BRUCE HILDENBRAND - The work is the gift

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Bruce Hildenbrand upgrades the clips on Machete Direct (5.12a), Machete Ridge, Pinnacles National Monument, California. Photo by Clint Cummins

Bruce Hildenbrand upgrades the clips on Machete Direct (5.12a), Machete Ridge, Pinnacles National Monument, California. Photo by Clint Cummins

BASED OUT OF BOULDER, COLORADO, and Mountain View, California, Anchor Replacement Initiative (ARI) volunteer Bruce Hildenbrand, 54, is a high-test freelancer — think Outside, Bicycling, and active.com. On the rocks 36 years, he’s quietly spent the last 22 of those upgrading bolts in Colorado’s Eldorado Canyon and the Flatirons, and California’s Pinnacles National Monument.

“Replacing the quarter-inch belay bolt on Rogue’s Arete [a 1963 route in the Flatirons] was interesting,” says Hildenbrand. “We were scared to hang off the bolt to replace it.” Hildenbrand has focussed recently, with the climbing historian Clint Cummins, on the Pinnacles, where the hour approach and funky old bolts make for arduous outings.

Tell me about your partnership with Clint (stanford.edu/~clint/). Clint is as psyched to rebolt as he is to put up new routes. You have to be a historian when you rebolt, to make sure you aren’t altering a route. One of the earliest ARI contributions (Thanksgiving 2003) to Pinnacles was Clint’s upgrade to the pitch-one anchor of Balconies-Regular Route — to Steve Roper and Frank Sacherer’s original quarterinch Rawl split shafts, from 1960.

What’s been most rewarding? The rebolting is extremely satisfying on a personal level. It’s like giving a gift. I’m not looking for the person who receives the gift to appreciate me.

What’s the gnarliest experience you’ve had doing ARI work? Racing up to the First Flatiron after work in mid-October to replace belay bolts on the second pitch of Hubris. We only had a couple hours of light, and it was very cold and windy. The old Star Dryvins were rusted — a real pain. I chipped a tooth because I was gritting my teeth so hard while prying them out. The crown cost $1,200.

How should climbers get involved? Most major areas have climber-based organizations, like Friends of Pinnacles (pinnacles.org), that can hook up interested climbers with the local rebolting experts. And to all those putting up new routes, stainless-steel hardware is very reasonably priced, so please use it.