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Bolts and Insurance

Bob Mehew

Well-known member
For me the insurance is not really about a payout to an injured person, it is the cover for legal representation against such claims which is far more likely. That can be a major expense in its own right. I gather the incidence of frivolous claims has risen over the years. And yes I speak from being on the fringe of one action (not related to BCA's insurance) which fortunately was defeated.
 

topcat

Active member
The rigging off a single bolt mentioned above reminds me: there are a number of single point rebelays I can think of which are quite close to the ground, and failure there would result in a ground fall due to rope stretch and the loop. In the days of spits good practice would dictate two placements and a Y hang. But now we appear to trust resin anchors so much that this doubling up is often ignored. Is this negligent bolting? The three modern 'bibles' all show double anchors for short drop rebelays following a long drop above.

Egs include Heron Pot direct, Lost Johns through the window, one of the pitches in Flood, bottom of KLW.
 

mikem

Well-known member
The problem is that it's probably not negligence until they start failing (whereas spits would do it for a pastime)
 

Bob Mehew

Well-known member
The rigging off a single bolt mentioned above reminds me: there are a number of single point rebelays I can think of which are quite close to the ground, and failure there would result in a ground fall due to rope stretch and the loop.
The theory goes that you have 2 resin anchors at the top with a Y hang for doubled up security. A resin anchor rebelay only requires one anchor since if it fails the rope is still held at the top. I assume the installer considered that one could use the rebelay with a small enough loop to avoid hitting the floor if it went. So it was 'his fault me lud, not mine'.
 

andrewmcleod

Well-known member
Yes, I thought that when I went two weekends ago for the first time until I easily pushed it to one side. It's not fixed at all. I doubt (I think) that anyone would deliberately pick it up and chuck it down the hole, especially if a rope was rigged off it, but still. I'm aware the same thing could happen by untying the knot around the surface p-bolt, but... nah, I don't agree that the Aquamole scaffold bar should be included as an anchor when it's literally not attached to anything.
It's been loose for as long as I can remember. I have never worried about this, any more than I have worried about climbing trad gear (e.g. nuts) being loose, for two reasons.
1) it sits nicely at the top of the shaft and there's no reason why it should move or suddenly jump up and dive down the hole while in use
2) the rope should be backed up by a tail that goes directly to the P bolts/belay stake (just loose enough not to rub, but tight enough to remove most of the shock load should the scaff bar dislodge).

If someone chooses to rig their rope to _only_ the obviously loose scaff bar, then jump up and down while descending into the shaft, dislodge it and plunge to their death, that's entirely their own fault.

The purpose of the rigging topos should be to aid people visiting the cave, not simply to list approved anchors and locations.
 

andrewmcleod

Well-known member
The rigging off a single bolt mentioned above reminds me: there are a number of single point rebelays I can think of which are quite close to the ground, and failure there would result in a ground fall due to rope stretch and the loop. In the days of spits good practice would dictate two placements and a Y hang. But now we appear to trust resin anchors so much that this doubling up is often ignored. Is this negligent bolting? The three modern 'bibles' all show double anchors for short drop rebelays following a long drop above.

Egs include Heron Pot direct, Lost Johns through the window, one of the pitches in Flood, bottom of KLW.
I don't like anchor installations that rely on an (effectively) un-backed-up resin anchor (e.g. the first rebelay in Notts Pot, some of the end-of-traverse anchors in Rumbling Hole with short drops) and would prefer additional resin anchors to prevent anchor failure resulting in ground-fall.

However, if I'm not experienced enough to recognise and accept the risk, I have no business rigging ropes there. Anyone using resin anchors should accept the risk that they may fail even if correctly installed. Only if the anchors were negligently installed (e.g. the installer forgot to put the resin in) might I have a claim... and the BCA insurance would cover this (for a BCA-member installer). Only if the anchors were deliberately recklessly or dangerously installed (i.e. the installer was blind drunk while installing anchors, or deliberately chopped the anchors so they were only 10mm long or something) would the BCA insurance _not_ cover it for a BCA-member installer.

