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Brad P.

OP Link cam failure, purple (.5)

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In June I broke a purple link cam climbing Kunza Korner at Smith rock. Omega Pacific has had the link cam since June and is investigating why it broke. Until they give me information or release a statement about why it broke I thought I would present the facts to those in the climbing community. The rock of Kunza Korner is tuff, but I’m not sure what type of tuff. If you are unfamiliar, here are pictures of the route taken by someone else: http://www.summitpost.org/image/505904/151526/kunza-korner.html

http://www.summitpost.org/image/505899/151526/kunza-korner.html

 

The placement was at the crux about 50 or so feet off the ground. I weigh about 146 lbs and when I fell the cam was at or less than a foot below my feet. The placement was in a pocket where the crack above and below the placement tapered out. It was cammed to the middle lobe (if you’re familiar with link cams I hope that makes sense). The stem was angled down about 45 to 60 degrees. I don’t think I could have angled it down any more because the height of the pocket wouldn’t allow, but I don’t think the cam was bottomed out in the crack. I fell and the cam pulled immediately, the nut placed below held and there were no injuries. I inspected the cam before finishing the climb as it was sitting on the rope right in front of me. Here is the link to some pictures: http://picasaweb.google.com/bpfarra/Purple#

As you can see both middle lobes on one side of the cam failed. The lobes that broke were the lobes contacting the rock (the middle of the three lobes of the link cam). The other side of the cam, cammed just fine after the fall, and all of the moving parts of the broken side continued to move just fine. In other words there was no damage or failure of any of the pins that connect the lobes. The failure was that of the metal at both middle lobes on one side of the cam. The stem was just fine (a subtle bend in the stem, which may indicate the bottom lobes broke, that’s just speculation. The cam had been placed a few times but never fallen on before. I'm sure OP will let me/us know what they came up with in their investigation soon. I tried to include as much detail here as possible, but if I've left some important detail out be sure to let me know.

 

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Whoa, at first I though you were the guy who had posted the purple OP failure on Rockclimbing.com. Linked here I quickly saw you were not. He had tested his purple .5 and it had essentially failed in a placement that a Camalot held.

 

These things have some design characteristics which make certain placements time bombs. Any placement where they can't rotate and take a bit of a sideways force, they seem to be a candidate for failure. There was one placed in am angled pod in JT that surprisingly broke earlier, looking eerily similar to yours except for the color. After that story broke, LINK HERE TO THAT LONG TALE Joseph tried to break one with his hands to make his point that the links and length of the cams lobes are a weak point (he was unsuccessful in that endeavor but you just made his point for him iwth an exclamation mark!). I have the 1 and 2- # 2s and figured I didn't need any more OP cams for this reason.

 

FYI, you can post pics on the fly at CC.com, just click the camera link above and insert the location and the file uploads to CC just like photobucket.

 

Kunza is one of my favorites at Smith, so I know, and want to share the main point with others, that this should have been a low fall factor/low force fall. Cam at the feet but with a lot of rope out and fortunately plenty of placements between you and the deck. I always nut this pitch with 1 cam low on the pitch. Thank you for sharing the story. Any good climbing pics feel free to share those as well. :lmao:

 

Your cam

DSC08668.JPG

 

DSC08660.JPG

 

Of particular note and interest is the Rich Goldstone post on the Cassin Joss cam failure which lead to a fatality on a 5.4/5.5 in the Gunks. I'll quote it slightly modified and with the picture outside of the quote. Here is the failed cam, but click Rgolds link after you read his words as it's a worthwhile read for every climber who would use cams.

cam.jpg

 

The relevant link is here. It is possible that the accident may have been the result of an overly brittle construction, but of course in order to break a cam that isn't defective a lot of force is required, regardless of the alloy in question. My guess is that this was another case of the effect of flaring placements, perhaps additionally complicated by pebbly nubbins that could have restricted the cams ability to pivot, although remember that this was a horizontal placement.

 

Cams are complicated devices whose security cannot be evaluated in the same way as a nut---consider, for example, the Metolius tests that suggested that one in twenty "well-placed" cams fail. Essentially, cams are faith-based protection, the faith in question being with the engineering principles that are supposed to be in effect. The fact that those same principles can engender arbitrarily large forces seems to be conveniently ignored---for example, no one paid the slightest attention to my post in this thread on that subject until k.l.k. resurrected it.

