What is a spinner?
1) Someone who would rather be inside riding a bicycle that doesn’t go anywhere.
2) Someone who ‘cuts wax‘ on the turntables.
3) A hold that has, for various reasons, worked itself loose and rotates freely on the wall. (See also: loose rock)
4) A bolt that has been cross-threaded in the t-nut and, as a result, is somewhat to extremely difficult to remove.
While I cannot speak to the first two examples (I prefer an out of doors bicycle), I have a good deal of expertise in the latter two. I can tell you that example three, the loose hold, is remedied by a simple turn of a wrench to re-tighten the bolt, and is no big deal. Example four, however, can be a nightmare…
To set the scene, it’s 8:15AM on a Friday and you are a highly paid, highly regarded routesetter. You are hanging from a rope thirty-some feet off the ground, lowering yourself with a gri-gri and stopping every few feet to remove holds from the route you are stripping with your impact driver. You reach precariously to your left to remove a green Teknik Hooded Fang, but the bolt won’t budge. You think maybe the battery for your impact is dying so you whip out your faithful hand wrench and give it a go. The bolt still won’t budge. You give it everything you’ve got and hear the dry, sickening crunch of the t-nut ripping free of its plywood shackles and you know you have a spinner.
There are now two options for how to proceed. If you choose to fix the spinner from the climber’s side of the wall, go on to Option One. If you choose to fix the spinner from behind the wall, skip ahead to Option Two.
Option One: You have chosen to remain on the safe, free, and well-lit climber’s side of the wall. You holler for someone (probably Keith…) to toss you the breaker bar and pry bar while another, less fortunate individual makes their way to the backside of the wall to assist you. When you have wedged the pry bar between the hold and the wall and your teammate behind the wall gives the signal, you crank down on the breaker bar while applying tension to the pry bar. With decent leverage and a good bit of luck, the cross-threaded bolt turns, slowly at first, until all the threads have worked their way out of the barrel of the t-nut. The hold pops free, accompanied by the cheerful shouting of your teammate behind the wall. From the safety of your rope or ladder you drop the newly removed hold and climb/lower yourself to the ground. Congratulations are in store; you’ve done it!
Option Two: You have chosen to venture back to the creepy, dusty, dark depths behind the climbing wall. You grab a headlamp, vice grips, bolt, screwdriver, and work gloves from the shelf in the setting closet. You then squeeze through several narrow passages, each brief contact with the wall setting loose clouds of settled chalk dust. When you’ve arrived in the general location of the spinner you scramble/climb/sketch your way up the back of the wall, calling for your partner to spin the hold in question so that you might see which t-nut of the thousands is the one you’re looking for. Once you’ve located the guilty party you enter some sort of anchored stance (I prefer the kneebar-the-2x4s technique myself) and apply the vice grips, parallel with the wall, to the t-nut flange. Hint: if the t-nut is sunk into the wall, use the screwdriver to chisel away enough plywood to get the vice grips on the t-nut. When the vice grips have been locked down on the t-nut flange, you screw the bolt you brought into a nearby empty t-nut. You shout “go for it” to your teammate and wipe sweat from your brow with your shirt sleeve, which only smears the copious amounts of dust and grime already on your skin deeper into your pores. When your teammate cranks down on the breaker bar, the t-nut turns until the vice grips come down on the bolt you screwed in, which locks everything in place and lets torque do its thing. The t-nut flange bends and little metal filings seep out of the barrel of the t-nut. Muffled cursing is heard from the other side of the wall until the bolt finally pops free of the t-nut. Success! You carefully scamper back the way you came, hoping that you won’t have to do that again anytime soon.