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Structural Failure of Black Diamond Ultralight Camalot Size 0.4 Resulting in Injury


Briggs Lazalde · · Unknown Hometown · Joined Sep 2017 · Points: 0

Sold the dual axle dragon 2s(larger range) for single axle totems. A few mm of range is just not nearly as valuable of a feature as flexible stems and minimal walking. Some routes have very sparse placements for pro and if they go directly up id rather have a quicker catch than extend pieces.. Dragons had a tendency to want to rotate bcuz of single more rigid stem. Totems can flex almost 180° and walk a whole lot less.. I dont like torquing on them but if say there were no slings left id rather clip to a totem than dragon or c4. I think the UL c4s are great but can't see the benefit of them over other cams at that price in a normal cragging setting.

Nick Drake · · Newcastle, WA · Joined Jan 2015 · Points: 491

Is it likely that a crystal was under this area? Did the leader not extend and have the cam walk slightly with the hard traverse left? Sure, the answer could very well be yes to both. Just blaming it fully on the placement though is missing the forest in the trees here. Read what Patto wrote, check his link and go over it with an open mind.

In a small dual axle cam the amount of material in the lobe in an overcam placement is ridiculously thin, look at an image and think about this, it's incredibly thin there and the shape of the cut out does not lend itself to a strong structure:


I recall a thread on ukclimbing a few years back where a former wild country engineer was posting, he had actually pushed for them to not make any dual axle cams in the BD .4/.5 size due to the thin material required. Something to the effect that while they pass pull testing fine the design was more likely to fail in the real world. Sure try to line it up with the direction of pull just right, try to avoid crystals as much as possible, but in the real world you're not going to nail either of those 100% of the time.

Personally, I use single stem cams for the BD .5 and below. That solid chunk of metal just makes me warm and fuzzy:
Briggs Lazalde · · Unknown Hometown · Joined Sep 2017 · Points: 0
Jim Turner wrote:
Hard to tell from the photo, but it looks like the lobe is gouged, not bent.  (Material was removed, rather than deformed).  If so, it is bad luck or user error rather than defect.

Plus with the wider lobe in that section from the pic suggests the lobe pancaked flat and not so much as sheared or removed.

Is that section of the climb notorious for placing gear blindly from a lieback position? I havent heard anyone mention wether or not the people who have had trouble in this section placed blindly.
Jim Turner · · Lakewood, CO · Joined Jun 2012 · Points: 295

It looked to me that the aluminum, which is pretty soft material and cuts like butter with a drill or saw, ‘smeared’ to the side or was left on the rock, rather than pancaked.  But hard to tell.

cyclestupor · · Woodland Park, Colorado · Joined Mar 2015 · Points: 91
Rob the tricam wrote: The idea that BD should give you a new cam is crazy. Gear has a functional  lifespan, ultralight gear exponentially so.

Sure, BD is not legally obligated to replace the cam. 

 But at the same time, I wouldn't be surprised if they did replace it.  Doing so encourages climbers to return gear when it fails, so that it can be analyzed, and helps retain customers as well.

Kaner · · Eagle · Joined Jul 2006 · Points: 2,355

FWIW I have a BD ultralight .4.; comparing a C4 .4 in the other hand, it is noticeably lighter.

cyclestupor · · Woodland Park, Colorado · Joined Mar 2015 · Points: 91
Jim Turner wrote: It looked to me that the aluminum, which is pretty soft material and cuts like butter with a drill or saw, ‘smeared’ to the side or was left on the rock, rather than pancaked.  But hard to tell.

The OP said that the lobe was stuck in the retracted position (and was forced open later) because the inside of the cutout was jammed against the axle.  This could only happen if the lobe deformed/pancaked.  In Fact, you can actually see how it was deformed in this picture...

https://cdn-uploads.mountainproject.com/forum/62678.jpg

But it does look like it was smeared to the side as well.
aaron hope · · Walnut Creek, CA · Joined Nov 2009 · Points: 306

Guys. Look at the shear lines on the lobe. You can clearly see that this thing was ripped sideways - the direction of pull was clearly perpendicular to the stem (in the direction of the lines). 


This is a textbook case of sub-optimal placement. Even so, thanks to the OP for sharing with us - its always good to know the limitations of our sport and gear. 
Briggs Lazalde · · Unknown Hometown · Joined Sep 2017 · Points: 0
aaron hope wrote: Guys. Look at the "glacier" shear lines on the lobe. You can clearly see that this thing was ripped sideways - the direction of pull was clearly perpendicular to the stem (in the direction of the lines). 

It was glaciers that did this!! We were all way off. Now we can all laugh about it! Bring it in team bring it in. Hooray on 3.   

Nick Drake · · Newcastle, WA · Joined Jan 2015 · Points: 491
Briggs Lazalde wrote:

Plus with the wider lobe in that section from the pic suggests the lobe pancaked flat and not so much as sheared or removed.

