Login with Facebook
 ADVANCED
New Alien failure?
Submitted By: John McNamee on Aug 22, 2006

Add Comment
Reports are starting up over on rc.com about a 2004 orange alien failing due to the braze breaking. I don't have time (I'm at work) to read through all the pages but hopefully someone out there can summarize it for us.

From rc.com thread:

"The accident happened on Saturday, august 19th at Paradise Forks outside Williams, AZ. The climber was on "the prow", some distance into the thin hands crack off of the large ledge.

He weighted a piece (the orange alien) a which came apart and he fell and hit the ledge below. He sustained a massive head wound toward the top of his head. The people he was climbing with worked to quickly stop the bleeding and the witness that I talked to, who was a nurse, stated that there was obvious swelling/internal bleeding. He was not wearing a helmet and based on what I was told by the witness that was certainly a contributing factor to the severity of the injury."



Comments on New Alien failure? Add Comment
Comments displayed oldest to newestSkip Ahead to the Most Recent Dated Sep 10, 2006
By Buff Johnson
Aug 22, 2006
Thus far, there needs to be more analysis performed. The belayer posted these comments, but they are not a scientific investigation:

"1) I was belaying when this individual fell and I assisted with every step of the rescue
2) The socket of the cam did separate from the stem which suggests a brazing issue. I held this cam in my hands and inspected as did many other climbers at the scene
3) I have spoken directly with the climber who was involved and he is doing fine and should recover fully.
4) I took several pictures of the cam and I will post them when I get permission from the individual who owned the cam.
5) The accident took place at Paradise Fork on the Prow on August 19, 2006
6) The cam appeared to be brand new "

The implication from the various comments was that this cam was not under recall.

CCH is also implementing a ISO9000 QAP mgt system:

"7) What is CCH doing to prevent this type of defect from happening again?" [with respect to the failure of the cams that were under recall -- the assumption I had when reading this was that the cams subject to failure were manufactured by outsourcing]

"CCH is currently working on implementing an ISO 9000 quality management system. To prevent this specific issue we are pull testing every brazed cable to the specified strength rating. You can verify that the new CCH Alien cams manufactured after January 2006 have completed cable pull testing by locating an "L", "U" or "N" punch on the head of the cam. We have also implemented new jig testing to verify that Alien cams meet specified tolerances. For those interested in the technical details of this recall, we will be publishing our analysis over the next few weeks on our website aliencamsbycch.com/recall ."


What does ISO mean (I believe this is from a Rock & Ice article, I can't remember the particulars, in which I am intending to use here for educational purposes only):

ISO – International Organization for Standardization is a non-governmental group that work with manufacturers to standardize production. The ISO 9000 is the quality control that applies to the climbing community. This is a method of company management review, not individual product strength rating. The ISO does not establish manufacturing standards, but it does dictate a way a manufacturer manages its production, and demands detailed documentation from raw material to finished product.
By John McNamee
Administrator
From: Littleton, CO
Aug 22, 2006
Thanks Mark.
By Francis Baker (fran)
From: Las Vegas,NV
Aug 24, 2006
I really like Aliens and am concerned. Is this why REI has been selling them off at just under $40 ? Isn't this the second time in recent years there has been a concern with CCH? I would really like to hear/read more on this. I have some and they all seem bomber. Is there any difference if it doesn't have "ALIEN" stitched in the stem sheath?
By John J. Glime
From: Salt Lake City, UT
Aug 24, 2006
No, the older ones didn't have the alien stitching... no difference in device.
By Ron Olsen
From: Boulder, CO
Aug 24, 2006
If I were in the market for Aliens, I would be sure to get the newest ones with "Tensile Tested" stamped on the swage:



According to info on the CCH website, all Aliens manufactured since the recall are tensile tested:

Since the recall, all main cable silver brazed connections are tinsel [sic] tested:
 
.33"-1/2" tested to 1800 pounds
¾" -1” tested to 2000 pounds
1.25”-2.5" tested to 2500 pounds

I wouldn't buy an Alien without the above stamp.