Caving is dangerous and all that... ooh!
 

topcat

Active member
The theory goes that you have 2 resin anchors at the top with a Y hang for doubled up security. A resin anchor rebelay only requires one anchor since if it fails the rope is still held at the top. I assume the installer considered that one could use the rebelay with a small enough loop to avoid hitting the floor if it went. So it was 'his fault me lud, not mine'.
Not so in the situation I am describing. See page 59 in Warild's Vertical, and page 149 in Caving Technical Guide.
 

Fjell

Well-known member
It’s also recommended to limit the distance between rebelays in deeper caves for speed of movement, better communication and visibility and less bounce. I would say to no more than 20m if you can manage it. 5x20m legs is dramatically better for a team than 1x100m.

If you really can hit the floor from a failed rebelay then either you can skip the rebelay - or it is a new, rather small pitch.

I use two bolts on the window in Dome, one of them a spit. It is clearly another pitch. If someone wants to add another bolt, could you put it on the ledge over the main shaft to make life more pleasant.
 
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Pitlamp

Well-known member
The universally accepted principle is never to rely on a single bolt belay in a life critical situation.
(Whether this is at a pitch head or near a pitch base is not especially relevant, if failure is likely to cause serious injury or worse.)

If someone does - and (heaven forbid) sustains a life changing injury as a result, then surely the negligence was on the part of the person who rigged the pitch that way on that day, whether or not the bolt was fitted as part of an "official" scheme.

Or on themselves, for using the pitch rigged that way (unless they were a novice who could reasonably expect a duty of care from more experienced cavers, or they were ascending a rope they'd not seen on an earlier descent to get into a cave system which was entered via a different route, in which case the ball rests in the rigger's court).
 

topcat

Active member
It's not just a case of hitting the floor. The re-belay will be there for a reason: what happens to the hang after the failure? Do you end up under a waterfall? Does the rope pull boulders down on you?

Same considerations apply to deviations .....and we are often a bit slack on their integrity because we know that they don't take the same forces of a re-belay. But if they are there for a good reason they need to be good!
 

mikem

Well-known member
The most likely time for an anchor to fail (provided you don't shock load it) is when you start ascending, & then you probably will hit the floor. Whilst descending you can check the bolt before using it.

Wide deviations can actually be subject to quite high forces, & they are more likely to be pulling the bolt out, whereas a rebelay usually loads it at nearer 90 degrees to the rock:
 
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Pitlamp

Well-known member
You can only visually check the bolt. I once took a massive whipper on an aid route in Alum Pot when a bolt failed which I'd just placed myself. There had been no visual indication that the anchor had any flaw. I almost hit a pointed boulder on the floor but fortunately just ended up staring into the upside down face of the bloke (with the initials GK) who heroically saved me, at some cost to his hands. He looked nearly as surprised as I was (LOL)!
 

mikem

Well-known member
I just wanted to clarify that it was a spit. Were you able to confirm whether it had just pulled out or split the rock?
 

Pitlamp

Well-known member
The rock didn't fail. I suspect the word "Spit" might originate from a trade name, so (in an attempt to be comprehensive) instead I'll confirm it was a "self drilling anchor" which itself snapped as I put my weight onto it. The hanger, bolt and part of the anchor was still attached to me, as I'd just clipped to it before the rest of the world suddenly went rushing upwards past me.

Remind me to tell you the story next time you're up at Greenclose.
 

ChrisB

Well-known member
I'm not a lawyer, but my understanding is that one can sue for breach of contract or negligence. There's no contract between the caver who installed the anchor and a caver who is harmed if it fails, so it would have to be negligence. That requires that a duty of care exists, and that it's been breached. I think anyone who places an anchor has a duty of care to anyone who might reasonably expect that anchor to be sound, but if that anchor was placed over 3 years previously, and there's nothing visibly wrong with it over that time, the duty of care has probably been met. The duty of care must diminish over time, in parallel with the expectation that the anchor will remain sound. The person using the anchors has been warned that all anchors must be inspected before use so knows more about it than the person who placed it.
 

mikem

Well-known member
If someone has placed an anchor for their personal use then they don't have any real liability to anyone else using it, if they've published a topo showing it then they have.
 

cap n chris

Well-known member
The Cave Fairies are imaginary creatures but the fruits of their labours are physically extant. I doubt they have a team of lawyers to represent them but if they did their address is unknown.
 
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