Ruwag drill bits tested in tough terrain

Drill bits

When rock climber and business owner, Andrew Louw began working on a new rock climbing project he had no idea where it would take him or who would support his ideas

After retrenchment, Andrew Louw started two businesses, ‘Black Fire Adventures and Expeditions’ for adventure driven people, and ‘Climb Lab’ for those who want to learn the art of rock climbing.

The adventure began after an evening of climbing at the Pretoria University LC De Villiers Sports Grounds. Louw was approached by a land owner who believed the cliffs on his farm had rock climbing potential and wanted Louw to assess them.

“It turned out that the cliffs on the land actually provided mind-blowing abseiling opportunities and thus we decided to focus on preparing them for commercial use,” said Louw.

“One of the abseil (descendby) points was quite dangerous as the approach to the start point provided participants with a bit too much ‘exposure’ and involved a scramble up a steep rock slab. I don’t know of any other abseil points that does this.”

“Getting the clients to this point safely required putting up safety measures, such as a handrail and backed-up abseil points, which required the use of expensive materials and consumables.

“While sending out requests for quotations for the required stainless steel bolts, cable, chain and other items, it was decided to try and obtain consumables such as drill bits directly from the suppliers.

Ruwag, a specialist supplier of power tool accessories and fixings thought it a good opportunity and provided Louw with what he needed and have him report back on the performance of its drill bits.

“I installed a fiver pitch (+-100m high) climbing route at Wilgepoort just outside Brokhorstspruit before. During this installation, I used a normal cordless hammer drill which had more than enough power and speed, while the batteries lasted really well,” says Louw.

“I took this same drilling machine to the new location expecting the same results. From the moment the drill bit touched the rock it was evident that this rock was much harder than I had expected.

Initially expecting that the rock was much softer than it actually was we used the incorrect drill bits and had to source a drill bit with better hammering power. We unpacked about 70m of extension cord and used an electrical hammer drill, plugged into a generator. This didn’t work either and several drill bits from various manufactures were destroyed in the process. Ruwag suggested using SDS drill bits and this time we set out with a heavy-duty SDS drill.”

The performance of the anchors is determined by the accuracy of the hole drilled. The Ruwag Professional SDS bits are certified to ensure that these anchors will perform as they should.

Ruwag’s specially profiled Tungsten Carbide tip and unique flutes are designed for concentrated impact and efficient debris removal which leads to the high speed at which holes can be drilled.

The result was that the new drill bits and more powerful machine sliced through the rock sending sparks, dust and rock chips flying. Samples of the rock were confirmed by a geologist as a really hard rock – Iron rich Quartzite, but using the SDS drill bits made the job easy and the drilling was completed with reasonable effort.

The success and speed of the drilling enabled Louw to complete the installation of the hand rail and two belay points in time for the venue’s planned open day.

The disciple of ‘Sport Climbing’ requires the permanent installation of hangers and anchors on a climbing route. The quality of the materials and installation is very important as failure could lead to serious injury or even death.

“We install the very best products available to us. We use 316SS hanger plates and bolt these to the rock wall using specialised 10mm 316SS bolts. To make sure the installation is perfect, we also use a good quality drill bit and usually only drill 10-15 holes with each bit. After the dust has been blown out and the hole scrubbed with a steel hole brush (like a small bottle brush), we clean the dust out again. We then hammer the bolt in and fasten the hanger in place.The anchor is usually two bits of chain that we fasten to the rock in the same way as the hangers,” said Louw.

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