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Alien failure!


Original Post
Knut Bjoernebye · · Unknown Hometown · Joined Oct 2016 · Points: 15
Alien head where it ripped

The wire that was left

The placement in the rock after it ripped

A while ago (around a year now) my friend took a fall on a brand new yellow Fixe Alien) and this happened. He contacted Kevin Daniels, who asked him to send the cam to Fixe in Spain, which he did. He NEVER got an official reply from them, but he did get a forwarded email thread between Fixe in Spain, the Norwegian importer and the owner of the shop he bought it in, where Fixe attributed the failure to "user error".

I think it is absolutely horrendous that they don't take this kind of failure more seriously.
nkane · · Unknown Hometown · Joined Jun 2013 · Points: 90

Good placement.

Seth Jones · · New Lenox, IL · Joined Feb 2015 · Points: 25

F'k Fixe... After hearing all of the stories like this one, that is one company I would never buy from.

KrisandPJ · · Unknown Hometown · Joined Feb 2015 · Points: 0

Seems as though it's not an isolated problem

reddit.com/r/climbing/comme…

Knut Bjoernebye · · Unknown Hometown · Joined Oct 2016 · Points: 15
KrisandPJ wrote:Are these seperate incidents? reddit.com/r/climbing/comme…
Yes, but that post is what got me to finally post the photos here (been meaning to do it for a while, but never got around to it)
Firestone · · California · Joined Nov 2015 · Points: 449

Scary! I just read a similar post where the same thing happened recently to a Reddit user.

patto · · Unknown Hometown · Joined Jul 2012 · Points: 25

I enjoy a good Alien muck raking as much as the next forumite however....

It was more or less 90 degrees. The depth of the crack meant there was no way to place it any other way unless half of the lobes were out of the crack.
-Willssss (owner of said cam)

Original from Willssss, Reddit

So the cam was placed in a shallow crack stem sticking out horizontally. It is no surprise that it broke. The bending of the trigger bar as well as the necking on one side shows that this piece failed from a decent load perpendicular to the placement. It is no surprise the cam failed.
Ted Pinson · · Chicago, IL · Joined Jul 2014 · Points: 190

Shocker.

climber pat · · Las Cruces, NM · Joined Feb 2006 · Points: 215

The cam in this threads original post is not the same cam as in patto's post. Different trigger designs and no bend trigger bar in the original.

I just don't get buying aliens after all their problems.

aaron hope · · Walnut Creek, CA · Joined Nov 2009 · Points: 295
patto wrote: It is no surprise that it broke. The bending of the trigger bar as well as the necking on one side shows that this piece failed from a decent load perpendicular to the placement. It is no surprise the cam failed.
I disagree. A cam placed in a vertical crack often will have "load perpendicular to the placement". Cams like aliens are designed with flexible stems to account for this. I agree that the OPs placement looks a bit more horizontal than ideal...but if the Alien can't take a minor amount of eccentric loading, it needs to be redesigned.
patto · · Unknown Hometown · Joined Jul 2012 · Points: 25
climber pat wrote:The cam in this threads original post is not the same cam as in patto's post. Different trigger designs and no bend trigger bar in the original. I just don't get buying aliens after all their problems.
Agreed. My above comments only apply to the latest Reddit failure.

aaron hope wrote: I disagree. A cam placed in a vertical crack often will have "load perpendicular to the placement". Cams like aliens are designed with flexible stems to account for this.
Simply not true. No manufacture designs their cams for loading of the device in the direction on the cam axle. If loaded like this all cams will fail at significantly below their rated strength.

aaron hope wrote:I agree that the OPs placement looks a bit more horizontal than ideal...
More horizontal than ideal!? It was 90degrees to the wall. You can't get anymore horizontal.

aaron hope wrote:but if the Alien can't take a minor amount of eccentric loading, it needs to be redesigned.
Cams are made to be loading in the direction of their stem. This was not minor eccentric loading, it was extreme eccentric loading and it failed as a result.

The only cams that I am aware of that are flexible up to their head are WC Zeros. However this flexibility simple moves the failure point away from the stem to cam engagement. If the stem is completely flexible then the lobes get loaded in a manner that does not engage the camming action.
aaron hope · · Walnut Creek, CA · Joined Nov 2009 · Points: 295

Patto - if what you say is true, and a completed failure (sheer failure of the metal and complete separation) could happen to any cam placed horizontally, then why have I never seen or read about a BD cam with a total severed cable like these aliens. Can you a produce a photo of non-alien example? Again...I'm not talking about bent cables...there are many of those.

