Damaged Yellow Basic Totem


Original Post
KayJ · · Unknown Hometown · Joined May 2012 · Points: 0

My BF was belaying his buddy (20+ learns of Trad. experience) on a Quartzite crack climb. The crack trended right and slightly upwards, like an undercling. His third piece was the Basic Yellow Totem. He appeared to be getting pumped and he popped it in and moved right and headed upwards out of the crack. Probably 4-5 above the Totem, he fell and swung back left. The Totem held for a second and then popped, the next piece a .5 BD held him.

Initially he said he thought the placement was good. When I showed him the broken Totem, he said he thought it was bomber. My thought watching him, was he looked pumped when he placed the gear, didn't seem to look at it after it was placed to recheck it, just popped it in and moved quickly. The totem has al least two chuncks ripped out near the edges.

I showed the Cam to a Friend who knows the guys who run Totem in Spain. She told me a story from this summer when her friend popped a yellow Totem and it broke in the same way - but in granite rock. She told me the factory is very small, run by a few people only. She took it to Totem.

Now I am concerned about buying a new one. I have always loved my totems but I am disappointed about these two falls. I feel very confident when I place them, but I have actually never fallen on one.

I already realize that many people love their TotemsI, so I don't need to rehash that,..just looking for any personal experience with falling on the Basics. Anyone else experience this...I am wondering if it was bad placement, bad luck, too hard or awkward of a fall (is that possible) or a maybe a weak cam?

Totem 1

Totem Fall2

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Seth Jones · · New Lenox, IL · Joined Feb 2015 · Points: 5

Purely based on looking at the damage, I'd say it was probably a shit placement but who knows?

KayJ · · Unknown Hometown · Joined May 2012 · Points: 0
Seth Jones wrote:Purely based on looking at the damage, I'd say it was probably a shit placement but who knows?
My initial thoughts as well...thanks!!
JK- · · SLC · Joined Nov 2012 · Points: 13

Looks like a pretty typical case of and undercammed placement tracking out at an angle. If the cam is softer than the rock it tears the cam. Soft aluminum like totems and aliens use will be softer than a rock like quartzite or granite.

rgold · · Poughkeepsie, NY · Joined Feb 2008 · Points: 40

It's pretty hard to say much about what happened just by looking at the damage, but what stands out is that all the bad gouges are on the cams on one side. This suggests that the placement, either originally or after rotating, only loaded two of the four cams. If so, it then would have been further compromised by the torquing load from the stem.

Most likely guess is a placement that was originally bad or, unanticipatedly became bad because of rope motions and/or the pendulum nature of the fall.

caughtinside · · Oakland CA · Joined Nov 2006 · Points: 1,415

Always hard to speculate on these threads but a couple thoughts:

1. That cam is damaged, it is not broken

2. My suspicion is that the cam skated a bit then pulled. Possibly from a slight rotation during the fall, or possibly from not being 'set' during placement.

I don't have any totem basics, just the old aliens, but the softer cam lobe metal generally bites in well but is also much more prone to this type of damage when they pull out. I have damaged and retired an alien from a similar incident.

Pete Spri · · Unknown Hometown · Joined Jun 2009 · Points: 115

Just a comment that quartzite can be really hard and slick. I would bet it was slick enough to allow a shift in the direction of the climber sketching out to the side, then getting pulled again from a penduluming fall.

Not a normal damage pattern, IMO. Certainly not a failure of the Totem.

eli poss · · Durango, Co · Joined May 2014 · Points: 136

This is not a "Broke Yellow Basic Totem". Yes the lobes is gouged a little bit but that's to be expected when you fall on a shit placement, especially with the softer aluminum lobes used on the alien style cams. Honestly, I would continue using it, they aren't gouged out that much. I have a red alien that has lost more metal than that and I still use it.

that guy named seb · · Britland · Joined Oct 2015 · Points: 0

From the pic it looks like only two of the cam lobes were engaging the rock as he fell the two cams pivoted and sheared a bunch of aluminum off as it shifted (the issue with soft metal on alien-esque cams), It still looks perfect functional (not broken) and I would still use it. Get "proper" totems rather than their alien knock offs good chance it would have held with a "proper" totem.