And don't bother getting an orange Alien; buy a green #0.75 Camalot instead. Same maximum size, but the green Camalot compresses more to fit smaller cracks. I own both, and have relegated the orange Alien to backup status for this reason.

The orange Alien seems to be the most troublesome one. Both failures in the field were orange Aliens. The orange also suffered from a batch with mis-drilled axle holes resulting in poor compression range. I'd certainly be suspicious of any ones manufactured before the recall.

The post-recall orange Aliens shouldn't suffer from these problems, but I still feel the green Camalot is a superior piece.
By John J. Glime
From: Salt Lake City, UT
Aug 24, 2006
Oddly, I was thinking the opposite from Ron. I have old aliens that have held up wonderfully for years. I have many friends who have used aliens for years. Only recently have there been reports of any problems, where for 10 plus years there weren't... my conclusion is that the old ones are reliable, it is the newer ones that I am starting to question based upon internet created fear.

So if any of you want to get rid of your old aliens...
By Ron Olsen
From: Boulder, CO
Aug 24, 2006
John,

Where do you draw the line between "pre-recall Aliens that are reliable" and "pre-recall Aliens that are suspect"? The latest orange Alien that failed had a reported manufacturing date in 2004, and did not have the "dimple of death" that marked the Aliens that were recalled. When did CCH start producing defective Aliens? 2004? 2003? 2002? Are other pre-recall Aliens besides the orange suspect? Place your bets...

By the way, I climb on a whole set of pre-recall Aliens, although none has the dreaded "dimple of death". Like you, I've had most of my Aliens a long time. They've been used extensively and have held up well.

I wouldn't want to trust a pre-recall orange Alien, however, after the latest failure report.
By John J. Glime
From: Salt Lake City, UT
Aug 24, 2006
I agree with you Ron, it is a crap shoot, OR SO IT APPEARS, with aliens made over the last few years. Without testing, you wait until it holds a big fall... yikes!

My aliens are from 95 or 96 if I remember correctly. The reason I feel so much confidence in them is because they have proven themselves to me in real life situations. Right now I would feel better buying older (mid nineties) aliens than aliens made the last couple of years. But maybe that is just crazy talk. I'm not sure if mine is a rational perspective.
By JJ Schlick
Administrator
From: Flagstaff, AZ
Aug 24, 2006
I just moved back to the midwest after living in Flag. Does anyone know the name of the climber that was injured or his status now?
By Merlin
From: Grand Junction
Aug 25, 2006
Edited-
I called CCH today, they are going to pull test my entire set.
By Buff Johnson
Aug 25, 2006
Just had a few questions, if anyone knows.

What is meant by a "pull test"?

Is there any relation to the time period or severity an impact is placed on a cam; or better yet, how is a pull test performed?

Jeremy S., the belayer posted a comment stating the climber is expected to recover (I don't know if it was on rc.com or pulled over from supertopo).
By John McNamee
Administrator
From: Littleton, CO
Aug 25, 2006
I'm currently testing a set of Black Diamond C3's and hope to have the review up on the site in a couple of weeks... I'm not suggesting that people dump their aliens and buy them, but its another option especially if you can wait for the fall sales! I like them.
By Ron Olsen
From: Boulder, CO
Aug 25, 2006
Mark,

CCH says they "tensile test the main cable silver-brazed connection."

They put the cam into a testing machine and apply a force to test the strength of the connection of the cable to the head of the cam. The force they use (1800 to 2500 pounds) depends on the size of the cam. I believe that the force applied is gradually increased up to these limits. Cams that pass the test get the "Tensile Tested" stamp on the swage.

I would guess that CCH also tests some units to failure to learn the breaking strength of the braze, and uses these figures to set the forces used for their non-destructive testing.