Tylerpratt · · Litchfield, Connecticut · Joined Feb 2016 · Points: 35

I've been having problems with these things since I bought them about 3+ years ago. Wires to the lobes break just from "normal use" because they stop fucking rotating bc they are built like shit. I wish I knew how crappy this product was before I invested in the full rack. I got these when they first came out bc i loved the original alien. Damn.. They sure fooled me!

mattm · · TX · Joined Jun 2006 · Points: 1,390
aaron hope wrote:Patto - if what you say is true, and a completed failure (sheer failure of the metal and complete separation) could happen to any cam placed horizontally, then why have I never seen or read about a BD cam with a total severed cable like these aliens. Can you a produce a photo of non-alien example? Again...I'm not talking about bent cables...there are many of those.
I don't think he's saying that other brands will fail in the SAME manner (snapped cable), simply that shallow placements that produce a torque load near the head will fail at much lower loads than rated.

IMO, the "snapping" of the cable at the braze is a limitation of the braze termination design, not per se an Alien specific failure. The more shallow a placement, the close the fulcrum point on the cable gets to the head termination area. Brazed terminations act much more like a forged friend in that they do NOT have flexibility. Swaged terminations maintain the cable flexibility all the way to the base of the head.

Shallow horizontal placements allow you to use the bottom lip of the crack as a fulcrum point almost all the way up to the head. Incorrect Shallow Vertical placements, where the cam stem sticks out from the wall, move that fulcrum point directly to the base of the head/termination. In a C4,X4 etc that uses the swage termination, the cable maintains flexibility. In a brazed termination, the cable is NOT flexible and is more like solid metal rod - much more prone to snapping off.

It's imperative that users understand the limitation of the brazed head and place their gear CORRECTLY to allow for this. This is no different than the Forged Friend days...
Below are two placements that were likely very similar. Vertical Crack, Shallow Placement, Stem sticking OUT from rock instead of down, inline with loading direction.
bent cam X4
Cable bent at fulcrum point.


Saw this one from patto's post - NOT an Alien.

Fixe Alien
this recent one is interesting in that the fulcrum point looks even CLOSER to the axel. It's obvious how it was loaded incorrectly though.

While the yellow above does look better than most, it's hard to tell how it was loaded without better pictures etc. The final position of the cam may not be indicative of how it was loaded.

The thing I worry about now and then, and is perhaps the case here, is when cams are not extended and the rope pulls the stem straight out from the wall. This occurs more often when the climber takes momentarily higher up but can happen with rope drag or movement. (It's similar to zippering nuts). If the cam rotated up and then was fallen on, I can see the placement snapping. Wasn't there are rotational failure post from Squamish last year?
Alton R. · · Boulder, Co · Joined Jan 2010 · Points: 160

BITD, Aliens had very little official testing done and were basically, "use at your own risk" cams. This is why only small gear shops carried em for years. I've always treated them as such... Still my favorite small cams hand down.

patto · · Unknown Hometown · Joined Jul 2012 · Points: 25
aaron hope wrote:Patto - if what you say is true, and a completed failure (sheer failure of the metal and complete separation)
"Sheer [sic]" failure? No this would be bending failure like I pointed out. Hence the tensile failure on one side quite visible with necking and the compression failure on the other.

aaron hope wrote:could happen to any cam placed horizontally then why have I never seen or read about a BD cam with a total severed cable like these aliens.
Well yes. Plenty of cams do experience failure when incorrectly placed. This has been happening for decades. BD cams with their dual axles seem to deform. Link cams with their delicate links break. Solid stem cams were snapping regularly until flexible stems became common.
mountainproject.com/v/c4-wi…

aaron hope wrote:Can you a produce a photo of non-alien example? Again...I'm not talking about bent cables...there are many of those.

bent c4 1
aaron hope · · Walnut Creek, CA · Joined Nov 2009 · Points: 295

I generally agree with everything mattm said.

Patto - the non-alien examples you produced show "bent" cams which are not failures. If the OP's Alien had only bent, it looks like it would have held the fall. Instead, the cable completely snapped and the cam stayed in place while the climber fell. In fact, you have proven my point; Aliens (for reasons to be debated) are more susceptible to complete failure than other cams (particularly C4s) in shallow placements.

Also one of the bent C4s you are showing is the result of a car driving over it. Not a climbing fall.

jaredj · · Unknown Hometown · Joined Jan 2013 · Points: 165

Thanks to mattm for stepping in and providing the clear perspective that the illustrious bearbreeder would have formerly provided.

Buff Johnson · · Unknown Hometown · Joined Dec 2005 · Points: 1,145

Nothing that a basic tri-cam could have easily solved.

Jeremy Polk · · Sandy, UT · Joined Aug 2012 · Points: 5

Well, I won't ever buy Fixe products. I try not to place cams in ways that they are not designed to be placed and I have no actual data to show this but my gut says a BD cam would have only resulted in a bent cable in this situation. And, this is exactly why I carry Tricams.

baldclimber · · Ottawa, Ontario, Canada · Joined Jul 2015 · Points: 0
Jeremy Polk wrote:I try not to place cams in ways that they are not designed to be placed and I have no actual data to show this but my gut says a BD cam would have only resulted in a bent cable in this situation
See pictures of three different failed BD cams just four posts above yours. Definitely not bent cables.
Guideline #1: Don't be a jerk.

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