Seth Jones · · New Lenox, IL · Joined Feb 2015 · Points: 5
that guy named seb wrote: Get "proper" totems rather than their alien knock offs good chance it would have held with a "proper" totem.
Irrelevant. It cracks me up when someone asks MP a question about a specific piece of gear and someone inevitably tells them to go buy something else.
JK- · · SLC · Joined Nov 2012 · Points: 13

What I actually read, based on my MP observations:

Seth Jones wrote: Irrelevant. It cracks me up when someone asks MP a question about ANYTHING and someone inevitably tells them to go buy TOTEMS.
Seth Jones · · New Lenox, IL · Joined Feb 2015 · Points: 5
JK- wrote:What I actually read, based on my MP observations:
Haha touche!
dave custer · · Unknown Hometown · Joined Nov 2010 · Points: 770

With all small cams, it is difficult to put enough aluminum against the rock to hold more than a gentle plop. No sign of manufacturing problems from the photos; the cam came out kicking and screaming all the way; I bet if you look inside the crack you'll see aluminum skid marks.

http://www.mit.edu/~custer/rocking/cams/cams.body.html#elastic%20model

The cam is rated to 9 kN in a lab test under optimal conditions: all cams evenly loaded in the direction of the pull. Not a big margin of error for a lead fall in the 5-8 kN range. In general, trad anchor gear doesn't have the safety factor that carabiners, quick draws, & bolts have. files.meetup.com/1324053/Ho...(0).pdf
See table 3.

How heavy is your BF's buddy? How new was the rope? How fat was the rope? What belay device was used? Since you can't control how wide the crack is and thus how much aluminum will be in contact with the rock (or your BF's buddy weight), a stretchier rope and a little slip in the belay device are opportunities to reduce the force.

Greg D · · Here · Joined Apr 2006 · Points: 511

Well, at least most of these threads regarding cams that rip out are consistent. Every one I have analyzed has track marks far from optimal in order for the cam to hold.

Any cam, all cams, rely on a force in line with the stem to convert the force along the stem to an outward force on the lobes. A force applied to the stem perfectly, which is precisely perpendicular to the cam axle, will yield the greatest outward force on the lobes, and, hence, the greatest holding power. Any variance in this angle will result in a decreased outward force on the lobes.

The scars on the cam in the photos show that it was sheared out at 70 degrees or more from optimum. This is the common thread in all these threads. The direction off pull is way off optimal.

Clearly, when the cam took its max load, it was far from the ideal direction of loading.

Why? This is the speculation part. Cam was not placed in direction of pull. Cam moved after placed. Cam moved during fall, etc.

Brassmonkey · · Unknown Hometown · Joined Jan 2012 · Points: 0

KayJ, you should probably change the title of the thread, nothing on the cam looks broken. I'd even buy it if you are planning on junking it.

Ray Pinpillage · · West Egg · Joined Jul 2010 · Points: 0

Is this the first broken Totem Basic cam thread? I can't recall ever reading another thread about a broken basic.

eli poss · · Durango, Co · Joined May 2014 · Points: 136
Ray Pinpillage wrote:Is this the first broken Totem Basic cam thread? I can't recall ever reading another thread about a broken basic.
No it isn't because this isn't a broken basic cam. It just lost a small chunk of metal, which is to be expected of alien style cams in a hard fall. The OP chose a very unfortunate name for the thread, which is inaccurate.
KayJ · · Unknown Hometown · Joined May 2012 · Points: 0

I just wanted to say thanks for the thoughtful responses because I really wanted to try to figure out why it popped and got damaged badly if the placement was so-called "bomber". I think the men involved just wanted to convince me it was a shotty cam, but I wanted to make sure I still had confidence in them, which I do.

I received a very thoughtful and in-depth email response from Totem as well, which confirmed as others have said. Probably not an ideal placement, outward flared crack, lobes constricted at different angles, possible movement from trending right/falling at an angle, etc...

Regular size man maybe 5.11, with a climbers build, not a heavyweight. Double ropes, very old, 9.2 were being used that day.

I changed the title like requested. I only meant to imply "broke" because pieces of the cam were clearly broken off it but I can understand that people may thought the whole cam broke. It wasn't my intention to alarm people.

KayJ · · Unknown Hometown · Joined May 2012 · Points: 0

And if anyone could comment on "get proper Totems". Are you saying totem basics are made from a softer aluminum than the Totems or are you referring to the unique camming system of the Totems? What other types of rock, not the quartzite and granite, would be better for the basics ...did I understand that correct or should i not think about that?

Sorry brassmonkey, I don't have the damaged totem anymore but it wouldn't inspire confidence in me to use it.

djh860 · · Unknown Hometown · Joined Dec 2014 · Points: 0

looks like evidence of a twisting sideways fall. I'd say well done my trusty cam.

Xam · · Boulder, Co · Joined Dec 2011 · Points: 8
KayJ wrote:Double ropes, very old, 9.2 were being used that day. Belaying on a grigri.
You may want to clarify what you mean here...belaying on double ropes with grigri is not really possible in any conventional sense.

KayJ wrote:And if anyone could comment on "get proper Totems". Are you saying totem basics are made from a softer aluminum than the Totems or are you referring to the unique camming system of the Totems?
They are saying that Totem cams (not Totem basics) may have fared better since due to Totem's unique design they can, in theory, catch falls on one pair of cam lobes.
Guideline #1: Don't be a jerk.

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