For next few days, REI will DOUBLE your gift to the Access Fund - up to $65,000. Donate Now!
Mountain Project Logo

Replacing Blue Alien


Original Post
Mark Straub · · Berkeley, CA · Joined Feb 2010 · Points: 25

After a mishap on Corrugation Corner, I no longer have my favorite piece on my rack, the beloved blue Alien.  That cam has held countless falls and delivered me from the brink of terror more times than I can fathom.  

Now I need to replace my fallen homie (the Alien of course), but it's even more convoluted than I feared.  It seems that in addition to the scarcity of CCH Aliens in good shape for sale, and the difficulty in evaluating the safety of these when buying online (Pre- or post-recall?  Who knows?), there are now two companies making "Alien" cams.  I've heard that the Fixe Aliens are poorly-manufactured, and the Totem Basics seem to be unavailable in the US without paying $30 for shipping.

What should I do to replace this essential piece of gear?  It seems that my tears alone were not sufficient to reunite me with my beloved cam.

John Wilder · · Las Vegas, NV · Joined Feb 2004 · Points: 1,535

Desert Rock Sports in Vegas had several of every size of the basics last time I was in there a few weeks ago. They usually have quite a few...maybe check with them or other local shops and see if they'll ship to you? 

Chris Reyes · · Montclair, NJ · Joined Nov 2014 · Points: 40

Kailas rebrands and sells totem basics as Nuco cams. They're the same cams, same factory and fortunately are lovingly available from someone here on the forums.

https://www.mountainproject.com/forum/topic/112939616/fs-totem-basic-cams-nuco-and-nuts

As far as recalls go, if you do happen to track some basics down Totem did issue a voluntary recall back in September. So that's worth keeping in mind.

http://www.totemcams.com/voluntary-recall-basic/

Jonathan Awerbuch · · Boulder, Colorado · Joined Nov 2013 · Points: 36

Marco is great. I ordered a set of Totem cams from him. You can order the basics ("Nuco") from him too. Info here:

https://www.mountainproject.com/forum/topic/112939616/fs-kailas-totem-cams-basic-cams-nuco-and-nuts-preorder-black-and-orange-totem

Harrison Laird · · Davis, CA · Joined Jun 2015 · Points: 271

I have a set of the old style Fixe Aliens from Red-Green, a Blue Totem Basic, as well as a full set of the Basic offsets.  The Basics are a cut above in terms of build quality and features.

The internal spring design on the blue basic makes the head width comparable to X4s or Mastercams.  You won't find any cams in that size with narrower head with except C3s.  Even the newest Fixe Alien "Revolutions" still have external springs on the Blue/Black units.  In my opinion this feature of the Basics makes the Blue Basic better than any of the Blue Fixe units excluding any discussion of the build quality (debatable) or customer service (poor) provided by Fixe.

Also, I'll say that my experience with Totem's customer service has been very positive thus far.  My Yellow/Green hybrid was one of the ones affected by the current recall and the totem reps I've spoken with always respond to emails in a reasonable amount of time.

The Basics are worth waiting around for.  I've gotten most of mine from BackCountryGear.com.

nrj5011 · · Unknown Hometown · Joined Jul 2016 · Points: 0

What happened on Corrugation?! Can you describe precisely where the cam is located? ;) Also, what are the current conditions at the Leap? Any snowmelt issues? 

Mark Straub · · Berkeley, CA · Joined Feb 2010 · Points: 25
Harrison Laird wrote:

The internal spring design on the blue basic makes the head width comparable to X4s or Mastercams.  You won't find any cams in that size with narrower head with except C3s.  Even the newest Fixe Alien "Revolutions" still have external springs on the Blue/Black units.  In my opinion this feature of the Basics makes the Blue Basic better than any of the Blue Fixe units excluding any discussion of the build quality (debatable) or customer service (poor) provided by Fixe.

How does the head width compare to the original CCH Aliens?  That's one of my favorite features.



Sam Miller · · Bend, OR · Joined Oct 2017 · Points: 30

You should try the purple UL mastercam

Mark Straub · · Berkeley, CA · Joined Feb 2010 · Points: 25
nrj5011 wrote:

What happened on Corrugation?! Can you describe precisely where the cam is located? ;) Also, what are the current conditions at the Leap? Any snowmelt issues? 

