and quick-draw it is 2.5 meters. Add 1.5 meters rope and that your feet is 1 meter below your harness.)

If you fall while clipping the third bolt at six meters based on FFME example, you will also hit the ground as normally 2.5 meters rope is out. (4 meters, minus 0.3 for bolt and hanger and 2.5 meters rope, 0.5 meter dynamic and 1 meter for feet below the harness.)

Climbing is a risky sport and clearly the FFEM bolting guidelines have had positive impact but with the new generation of 6a gym climbers who want to come out to the rock, it should be revised. Here are the 8a bolting recommendations for easier routes:

#1 at 3 meters
#2 at 4 meters
#3 at 5.5 meters
#4 at 7.5 meters
#5 at 10 meters

If we are talking about very hard routes with a relatively much easier start, it is normally OK with longer distance in between the bolts. When it comes to clipping positions and grades, on a 6a route the clipping positions should be adjusted to 160 cm climbers meanwhile on an 8a route, 170 cm could be applicable.
OffLine Christian Mengel
  2016-06-01 23:02:45    
Bolts should be placed like in Ceüse. Case closed!
OffLine Ari
  2016-06-02 00:17:54    
"#5 at 10 meters", if this becomes the law, i will open a bolt-shop in Frankenjura. :-)
OffLine Jens Larssen
  2016-06-02 09:06:45    
I guess you have heard about many accidents in Frankenjura. Some years ago a Swedish girl was killed on a easier route is just one example. If you fall by clipping the fifth bolt in my example your feet will probably end up two meters above the ground.  Here is the math: 7.3 meters is the height of the rope in the carabiner and then just substrakt with; 3 meters of rope will be out while clipping the fifth rope 1 meter dynamic in the fall 1 meter feet below the harness I think this is good safety margin for a 6a route where the belayer is normally not that experienced. I would also think that having the fifth bolt on 10 meters go in hand with IFSC competition recommendations. 
OffLine Leszek Iwan
  2016-06-02 10:58:02    
Hi Guys I  do not have much experience with bolting, but more important than any regulations for me are rules such as: Safety first! Sport climbing is sport climbing, it has to be safe. I'm trying to place first bolt around 2m. If the first move is very hard I place bolt so close to the ground that climber can clip it from the ground.  When you hesitate if it is worth to put a bolt, just do it. It is better to put one extra bolt than do not bolt important one. Think about short climbers Bolt for clipping the draw and not for clipping rope to the quickdraw When rock has a pure quality it is better to put bolts quite close to each other. For hard routes I bolt with small space ratio, so you can reach from one draw to another  If you want to save money it is better to stop climbing, go play football ;) L.
OffLine Alma
  2016-06-02 14:19:43    
As few as possible!
OffLine Philippe Vaucher
  2016-06-02 16:31:27    
@Alma: arguments for it being?
OffLine Ari
  2016-06-02 16:45:19    
As few as possible, (to protect the rock), as many as necessary, (to protect the climber).
OffLine Marco Troussier
  2016-06-02 16:53:51    
Where did you read that ? www.ffme.fr ?
OffLine Jens Larssen
  2016-06-02 17:00:56    
In the Kalymnos topo. Is IT not true?
OffLine Leszek Iwan
  2016-06-02 17:08:09    
Ari, Alma I can't agree with you. If you are trying something really hard for you, you are not able to make a single move sometimes. Than i can't imagine someone trying crux withou clip it is just to hard and pointless to check next hold for 20 times before you could actually use it. So i could put last bolt maybe 10m before chain on 30m long route. I make a bet that no one would like to climb that route (even if it would be totally safe) In other words whan you would be good enaough to climb i, you will probably climb on much harder routes with normal boll spacing. So if there is no one on the route what was the reason to bolt it? L.
OffLine Marco Troussier
  2016-06-02 17:34:18    
No. Nothing like that has ever been write in the FFME concerning climbing in cliffs. There is only several advice concerning hitting the ground, and bolts position concerning damage when falling. Only advice of "good sense" regarding to the type of route, difficulty, type of rock....dihedral...blocks etc.
