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What does it take to bolt a crag?

We hear from the 2022 Share for Bolts Winners about their journeys with rock climbing, bolting, and the crag they plan to develop.

Whatdoesittaketoboltanewcrag

An interview with Cris and Andy, the 2022 Share For Bolt Winners.



If you’ve been following Mapo Tapo on social media over the past few months, you’ll be aware that we just completed our second Share For Bolts initiative raising money to sponsor the development of local climbing areas. 


This year, our winners were Cris and Andy, a climbing photographer and bolter from Chile who share the mission of encouraging more people to get out into nature and engage with the natural world in a responsible manner. 


Let’s get to know them and find out more about their plans for the Share For Bolts prize money.


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A chilean climber an bolter smiling at the camera, with their kit in the foreground

It takes a lot of kit to be a climbing photographer - and even more when you're bolting! Cris and Andy during a climbing/ bolting/ photography trip to Alto el Loa ©  Cris Posadas



Hi Cris, hi Andy! Great to have you here and congratulations on the win. Let’s start with an easy question: how did you both get into climbing?


Andy: I started rock climbing at the age of 17 (so 12 years ago). However, climbing has always been present in my life in a more natural way: most of my childhood was spent climbing trees and scrambling. As a teenager, I became really interested in engaging with the sport in a more formal way, so I began to climb at the only gym available in the area. From then on, it started to take up more and more of my time, and eventually became a huge part of my life!


Cris:  I grew up in a very forested area, so, like Andy, my first time climbing was on trees rather than rock. Actually, my father used to work as a lumberjack, so climbing trees was quite a constant in my early life. I was formally introduced to rock climbing in Tonsai in 2016: watching people hanging from the cliffs by the sea was a powerful enough image to make me want to try that madness myself. From then on, climbing has always been a big part of my life. I immediately got hooked on all forms of the discipline, and continue to practice these today.


 

A person crack climbing in Antofagasta, Northern ChileAndy taking the lead on a trad climb in Alto el Loa, Chile © Cris Posadas



What have your journeys with the sport looked like since then?


Andy: It’s been a really interesting decade or so, as climbing has given me the chance to travel, to get to know incredible natural places and meet beautiful people. I feel this huge sense of belonging to a community - I can really relate to other climbers and all of their peculiarities. Over the years, climbing started to transform from a sport that I practiced to more of a way of life and source of income; a means of transmitting my personal values to the community and society more broadly.


Cris: To put it concisely, climbing has radically changed the course of my life, to the extent that every activity I do presently is for, from and through climbing.



That’s amazing, and something I’m sure a lot of readers can relate to. Andy - what motivated you to start bolting and developing climbing areas?


Andy: Before I started bolting myself, I would always wonder who developed the incredible crags I visited, since it was clear that it was not a public service or profit-related activity. I was really attracted by the idea of route development as a generous act, a means of ‘creating’ something for the community to enjoy. Since learning how to bolt, I have always tried to contribute in some way to the development of the crags I’ve climbed at: I’ll fix something, replace some old equipment, or open new routes for people to enjoy in a safe way.



A person bolting at Ojo del Opache, a crag in Northern Chile

Andy and a colleague at work bolting © Cris Posadas



If you’re interested, here are some of the most memorable places I have bolted:


El Asiento, San Felipe, Valparaíso – the sport climbing crag where I officially learnt how to bolt routes from my first mentors.


Santuario, Villa Alemana, Valparaíso – A (mostly) sport climbing crag that I helped develop alongside two other colleagues as my first full autonomous bolting project.


Sporting, Viña del Mar, Valparaíso – A sport climbing crag where many of us from the area discovered the sport. I have made some minor contributions as a bolter here, maintaining several routes and bolting a couple of new routes or variants of existing ones.


Alto el Loa, Calama, Antofagasta – A trad climbing area where I have been to develop routes several times over the years, and one of my favourite crags in Chile.


Ojo de Opache, Calama, Antofagasta – I helped raise money for a bolting event here, with the aim of opening new routes at this already developed crag. We achieved our goal, and the crag now boasts several new routes bolted by some colleagues and I.


Cerro Limanque, Maule (and surroundings) - A crag I developed myself from scratch, including the trails and access.


And many more areas where I have contributed a little…



A climber with his harness on, looking up at a rock face in La Palmilla, Chile

A peak at the crag chosen for the 2022 Share for Bolts initiative: techy multi-pitch climbing at it's best! © Cris Posadas



Wow, that’s quite a list! As a company that organises climbing trips, we’re curious to know: what’s your dream climbing trip?


Andy and Cris: For us, the dream isn’t to go to a specific area or climb a certain grade (although that always feels good). Instead, the ideal climbing trip ticks the following boxes:


  •  We get to travel with a partner who shares our philosophy of climbing: someone who climbs not only because they like the athletic and technical elements of the sport, but who is interested in discovering new places, in spending time in nature, and appreciates the beauty of new landscapes. It also has to be someone we trust, both as a climbing partner and friend more generally.


  •  We get to meet the local community and become involved in their activities in a variety of ways, from sharing their culture and lifestyle to literally working beside them.


  • We get to enjoy climbing in a safe and responsible way, but also suffer a little bit! You want to hit that sweet spot beyond mental and physical exhaustion, but before any real problems or injuries arise.


  • We leave something behind for the climbing community to enjoy, whether that’s a newly bolted route or upgrading old gear. The drill is always in the bag!


  • Finally, we get to visit a place that represents natural beauty from a photographer’s point of view - because the camera is also always in the bag!


The perfect example of this was a trip we took together to Alto el Loa. We contacted the local community beforehand, and worked with them every morning, collecting grass to feed their animals. In the afternoons, we climbed - but stopped to have lunch and dinner almost everyday with the locals. We managed to bolt two new trad routes and one trad multi-pitch, and document the whole journey via photography. We climbed, we bolted, we took photos, we learned, we laughed, we shared - and suffered a bit along the way too. The dream climbing trip!



