Safety

WARNING AND DISCLAIMER 

This is not a climbing gym: climb at your own risk. 

Me watching the evacuation to hospital of a climber who took a ground fall on Dinas Cromlech in 1986. Photo John Fitzpatrick.

Rock Climbing is inherently dangerous. Even when doing nothing wrong climbers can be injured or killed. Climb at your own risk. Some or all of the information in this website may be inaccurate. The author accepts no liability for anything. Please read the information about deep water soloing and the sport climbing protection below. No right of way is implied by the route descriptions. 

It is a criminal offence under the Protection of Birds Act 1975 and The Protected Species Amendment Act 2012 punishable by a maximum of two years in prison or a fine of up to $25,000 to interfere, disturb, damage or destroy Cahows and Longtails which nest on and in cliffs in Bermuda. 

Rock climbs in Bermuda range from easy to 5.13c with potential for harder grades. The majority of routes are in the 5.11 range making it a 5.11 climbers paradise with many 3* DWS and sports climbs in that grade range. Most of the climbable rock here is a soft aeolian limestone with the best rock found towards the eastern end. For an overview of the 250+ DWS routes and 50+ sport routes in Bermuda see the graded list. For grade translations consult the grade comparison table. The climbing is good and one of the major advantages of Bermuda is accessibility; with only 21 square miles of land, you never have to travel far. It is possible to climb all year round with summer best for deep water soloing and winter best for sports climbing.

The sport climbs in Bermuda have been equipped with bolts and in situ threads. In general the protection points are placed in the spots where the rock is the most reliable. However the nature of the limestone here is soft and some of the placements are unavoidably in soft rock. Additionally some of the threads are natural rather than drilled. The reliability of the anchors is therefore only as good as the rock and not guaranteed.

All in-situ protection is liable to deteriorate over time. Steel bolts are prone to rust and stainless steel corrosion. The threads are prone to UV radiation and wear and tear. It is important to visually inspect the condition of the anchors when climbing. Most of the expansion bolts have been replaced with marine grade stainless steel or titanium glue-in bolts although there are still some in-situ and these should be viewed with suspicion.

It has become apparent that the shorter glue-ins (Fixe and USHBA titanium) are not long enough for the softer rock and some have started moving or come out and either have been or will be replaced with longer and stronger titanium bolts. Threads will need to be replaced every so often. Unless otherwise indicated, assume the threads date from the first ascent of the route.

THREADS

Jim Ewing from Sterling Ropes kindly pull tested thread samples from Bermuda in his lab in 2014. Unfortunately, in 2015 Jim had a serious climbing accident on Cayman Brac which you can read about here. Jim’s accident is an exemplar of how even highly experienced, safety-conscious climbing industry professionals can fall victim to a climbing accident. This is not ‘another example of the lion tamer turning his back once too often’, as Andy Kirkpatrick described Brad Gobright’s fatal accident in 2019; this is the type of accident that can occur when climbers are, ostensibly, doing nothing wrong and I have personally witnessed accidents and near-misses like this first hand on ‘safe’ sport climbs.

Here are the results of Jim’s pull testing in 2014:

1 Bensalem installed 2009 14.4kN
2 Crack Baby installed 2012 17.9kN
3 Tsunami Wall installed 2009 15.8kN
4 Transmissions from Uranus installed 2010 15.5kN
5 Xantho installed 2008 13.0kN
6 Xantho installed 2008 14.6kN

1,2,3,4 were Samson 3/8 polyester sailing rope. The manufacturers stated strength of the 3/8 Samson polyester sailing rope is 19kN or 4400 pounds.
5,6 were dynamic climbing rope.

The forces on the anchors in a climbing fall range from 2 to 8kN with most falls being in the lower end of that range.

BOLTS

Because of the maritime environment in Bermuda, corrosion is a major problem.

The best bolts for re-equipping in future are the 150mm titanium U bolts made by Titan Climbing. These were not available until relatively recently. Apart from these, some of the other bolts currently in-situ in Bermuda consist of short titanium USHBA bolts, short Fixe and long Bolt Products marine grade stainless steel bolts. The stainless steel bolts are prone to corrosion, see for example UIAA warning 2015.

BOLT FUND - Bermuda Rock Climbing Topo

Titan Climbing also make the Eterna (above) for a single hole. Some of the steel bolts have been removed and replaced with an Eterna in the same hole.

Bolts that are in-situ in Bermuda are below.

Jim Titt’s Bolt Products 8mm Rod Protection Bolt – Sea Water Series

BOLT FUND - Bermuda Rock Climbing Topo

Polished eye for enhanced corrosion protection. 24mm internal eye diameter. Breaking Strain-100kN! EN959. UNS31803. 1.4462 Stainless Steel 16mm dia. hole. The ones in situ in Bermuda are at least twice as long as the one in the pic above.

Fixe Marine Glue-In Bolts

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A316 Marine Grade Stainless Steel. These seem to be a bit more corrosion resistant than the bolt product bolts but are not recommended for the softer rock due to their small size.
USHBA TORTUGA GLUE-IN BOLT

These were very expensive and OK in the good rock but not big enough for the soft rock. Tsunami Wall is mostly equipped with these bolts. They are not UIAA certified.

From top to bottom; Tortuga, Fixe and Titt Bolt Products bolts photographed together. Photo Grant Farquhar.

A guide to placing glue-in bolts on the FIXE website.

Any routes equipped with stainless steel expansion bolts are no longer safe to climb.

Titan Climbing
Jim Titt’s Bolt products
USHBA
Fixe USA
American Safe Climbing Association
Safer Cliffs Australia

Climbing article on bolt corrosion 2014
UIAA warning 2015