OffLine Jens Larssen
  2016-06-02 18:37:01    
Strange. I Will delete FFEM and inform Aris.
OffLine Ari
  2016-06-02 19:33:32    
Leszek,
I am far away from liking the bolting in elbsandstein e.g., but i think what Jens wrote might be good for climbing gyms but not to generalize for every rock. There are so much more things to care about. For example the steepness, the clipping positions, the quality of the rock, possible self-protection, etc. I agree that the crux has to be protected by a bolt, but easier sections should allow a runout. And even if you bolt like Jens suggested, you might hit the deck, if you clip overstretched. What i want to point out is that it needs a lot of experience to bolt a route and there is no blueprint to do it 100% safely, without destroying the climb.
OffLine Horss
  2016-06-02 20:19:23    
To have 5 Bolts on 10 m is an overkill in my opinion, but if the first ascentionist decides to do that, fine. In the end every climber has the right to decide what to do with a piece of unclimbed rock. If the first bolt is in 8-10 m, then that is the challenge. If you don't like it, go back to the climbing gym, or go on searching for routes with lower first bolts. An important part of climbing is some kind of "adventure", to ask for ridiculously many bolts in a nature environment is totally wrong !
OffLine Jens Larssen
  2016-06-02 20:31:14    
Please bare in mind that the recommendations relates to easier routes up to around 6a.
OffLine Steve
  2016-06-02 21:30:27    
Clearly, in sport climbing, the first bolt should be after the crux. There is no point in clipping earlier, as it just costs extra energy. If the crux is already at 3 meters height, the climber must cover the ground with stones and stuff with sharp edges to make the sports climb more adventurous and thus ensure a valid red point.
OffLine Leszek Iwan
  2016-06-03 06:43:02    
Steve you just made my day :) Guys if you want an adventure all the mountains around the world are waiting for you ;) Trad climbing, iceclimbing, free solo is full of adventures just go for it. In sport climbing you would like to climb as hard as possible. For me all sport routes should be well protected. Easy one becasue people who will climb there going to be at beginner level. For hard routes i can't imagine looking for beta with last bolt 3 below your foot. Maybe i just try to hard routes for me ;)  L.
OffLine Horss
  2016-06-03 10:15:59    
Steve and Leszek: the world is full of climbing gyms. Why don't you stay there ? It is relatively safe (at least in non earthquake and other natural desaster zones) and as an add on, all the hand- and footholds are clearly marked. Sounds like a perfect environment, no ?
Jens: I understand that, but still I think, that it is up to the person bolting the route, how he/she wants to have it. Even a beginner should learn to decide, whether a route is appropriate, or not. The regulation includes some kind of trend to implement climbing gym standards outdoors. I don't like that !
OffLine Leszek Iwan
  2016-06-03 10:55:27    
Horss, I do not climb in gym because i like rock climbing. According to your presentation at 8a.nu  you were climbing at Tatra mountains. Great! so do I, mostly during winter. we can go for adventure there, there is no point in looking for adventures at rocks. Your balls won't get bigger because you were able to climb 7a with bad bolting. Sport climbing is about difficulty of climbing there is no point in making it harder by bad clips. If You would put huge space it is very hard to look for beta.  Guys have you ever tried to climb at your real limit? it is nearly impossible when you have 5m between bolts. Not because you are scared but because you are able to make one hard move maybe once per 10 - 15 tries. Look how the hardest routes are bolted.  BTW What are your hardest ascents? I have theory that guys who don't climb really that hard usually talking about being brave and adventurer at rocks ;) that is general statement and for sure there are exceptions from that. L.