A person harvesting hay with a pitchfork, with the Chilean desert in the backgroundAbove: Andy helping collect hay for the locals' animals during a trip to Alto el Loa © Cris Posadas 

Below: Climbing in Alto el Loa © Cris Posadas 

A person climbing, throwing the rope down to his partner in Northern Chile



That sounds incredible - and what a great philosophy! 

Let’s move on now to talk a little about Share For Bolts. What motivated you to take part in the contest?


Andy: I saw it as an opportunity to spread our philosophy of climbing and share our values with the community more broadly. Taking part in the contest would allow us to do this in a different, friendlier, more interesting way.


Cris: From the beginning, it sounded like an awesome (and fun!) opportunity to me, especially judging by my previous experiences of working with Mapo Tapo. My first thought was ‘this sounds nice, but I’m not a bolter – is there any chance I could team up with a friend and colleague (i.e. Andy)?’. As soon as we got the affirmative answer from Andrea - on our first or second chat about Share for Bolts - I said: ‘Love it! We are going to win this!’. And, well, you know the rest of the story…



Can you tell us a bit more about the crag you have chosen to develop?


Andy: The crag is in an area known as La Palmilla, in the town of Rauco in the Maule Region (about two hours from Valle de Los Condores, if you’ve heard of this). We chose this crag because it has a lot of potential – in fact, the idea of bolting it was already going around in my mind before I even knew about Share For Bolts. It is in a very beautiful area and we believe that it can bring a lot of benefit to the local community. 


In terms of climbing potential, the area should be able to accommodate about 40 routes, mainly bolted multi-pitches. There are actually already 4 bolted routes at the crag, but at present they are very poorly frequented. At first glance, there is potential to bolt routes up to 5.12+ –  and maybe some 5.13s, with dedicated searching – which would mainly feature delicate face and slab climbing on small holds and finger pockets. 



 A photo of the incredible climbing crag at La Palmilla, developed as part of the 2022 Share for Bolts initiativeA closer look at some potential routes at the La Pamilla crag © Cris Posadas



Our plan is to start working first on the trail, so that we can make the crag more accessible, and maintain some of the existing routes. We’ll then move on to bolting new routes, starting with the most aesthetic and natural lines. The area is currently not really well known for climbing, but we believe it has the potential to become nationally recognised – so that’s the goal!


As I mentioned before, one of the reasons why we chose to develop this crag is that it has the potential to leave a really positive impact on the local community. Bringing more tourism to the area in the form of climbers can directly benefit local businesses, especially in the gastronomic and tourism industries. Having a safely bolted local crag will also help us grow the local climbing community and allow us to share all the benefits that come along with the sport (mental and physical wellbeing, environmental consciousness etc.) with others. The idea is to also get my climbing school, Sirawe, involved in the project, so that we can help more people learn how to responsibly interact with the outdoors.



A long shot of the rock face at the La Palmilla crag, developed during the 2022 share for bolts initiativeThe crag seen from afar. The views from the top must be incredible! © Cris Posadas

 


This sounds great. It’s a project that not only benefits climbers but also brings something to the local community, which we are always happy to support. 

Now, a fun question: if you had unlimited time and funds, what sort of bolting or climbing development projects would you undertake?

 

Andy and Cris: To be honest, we’d most likely focus on developing the same place!


With unlimited time and funds, we could really focus on building a solid project from start to finish. We could put more effort into marketing, provide a platform for locals to advertise and develop their businesses, build additional facilities such as dry toilets, run events with famous climbers, seek out sponsorship from brands so that locals could get access to climbing equipment at discounted prices… We’d set up a local climbing school, develop a guidebook of the area… oof, stop us please!


If anyone reading this would like to help in the process, you’re more than welcome to get in touch! We’ll leave our details below.


 Chilean climber and bolter Andy, looking at the camera. He is carrying an extensive trad rack

Andy racking up for some climbs © Cris Posadas



To finish off, are there any other climbing-related projects that you are currently involved in that you’d like to share with the audience?


Andy: Sure! I’ve been working for ‘Sirawe’ for some years now, a climbing school that I set up with the aim of teaching people how to spend time in nature in a responsible way. The idea is to make climbing accessible to more people, and at the same time encourage more socially and environmentally responsible behaviours in the community. I really emphasise the importance of following ‘Leave no Trace’ principles and aim to incite harmony between people and nature. 


Cris: I’d like to start by voicing my own personal gratitude to Mapo Tapo, and everything you have shared with us. It’s been a really fulfilling and fun experience!


Besides this, I would like to invite you to follow what Andy and I are doing with this project, and let us know if you are interested in further supporting us along our journey (you can visit www.gamatri.com, or @gamatri on Instagram to learn more and get in touch). If you are interested in finding out more about climbing in Chile and my journey with climbing photography, check out this interview I did with Mapo Tapo.

 


Thank you both! And best of luck with the project!



The landscape at Alto el Loa, in the Chilean Antofagasta desert

Alto el Loa - where Cris and Andy took their dream climbing trip © Cris Posadas 


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A huge thanks to Cris and Andy for their help with this article and hard work during the Share For Bolts campaign. We look forwards to hearing your updates!

 

If you'd like to learn a bit more about the Share For Bolts initiative and the 2022 contestants, you can check out this article.


Mapo Tapo are also running climbing trips to Chile this fall and winter. You will spend 8 days climbing in the extraordinary Cajon del Maipo, an extensive area located just 1 hour from Santiago known for it's incredible landscapes and rock types. Get it touch with us if you'd like to learn more!