Safe Bolting on Ton Sai
The bolting effort at Ton Sai has been a long and complicated one. The limestone karst that offers such amazing formations for climbing is also incredibly corrosive to fixed protection. A few years back stainless steel expansion bolts were the norm, but it was discovered that even the stainless could rust out after a mere 20 months, the scariest part being that bolts often rust from the inside. So what appears to be a shiny new expansion bolt and hanger from the surface can be ready to pop right out of the rock. The best protection comes from rope slings and titanium glue-in bolts. For the American climber this is initially pretty disconcerting. At most domestic crags expansion bolts are the gold standard and glue-ins are unheard of. To add a little extra confidence Ton Sai bolters are on their second type of glue. It was discovered that the first glue they tried, the white glue, would eventually turn to sand. Now the best course of action is titanium glue-ins using a very expensive plastic resin that is red in color. If you are coming to the area think about bringing them a tube of Hilti RE-500, but be sure to check the expiration date. Most tubes are only good for about 6 months. You might think about contacting Basecamp Tonsai directly to see what they currently need.
What this all means is that climbers need to educate themselves about the bolting history of the climbs and be able to recognize the different types of bolts and glue. Many routes here have several bolts for each placement, either an expansion and a red glue-in or a white glue-in and a red glue-in. Best to take a glance before you clip in on lead.
Luckily the guidebook is updated often and gives detailed information about bolt age and safety. We have the 2007 guidebook which we got from my cousin, Amy, and we are finding that a lot of routes have been rebolted in the interim. A few days ago we headed out to Kochel Rock. We had been neglecting the crag because our guide listed all the bolts as expansion bolts put in place in 1999. Yikes! A friend showed us their newer guide that reported that in January 2009 everything was rebolted with titanium glue-ins and a new route was established.
Kochel rock is fun for a quick morning warm up and is surrounded by several other walls within about 5-15 minutes walking. We got on three of the four routes there. To the far left is “Jihn Panka” a newly established 6a+ put up by Elke and Wee. The first bolt is a little high but reachable with a traverse from the far left. The route had a fun mini-crux to mantel to the second bolt and was a pretty basic but sharp jug-fest from there. When I led it I also managed to rip a big hole in the leg of my capri pants. No biggie except I currently only own one other pair of pants and one pair of shorts. I guess I’ll be looking a little ragged for a while.
On the right-hand side of the rock is “With you Liebelien” a fun and pumpy 6b. Again, the first sling is a little high but the enormous hand-hold-ridden tufa and elephant-sized ledge makes reaching it a cinch. The crux is a near the top as you move left to the anchor.
Finally we hopped on “One for you, one for me” an interesting 6c. The climb starts with a short jammable crack then moves to well spaced jugs and finishes super thin and technical on really sharp rock at the fifth bolt. I suffered through the finish but most of our friends decided they liked the skin on their fingers and backed off. There is a second 6c called “I am out of here” but we have yet to climb it.
From the top of the climbs you can see a little water to the left and right which kicks up a nice breeze. I don’t think Kochel is much of a destination but with easy access from Duncan’s Boot, Jungle Gym, Hidden Wall and The Keep it’s a nice spot to climb while you wait for the crowd to die down at the other walls.