OffLine Vincent Bouillot
  2016-06-03 11:53:28    
Leszek, I can understand your point but bolting ethics is a difficult subject and it must be bent to the bolter's discretion. In some places (e.g. Céüse in France), you have to climb between bolts to get the thing done, even on hard routes. You just man (or woman) up and feel free in your climbing for a few extra meters. Of course, when you fall, the falls are long. Of course, when you fall, it requires some extra strength to get back to the crux. But it's good exercise if the fall is clean no? For me, that's so much better than clipping every single meter. In principle, I would agree with the bolting advocated by Jens. But for many reasons, it won't work. Not a single good hold to clip from, not clipping bolt #1 because it's too close to bolt #2 (or even worse not clipping bolt #3 because it's so close from #2), crux is below 3 meters, the first 5 meters are hikes etc. You can't really apply a recipe like this outside of a gym unfortunately. Jens, you can't cite the FFME there without giving us a link to a webpage, a some data. And I checked on their website. No mention of anything of distance between the bolts...
OffLine Leszek Iwan
  2016-06-03 12:45:29    
I have never been to Ceuse :( no one want to go with me there because of approach ;) I can agree that if it is safe it could be acceptable to bolt with large space between points however:Is it fair if I bolt scary route, then top rope it for a 1000 times and after that feel brave enough to climb it? If it is a pleasure for you that someone else has shit in the pants and you don't because you top rope the route before you decided to climb it. I know stories like that.Regarding hiking terrain in the beginning of the route. Usually accidents happened at easy terrain not at crux. When we feel relaxed, easy that is when we do not pay attention to the situation. Gravity doesn't care if it was ultra hard or hiking... If You fall the ground from 5m it is dangerous. How would you feel as bolting guy if you would know that someone is on wheelchair because you want to save money and you didn't put bolt in easy terrain? L.
OffLine Horss
  2016-06-03 15:15:22    
...I don't care how bad ass any of you is, for me this is about making your own decisions and carrying your own responsibility. Regulations in bolting is another step to make climbing a perfect fitness excercise as it is in the gyms allready. The next step is then to rebolt all the "oldschool" routes, as they do not fit any more into the new climbing spirit.
OffLine Leszek Iwan
  2016-06-03 15:49:49    
Horss I make a promise: I am not going to rebolt any classic ;) I don't feel also bad ass. to be honest i am pretty weak (i do what i can to climb better) There are people who warms up on routes which i never be able to climb on. However if a climber projects really hard for him (grade is not important but how close to his limit he is) there is no place for pure bolting. Just try to climb reaaaaaly hard (for you). Nice weekend guys! I'm going to climb a little! lets hope for low gravity days ;) L.
OffLine Rafa Cliiiiiimb .
  2016-06-03 20:09:42    
I support Horss. <br> Each climber must be able to judge what is willing to risk to enjoy the really experience of climbing. I'm route equiper (sorry for mi English), and I like to space a bit (very little) the bolts, rarely space the bolts more than 3m, which is a joke in other schools...<br> I think in Spain we are become spoilt with the driller fever, and the bolts every time are more near each other. <br> I space the bolts when a part of a route is very easy relatively compared with the grade of the full route, per example, if you try a 7b route with a part of 6b, or a 6b+ route with a part of 5c, even a "beginner route" of 5c with a part of 4a, all people need to learn the risk and take the decisions for himself.<br> In general, If the route has more of 1/2 bolts of meters long, I think is overprotected... 20m 11 bolts, 10/6, 14/8, 38/20!!!<br> Regards
OffLine Jens Larssen
  2016-06-03 21:12:18    
I totally agree with Rafa :)
OffLine Steve
  2016-06-04 01:02:09    
Horss: The world is full of caves. Why don't you go there and stay there? ;)
OffLine Rufus5.12
  2016-06-07 11:00:51    
