If you’ve ever climbed Gilbert’s Rock and wondered, “How did those bolts get in the rock, and who checks them?” This is for you.
History: Steve Longenecker and several friends were the first to climb Gilbert’s, then known as Tater Knob. Steve placed many of the bolt sets and discovered many of the routes on the rock. Gilbert’s is an integral part of our climbing program today, and Falling Creek still manages the rock’s usage.
I had the opportunity to go with Ben Williams to help and observe just how to check the bolts.
If you don’t know what a bolt is, I’ll tell you. Mechanical Bolts are large screws that are tapped into a hole that has been drilled into very hard rock. When the bolt is screwed in, and tightened down, a sleeve around the bolt expands inside the rock. This causes the bolt to be held firmly in place. There are many different types of bolts used in climbing, but you get the basic idea.
Our job was to check the tightness of the bolts and make sure they are still firmly in the rock… Well, that was Ben’s job, anyway. Mine was to belay him and take pretty pictures.
While we were up there, a swarm of Lady Bugs descended on us. They were yellow, orange and red. Our shirts and pants were covered by the time Ben was done checking the bolts.
Steve Longenecker is a legend in the local climbing community, having pioneered many first-ascents in the southeast. He currently presents Falcon Shows for camp, school groups and other local organizations. He created and teaches the WEMA program.