Here is a reference on tensile testing
By Josh Janes
Aug 25, 2006
If CCH's "tensile testing" is as good as their quality control, brazing, customer service, or public relations, I sure wouldn't put one ounce of faith (let alone body weight) in a stamp on the swage. And CCH would be the last place I'd send them to have them pull tested.
By Merlin
From: Grand Junction
Aug 26, 2006
Well my treatment to date has been quite good. I sent back a full set of 10 aliens and they promised to pull test them and send them back the next day.

I don't know the history or the problems with customer service but testing and returning in one day seems decent to me. I also think that it would be highly unlikely to improperly test a set and return them as usable. They would not only be civily liable in the event of an intentional fraud but also criminally.

All I know is I love the way Aliens place and hope to have a safe set back before going to Vedauwoo in 3 weeks.
By Buff Johnson
Aug 26, 2006
Thanks, Ron, good info about what I was wondering.

Josh has a point about independent testing. Typically all materials I place on a construction project are reviewed by an independent agency; whether or not I hire the agency; it's still performed by an independent firm.

If CCH is having another firm, in good standing in the industry of materials testing, perform these tests, then I would accept those results. I have reservations about sending my pro to CCH if all they do is in-house tests.

The trouble for me to go out and hire an testing firm, is that they would need to establish the ultimate strength; would this mean that I'd lose my pro?

What I would like to see is more analysis performed on the cam that failed. What force was it actually subjected to? When/how was this piece made? How did it fail? Is the witness report of the belayer reliable? As CCH is not yet ISO integrated; can the questions about the manufacture of the failed cam be answered?

Probably the same concerns everyone else has that relies on Aliens. Can this situation happen to me if I perform typical protected lead climbing and then take a clean fall, or can it happen to my second falling on a vector placement? Man, I hate to do what John G. is saying and play into fears from the Internet, I just want to see reliable test results.
By Francis Baker (fran)
From: Las Vegas,NV
Aug 26, 2006
The aliens that are for sale at REI have no stamp on the swage. Is this really a concern? Is the swage the weakest point of the cam? When was the recall? All the aliens I have are stamped early '05 or newer. I would like to know exactly what CCH has to say.
By Ron Olsen
From: Boulder, CO
Aug 27, 2006
Fran Baker wrote:
The aliens that are for sale at REI have no stamp on the swage. Is this really a concern? Is the swage the weakest point of the cam? When was the recall? All the aliens I have are stamped early '05 or newer. I would like to know exactly what CCH has to say.

The Aliens recalled by CCH were manufactured from 11/04 to 12/05 and have the "dimple of death" below the ball:


According to CCH, Aliens manufactured after the recall dates (1/06 to present) have been properly brazed and tensile tested, and recently manufactured ones have "Tensile Tested" stamped on the swage.

We have a report of an orange Alien manufactured in 2004 (without the dimple of death) coming apart in a climbing fall. What can you trust? What should a climber do?

Here's what I would do:

1. If I were in the market for new Aliens, I'd prefer to buy those with very recent manufacturing dates that have the stamp "Tensile Tested" on the swage. I certainly wouldn't but an Alien manufactured during the recall period (11/04 to 12/05) or before. I would only buy Aliens manufactured in 1/06 or later.

2. If I had any Aliens manufactured during the recall period 11/04 to 12/05 that had the "dimple of death", I'd send them back to CCH immediately.

3. So far, there have been no reports of Alien failures for manufacturing dates prior to 2004. I may be sticking my neck out, but I would tend to trust the integrity of Aliens manufactured in 2002 or earlier.

4. If I had any Aliens manufactured in 2003, 2004, or 2005, and they didn't have the dimple of death, I'd still be wary. I would call CCH and see if they would agree to pull test them. If so, I'd send them back to CCH and have them tested. Some may be skeptical of CCH, but I would trust their integrity to properly test and report the results.