Haha...Now this is actually a worthwhile forum!  There can obviously be no standard for both placements, because nature is arbitrary. Living and Bolting in China has given me the opportunity to influence many new climbers.  The first thought is to drill the bolts close to the ground and closer together.  But after i accompanied several Chinese to Smith Rocks Oregon, they were quickly convinced the first bolt should be as high as possible. I didn't say anything...they made the decision on their own and said that is how they will bolt in the future.  A HIGH FIRST BOLT IS ABSOLUTELY SAFER!!!  main reason...and no matter the grade you climb....if you get scared, or you don't feel safe, or the climbing is too difficult... you will not continue higher. The inexperienced will immediately down climb OR carry a stick-clip. By placing the first bolt as high as safely possible you will dramatically reduce the potential for belayer error. (which will potentially cause death vs. someone falling 3 meters and maybe receiving a broken leg) now on the topic of bolt spacing.... that is completely up to the guy putting in the large effort to open new routes.  I absolutely hate watching a guy that can barely climb 7a dog his way up a 7c because the bolts through the crux are close.   Screw that guy.  HAHAHa! We are rock climbing. falling is part of the sport. get used to being scared. take the whipper! However, i do agree that if the bolts are too far apart, this will cause excessive danger to the climber upon falling, and for that reason i do suggest putting a limit of 4 meters between the bolts.  Finally, most people need to climb higher in order to reach the bolt and clip safely. most beginners try to clip the next bolt from far too low and actually put themselves in much high risk for accident by pulling excessive rope. CLIMB HIGH TO THE BOLT, MAYBE PAST IT A LITTLE, THEN CLIP AT THE HIP (or the nipple). 
OffLine Rufus5.12
  2016-06-07 11:01:06    
barf!!
OffLine Jens Larssen
  2016-06-07 11:32:50    
So how high do you think the first bolt should be placed on a 6a with the crux in the start and with bad landing?
OffLine hanez
  2016-06-07 16:41:09    
As high as the person, who found the line and bolts it wants to set the first bolt.
OffLine Steve Crowe
  2016-06-15 16:32:39    
I think that there should be consideration for an upper limit on the total number of bolts in a single pitch route. What is reasonable to carry on sight? Perhaps 20 QD's. So for a 60m route the bolts would need to be placed an average of 3m apart. Obviously there will be exceptions but I think this is a good standard to strive for.
OffLine Jens Larssen
  2016-06-15 17:23:10    
If the FA placed 22 bolts on a 60 meter route, there is of course no problem to just carry 20 quick draws and skip two bolts :)
OffLine Jens Larssen
  2016-06-16 07:54:23    
The FA can put 40 bolts every other meter meaning you just need to clip every second bolt :)
OffLine Emanuele Pellizzari
  2016-06-16 08:55:39    
Ciao, first do not confuse COSIROC with FFME.Second, I sell bolts = the more you bolt the more money. However I found an excessive use of bolts, which sometimes INCREASE the danger.Every clip, is a dangerous task, the more clips = the more danger.Particularly in easier route (= less experienced Ccimbers) placing bolts too close, only have the result that the climber is clipping more times increasing the change of falling (foot slipping, hold break, etc).Any climber has the money to buy a cheat stick, if he has not the balls to practice this dangerous sport: kids included. If he has not a stick, he can skip one day of climbing and buy it for the following day, or he can custom make one, the web is full of ideas. The first bolt should be placed at +5 meters, the 2nd at +6. Reming that if you jump and you are tall +1,70 m, you can clip a 2,70 hanger easily. It's unlikely you hit the ground  if you miss-clip the second bolt. But if you place them too close, you have various opportunities to hit the ground while clipping = just dangerous.Overbolting also ruin the experience: too many bolts, bring you to be as heavy as a truck loaded, and sometimes the clips are just in awkward position.
OffLine Cormes
  2017-03-15 09:54:01    
From the http://www.gozo-climbing.com/ site: 1st bolt - placed between 2 meters and 2.5 meters from the ground
2nd bolt - placed no higher than 1.2 meters from the first bolt
3rd bolt - placed no higher than 1.5 meters from the second bolt
4th bolt - placed no higher than 2 meters from the third bolt
all other bolts - placed no higher than 3 meters from the last bolt
OffLine Jens Larssen
  2017-03-15 16:33:00    
If you have the first bolt at 2.5 meters and the second at 3.7 meters you will must likely hit the ground if you do not hit the belayer.