I was taking somebody up one of their first multipitch climbs, and they decided to spend a minimal amount of time trying to remove the "stuck" cam.  This person did not tell me that anything was wrong, and I only found out because I overheard the word "overcammed"- apparently my partner felt that it would be prudent to climb above the stuck cam, then tell the party below to take it out, rather than asking me how the cam was placed in the crack.  

Since my partner was climbing at a relatively slow pace, there was an accumulating group of people on the ledge, on the climb, and below the climb, so a rappel to remove the cam would have been in poor form, especially since the party below was not able to free it.  The cam is (or was) in the middle of the first pitch of Corrugation Corner.  It was placed in a small constriction and moved vertically into a good placement, then extended to prevent walking- however, it may actually be stuck now.

The current conditions at the Leap are pretty good!  No snow at the moment and it's positively balmy in the afternoon.  The morning can be pretty cold, but a late morning start seemed to work well for us.

Mark Straub · · Berkeley, CA · Joined Feb 2010 · Points: 25
Sam Miller wrote:

You should try the purple UL mastercam

I have one.  It's a pale shadow of the glory that was my Blue Alien.  I do use the purple Mastercam sometimes, but it doesn't fit as well in pinscars or flaring cracks, and it's also a bit smaller than the Alien.

Josh Janes · · Unknown Hometown · Joined Jun 2001 · Points: 8,721
Harrison Laird wrote:

The internal spring design on the blue basic makes the head width comparable to X4s or Mastercams.  You won't find any cams in that size with narrower head with except C3s.  Even the newest Fixe Alien "Revolutions" still have external springs on the Blue/Black units.  In my opinion this feature of the Basics makes the Blue Basic better than any of the Blue Fixe units excluding any discussion of the build quality (debatable) or customer service (poor) provided by Fixe.

Except when this happens:

This has happened with BOTH of my blue Basics - one of them repeatedly. It is a pain to fix and on one of them it has popped back out every time I've placed it. About two months ago I gave up and sent it in to Totem (in Spain) and they have supposedly repaired it and it is in the mail to me. I'll report back when I get it.

This has not happened to me on any other size of the Basic but I think it is an issue on the Blue. If it continues with the replacement unit, I may try the Fixe Revo (which indeed has external springs).

Brian Abram · · Celo, NC · Joined Oct 2007 · Points: 478
Harrison Laird wrote:

The internal spring design on the blue basic makes the head width comparable to X4s or Mastercams.  You won't find any cams in that size with narrower head with except C3s.  Even the newest Fixe Alien "Revolutions" still have external springs on the Blue/Black units.  In my opinion this feature of the Basics makes the Blue Basic better than any of the Blue Fixe units excluding any discussion of the build quality (debatable) or customer service (poor) provided by Fixe.

The Fixe Revolution is actually slightly narrower in the head than the Totem Basic despite the Revo's "external" springs, whether you are comparing the Basic's trigger wire ball cap to the end cap of the Revo:

or if you are ignoring the the Basic's trigger wire ball cap and comparing just the end caps of each:

In any case, the Black Totem goes down to 11.7mm, versus 11.2mm for the Basic Blue, so they work in many of the same placements. And the Black Totem is much narrower than either:

You are absolutely correct that Fixe's US customer support (Kevin) has had some issues, and the build quality has been questionable. 

For what it's worth, I love my Fixe Revos, and I've had no trouble with them or noted any manufacturing problems. I really like the thumb loop of the Revo versus the Basic. The Revo is much more comfortable. I especially appreciate the Revos today as I'm packing up all my Basics to send in due to their recall.

Nick Drake · · Newcastle, WA · Joined Jan 2015 · Points: 476
Mark Straub wrote:

How does the head width compare to the original CCH Aliens?  That's one of my favorite features.



I only have a green CCH and basic to compare, in that size the actual lobes are the same width. The end cap on the basic is considerably narrower though, so the total head width on the basic is narrower. 

Guideline #1: Don't be a jerk.

Post a Reply to "Replacing Blue Alien"
in the Climbing Gear Discussion

Log In to Reply