Is that section of the climb notorious for placing gear blindly from a lieback position? I havent heard anyone mention wether or not the people who have had trouble in this section placed blindly.

Been a while since I've got on it. It's not hard to inspect if you pull yourself into it a tad, if you try to just hang off a straight arm the whole time I don't think you can spot it well. 

Pavel Burov · · Russia · Joined May 2013 · Points: 50
aaron hope wrote: Guys. Look at the "glacier" shear lines on the lobe. You can clearly see that this thing was ripped sideways - the direction of pull was clearly perpendicular to the stem (in the direction of the lines). 

Just in case. There are two scratches systems. One (on a wider part) is more perpendicular versus stem. Another (on a narrower part) is less perpendicular to the stem. Seems like an evidence of pivoting the cam.

aaron hope · · Walnut Creek, CA · Joined Nov 2009 · Points: 306
Briggs Lazalde wrote:

It was glaciers that did this!! We were all way off. Now we can all laugh about it! Bring it in team bring it in. Hooray on 3.   

I think you're joking, but I removed "glacier" so there's no confusion. And, I'm assuming you're not familiar with the history of how folks figured out how Yosemite Valley was formed. Most though it was carved by rivers, but John Muir hypothesize that it was carved by glaciers moving down through the Valley - his evidence was glacier sheer line "striations" that he saw on rock slabs. Turns out he was right. 

curt86iroc · · Lakewood, CO · Joined Dec 2014 · Points: 53

im so glad everyone in this thread is a forensic engineer :)

but seriously, send it back and ask the BD lab to look at it

Corey Herbert · · Baltimore, MD · Joined Mar 2013 · Points: 0

On the subject of ultralights, wasn’t there a professional guide who pulled four in a ground fall not too long ago? Including two that were an equalized belay anchor?

Ahh, here it is:
https://m.soundcloud.com/the_sharp_end/ground-fall-in-eldorado-canyon-ep-24

Guy H. · · Fort Collins CO · Joined Jan 2001 · Points: 7,657
Corey Herbert wrote: On the subject of ultralights, wasn’t there a professional guide who pulled four in a ground fall not too long ago? Including two that were an equalized belay anchor?

Ahh, here it is:
https://m.soundcloud.com/the_sharp_end/ground-fall-in-eldorado-canyon-ep-24

Yep... These placements were in a horizontal crack.  The speculation is that the rigid stem of the UL's contributed to the failure.

curt86iroc · · Lakewood, CO · Joined Dec 2014 · Points: 53
Guy H. wrote:

Yep... These placements were in a horizontal crack.  The speculation is that the rigid stem of the UL's contributed to the failure.

I don't own any ULs and have never placed any.  Are the stems substantially more rigid than the C4s, such that you would be worried about a horizontal placement? Aren't the UL stems just dyneema covered in plastic?

rafael · · Berkeley, CA · Joined Jul 2009 · Points: 50

The trigger wire looks bent also, is that why the lobe is stuck in retracted position? Plus, the damage to only 1 lobe for sure means placement was bad. Multiple lobes would be deformed if it was the gear itself failing, not poor placement

patto · · Unknown Hometown · Joined Jul 2012 · Points: 25
reboot wrote: TD;LR: It has little to do w rigidity of the stem, IMO.

Agreed.  Even if it was influenced by the cam moving.  That is why you might want to use long slings on some cams.  Don't rely on stem flexibility.

The entire account sounded like hogwash.  I don't know why his cams failed but there is nothing wrong with horizontal cam placements or 'stiff' stems.  (Rigid stems have an obvious issue in horizontal cracks, but rigid are a pretty rare sight these days.)
highaltitudeflatulentexpulsion · · Colorado · Joined Oct 2012 · Points: 35

A gear failure and it's time to blame the climber. Seems like I've heard this song before.

Fehim Hasecic · · Boulder, CO · Joined Jun 2013 · Points: 130

The Fall
A few seconds before falling, the climber communicated to the belayer that the fall would likely occur, which allowed the belayer to be ready to give a slightly dynamic catch.  The fall was an intentional release from about 1m above the placement with about 10m of rope out and insignificant rope drag.  The fall initiated slightly left of the cam placement but without significant pendulum risk.  Upon falling, the size 0.4 cam failed and shot into the shin of the falling climber, resulting in injury requiring medical attention including stitches.  A size 1 Black Diamond Ultralight Camalot caught the fall, keeping the climber several meters off the ground
If the climber was 3 ft above the cam and fell, in order for the cam to hit him in the shin he'd have to be perpendicular with the placement. If we was slightly left above the cam, the cam wouldn't have engaged until he passed it, hence no shin slammer. If he was way out left above the cam and falling, tension on the rope could have pulled out the cam and sent it into his shin, which means it was a bad placement. The power of the cam is never to be questioned, blasphemous thoughts will be punished with sweaty fingers.
Guideline #1: Don't be a jerk.

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