 

As for gear-makers responsibility to ensure that the (nearly blind) faith we would like to place in their gear is justified, it is important to remember that climbing gear cannot be engineered to withstand industrial safety margins and still be carried up the hill. The nature of the endeavor forces engineering decisions that could prove catastrophic in the field, and climbers need to understand that. I am not trying to excuse shoddy quality control, but simply say that fond as we may be of the concept of bombproof gear; it isn't, never was, and never will be.

 

Climbers' faith in cams has certainly been justified over the years by many successful performances, but on the other hand cams do fail on occasion in spite of being judged good. The fact that they don't break more often may simply be a reflection that the rock will usually give way first. It seems plausible that the link cam stayed in and broke while most other cams would have pulled out. If this is true, then what you have in all cases is a cam failure. Psychologically, people are far more likely to accept an extraction as part of the game than breakage, even if the breakage occurs, paradoxically, because of extra holding power.

 

I don't know whether any of these assertions are true in the case at hand, but they are certainly true in general: the ability of cams to hold and not break is dependent on a host of conditions, only some of which are realistically under a climber's control. Any time a cam is placed suboptimally, the chances of failure go up, and honestly, we really have no idea how much.

 

I think what is beginning to emerge from all this is a sense that cams are not at all the "no-brainer" protection they may have seemed to be at first, and perhaps a broad change of attitude is called for. People used to say that nuts required all kinds of thought and ingenuity and with cams you just fired in a unit. But cams are mechanically far more complicated and less predictable than nuts, and perhaps it is time to emphasize the respect and consideration their complexity demands.

 

In both this case and the terribly sad Gunks tragedy, the cam that broke could have been backed up, in the case of the Gunks tragedy with good nuts. When faith-based protection leads us to skip readily available options for redundancy, I think it is time to rethink the entire approach.

 

 

I like Kates post on the RC.com JT failure thread noted above as well. She said:

I've been quiet on this thread, but as someone who has six link cams, two of which have been on my rack since they came to market, and tripples of Retired C4s, I'm interested in seeing what's going on in this situation.

 

After seeing my lead climbing (in straightforward cracks) go up multiple letter grades doe to the ease of placement/gear selection offered by link cams, and the size of wall rack I carry going down (carry two link cams for movement on a nailing pitch, instead of two each purple thru gold camalot), this makes me really, really sad.

 

My link cams have caught multiple free climbing falls, held probably hundreds of monster bounce tests (many in really weird placements), and been integrated into wall anchors that stood up to forces from 3:1 counterweight hauls.

 

I have always placed them keeping in mind the "shearing" type of weakness shown in the picture, as intuitively this seemed like a possibility.

 

However, until this is resolved, I am not climbing on them again. Will there be a recall because some metal was bad? Was this cam "Pre-fractured" in line with the last recall? I don't know.

 

For those of you who haven't tried link cams, or tried them enough not to get used to them, this is just another ridiculous piece of gear that will fail because it is over-complicated. For those of us who have seen our climbing change because of unique and broad range of placements made possible by link cams this is both sad and scary. If link cams go away, this will be a big step backwards, IMO.

 

The way that we treat OPacific in this situation will be one of the drivers of whether or not Other companies are willing to take the risk of making innovative designs, testing them the best they can, and bringing them to market.

 

Based on my previous interactions with OPacific, and their response to this situation, they are NOT another CCH. I look forward to seeing how this resolves.

 

-Kate.

 

The resolution of that were the ideas that certain placements like flares, can allow force multipliers and that it's best not to let a sideways hit happen on any Link Cam, or perhaps any cam, if it can't rotate and/or is in a flaring pod or placement.

 

Glad you weren't hurt.

:wave:

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Link Cams are built as well as any such a design can be and with the best materials available. The design delivers unique advantages, but along with those advantages comes limitations due to the current state of material science. The linkage tabs (that the axles go through) are thin and frail and there is just no way to change that without simply producing an even heavier product.

 

Bottom line is, at the moment you pull a Link Cam (or any other piece) off your rack, you are staring at the reality of the full potential and limitations of the piece - place it accordingly. With Link Cams that means that any placement that will exert leveraging] sideways forces on the linkages, or one where the cam lobes of a rotating cam will encounter obstacles, should be avoided at all cost.

