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On big, serious routes (Dreamcatcher, Jumbo Love, etc), who puts the bolts in place and how? Are the bolts there before the "first ascent" or does the first ascender put them in place as he goes? It seems ridiculous that he would be carrying whatever equipment it takes to do that with him.

Who decides how the route will go and where to place the bolts? How could they know before the thing has been climbed whether they're putting them in good places, route-wise? The whole thing seems very confusing to me.

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The story about the compressor route on Cerro Torre is interesting when it comes to bolting and route ethics. You can also see the huge compressor which was used by Maestri to bolt the route. dpmclimbing.com/articles/view/… –  EverythingRightPlace May 13 at 22:22
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up vote 11 down vote accepted

What you're talking about is Sport climbing.

Generally these anchors are placed by the person who is creating the climb. They will normally top rope or abseil the climb and work out where they want it to go, then spend a couple of days placing the anchors, while on a top rope. They are drilled and glued into place and this can take a lot of time.

Sometimes the person who places these will do the first ascent, sometimes not, this will often depend on the grade. Some test pieces are made deliberately very hard as a type of challenge to other climbers.

Learning where to put these is a skill unto itself and is more Art than science.

Sometimes traditional routes are bolted. This is very controversial (in the UK at least) as traditional climbing enthusiasts feel this sometimes ruins good traditional routes.

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Photo of Adam ondra placing a bolt (notice the various drills and ropes, etc.)

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Nice comprehensive answer! Unfortunately you hit me by some minutes as I was just formulating quite the same, so the upvote goes to you. –  Benedikt Bauer Feb 27 at 14:27
    
I would add that any route bolted outside of existing climbing areas is going to be controversial (i.e. bolt a route up a mountain in a National Park, visible from trails and I wouldn't be surprised if you end up in jail). –  Ryley Mar 6 at 21:54
    
No law against it in the UK. There was an incident where somebody bolted a trad route and some local activists took bolt cutters to the bolts... –  Liam Mar 7 at 9:08
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