Titanium climbing bolts appeal by Maurizio Oviglia for Sardinia's seaside crags
Italian climber and new router Maurizio Oviglia once again focuses on the safety of climbing bolts and anchors on sport climbs in seaside environments and has launched a campaign to raise funds in order to re-bolt some marine crags in Sardinia with titanium bolts.
After the failure of numerous stainless steel anchors (both expansion bolts and glue-in bolts) on the seaside crags of Sardinia, I would like to briefly recap the current situation and explain what has been done so far. At present bolts have broken at the marine crags Cala Fighera (Cagliari), Masua (Iglesias), Pranu Sartu (Buggerru), Cuenca del Cabron (Buggerru), Casarotto (Alghero), Biddiriscottai (Cala Gonone), Millennium (Cala Gonone), Cala Luna (Dorgali) and Arcadio (Cala Gonone).
All bolts that broke were made of AISI 304 stainless steel, and were placed mainly in the first decade of the new millenium. At present no 316 or 316L grade stainless steel anchors have failed although, as engineers like to underline, this does not rule out that they might break some time in the future. I would like to point out that all these failures occurred on overhanging red and yellow limestone, which seems to be the one most affected by anchor corrosion and bolt failure, and never on granite which, by virtue of its PH, seems less prone to this type of degradation.
Since 2012 (the year in which the first bolt failure was documented, resulting in spinal fracture of the unfortunate climber) a series of sport climbs have been re-bolted. However these are not very many, especially when taking into account how many coastal crags there are in Sardinia and the fact that most sport climbs are equipped with bolts made of high risk steel (AISI 304). The majority of the re-bolted climbs (and all new routes) are equipped with 316 and 316L stainless steel, while titanium bolts have only recently been introduced on the island (at present only a handful of routes have been re-bolted with titanium). Many climbers have urged for a database that indicates the safety level of the routes but this, at the moment, appears difficult to implement. Others have inquired if there is a bolt fund, at least for the most popular crags situated along Sardinia’s beautiful coastline, much like in other climbing areas.
It is obvious that re-bolting all of Sardina’s seaside crags is an enormous job which, if done in the future, will have to be carried out by route equippers over the course of several years, decades even. At the moment the local councils do not seem to consider this problem a priority and it’s up to a few individuals to take matters into their own hands.
Personally I would like to help re-bolt two areas that I’m particularly fond of, namely Millennium at Cala Gonone and Capo Pecora at Arbus. I recently checked some bolts, unscrewing the nuts, removing the bolt hanger and trying to examine the state of the steel. This visual inspection obviously cannot guarantee the safety of the anchors themselves. It would be better to re-bolt all the climbs but, as you know, 316L steel is expensive and titanium is extremely expensive. However, one could start perhaps by marking the routes at the base with three different colours: those not re-bolted, those re-bolted with SAE 316L grade stainless steel and those equipped using titanium bolts. This proposal, more so than any database, immediately makes it possible to identify and separate the safer routes from those which can only be climbed when the climbers consciously assume responsibility regarding the integrity of the anchors.
Anyone who wishes to help me add titanium bolt to the most popular climbs at Millennium and the belays of the trad climbs at Capo Pecora can do so via my paypal account email@example.com. I will devote my time to re-equipping these climbs based on the donations I receive.
by Maurizio Oviglia