It's your life; don't climb on gear that you don't trust.
By Francis Baker (fran)
From: Las Vegas,NV
Aug 27, 2006
Thank you guys for all the insight. I happen to have one blue alien with the dimple and all of them are stamped 0105 to 0705. The Blue one is marked 0305 as are two more in my set. They were all purchased very recently at an REI. I had been assured by an associate that REI had returned all in the recall dates. I will try returning them tomorrow and check their inventory for dates and more dimples. Thanks again.
By Buff Johnson
Aug 28, 2006
Greg, there has not been a thorough & complete analysis performed of the incident & cam described. This news post is all derived from the rc.com & supertopo discussions which had the belayer's comments. But, yes, the implication is that the cam was not under recall and failed; why it failed should be a matter for further analysis.

In reading the summary provided from NW Laboratories (5/5/06); they indicate the CCH in-house production sample had proper fusion as compared to the out-sourced sample (the dimpled cams) which did not.
By John McNamee
Administrator
From: Littleton, CO
Aug 29, 2006
If you have time here is a link to Rope systems analysis and inparticular about the forces involved.

amrg.org/Rope_system_analysis_...
By Merlin
From: Grand Junction
Aug 29, 2006
My experience: I sent my full set of 10 Aliens to CCH Friday. Today is Tuesday, I received a call from them stating that they are all pull tested with a statement to that effect enclosed and are being returned to me ASAP.

I'm not an old school super climber, just your average slightly more than a noob but I'd say lets hold off on the torches. Everyone messes up, some just have better PR departments than others.
By Nate Weitzel
Aug 30, 2006
Everyone who is a trad climber should read the analysis that John posted about the physics and forces of climbing falls. I have been climbing for years, and taken a number of good sized whippers (one in particular onto a Orange Alien!). However I was shocked to actually look at the forces we generate with falls that are in my opinion pretty small, and then to compare those forces to the rated strength of the camming devices we reley so heavily on. I think that obviously manufacturing issues are very important (ie brazing on recalled aliens), but I will certainly be placing gear more often in the future, especially when I am placing the smaller cams. I find that I have great faith in well placed cams and often consider them (at least while gripped on lead) to be as capable of holding falls as a bolt, but this is clearly not the case. I won't stop climbing, but will definitely be placing more gear.
By Glenn Burns
From: St. Paul, MN
Aug 30, 2006
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE:

The Orange CCH Alien cam that was reportedly involved in the Paradise Forks incident, has turned out to be dated 10-05, rather than the highly publicized date of early 2004. This information has been verified the by the Coconino County Sheriffs Depart both verbally and in photographic form, with Dave Waggoner of CCH, during CCH’s own internal investigation. It is however still unknown if this unit was clearly dimpled.

The window of the recall was 11-04 to 12-05, thus any Alien cams date coded during this period should be tested, dimpled or not.

CCH will tensile test customers’ Aliens, of any manufacture date at no charge, to ensure that they will withstand a fall. Testing is done to 2/3 the rated tensile strength. After testing, all cams are currently being identified with a “Tensile Tested” stamp on the main swage above the loop. We will test and return cams to our customers within 1 week of receiving them.

Please attach your complete contact information to each unit being returned for testing, to facilitate a speedy turn-around.


Dave Waggoner

Colorado Custom Hardware Inc.
115 East Lyon Street
Laramie, WY 82072 USA
(307) 721-9385



Please note this was originally posted by tgreene at supertopo.com and rockclimbing.com . This is an update to the original recall. Emphasis is mine.

climb safe.

-=glenn=-
By Merlin
From: Grand Junction
Aug 30, 2006
One last update from me- Dave not only tensile tested all the Aliens but even though I sent them out just last friday he had them all back to me today, Wednesday.
By Kevin Craig
Sep 10, 2006
Just a note that if you want service like Jared received, you'll probably have to stay on top of CCH. I called them this Friday (a week after shipping my cams to them) and they weren't even sure they'd received them, nevermind tested and returned them. I'll keep the forum updated on my progress.