 

There's likely nothing wrong with this Link Cam or the rc.com LST one - they just ended up being used in placements that played to their limitations rather than their advantages. If you aren't prepared to deal with the limitations of any given design along with the advantages, then you probably shouldn't have it on your rack.

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It's a good point JH. I note that many people who pay the scratch for one of these cams claim that due to the massive range they are perfect as a "when the Sh*t hits the fan" piece....i.e., the piece you grab when you are totally pumped and you MUST get the cam in first try or fly. Although the range on these allows us to think that these are that go-to piece....it's probably the exact wrong time to be utilizing this cam as a plug and fall piece in extreme times.

 

Realistically, I rarely carry mine, mostly preferring not to pay the weight cost and go with a lighter Metolius so that I can have a few extra brownies at night and pad the love handles:-) Mmmmmmm

 

I don't like the extra maintenance needed for these either. I often climb in dirt and dust (Saturday climbing was a vertical dust bowl) and the dust and dirt is anathema to these things working smoothly and effectively.

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Hey, Everyone ...

 

It's true this investigation has taken some weeks, but it's been necessary as we've looked at it from every possible angle and have been experimenting with possible solutions from a manufacturing end.

 

However, the report is due this week, in fact, and, as is our policy, we'll respond to the climber (Bradley) before releasing any information to the public. I'll do so, though, when we've done that.

 

However, speaking generally, I think a few things said in this thread are accurate.

 

Link Cams are specialty pieces and have held up well for hundreds or thousands of climbers since we introduced them. They are, however, vulnerable to damage and failure if subjected to torsional loading that requires the relationship of the head/axle and the rock to change much during a fall, especially if the placement is bottoming or loads the lower-end linkages to be stressed over any kind of edge or intrusion. This isn't a surprise,really ... the fact that their lobes consist of hinged components when other cams are made of a single piece of material made this an obvious characteristic from the start.

 

Bottom line is that the technology that provides Link Cams their greatest benefit (range) is also what introduces their clearest limitation (durability during weird loads).

 

We're doing a couple things to address this:

 

1) We're looking at new link designs that strengthen the hinges to make them stronger.

 

and

 

2) We'll be rewriting our literature to emphasize proper placement of Link Cams with a clear warning about the potential consequences of placing them in ways they could be subject to damage.

 

Both these changes are in effect now.

 

Link Cams are safe, but they must be placed in direction of pull and in a manner that eliminates the likelihood of the cam rotating during a load. They are ideal pieces, but not necessarily for every placement you come across. Do we like this? Nah. I wish they were as bombproof as the burliest piece of gear you can imagine ... and we're working on how to get as close to that ideal as possible ... but the truth is they'll always be a specialty piece.

 

We've been talking a lot about this, as you might imagine and we're not resting until we can wring out every bit of improvement in the design we can.

 

In the meantime, we welcome your feedback and observations. You can contact me, directly, any time you like if you want to talk more about it.

 

And ... regarding #3 ... we hear you! But to do a #3 with the same range and ratio of the other four would require a trigger pull/length of such a size as to, pretty much, eliminate anyone without King Kong-sized hands. If, however, we changed it up a bit and reduced the overall range/ration to, say, 2:1 (the others are 2.5:1), would that still be of interest to you? Let me know ... I don't know if this violates rc.com's policy about manufacturers doing market research, but I'll throw it out there.

 

Best Regards,

 

--ML

 

 

_________________________

Michael Lane

Omega Pacific

800.360.3990

 

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Thanks Michael

 

I love the purple link cam. It is my oh shit piece and I have throughly tested this piece in falls. I fell 20 feet off a crux and all my other nuts zippered and the link cam held. My partner also took a fall in the same place with a long fall and he out weighs me by a bit and the link cam saved his ass. I have always placed cams for downward fall in most situations and I guess I was taught well. I am not an expert but I will still use this piece of gear keeping in mind the information shared.

 

By the way I am setting my nuts much better these days. Setting them with outward pull in mind.

 

 

 

 

Plaidman

Edited by Plaidman

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It is my oh shit piece and I have throughly tested this piece in falls. I fell 20 feet off a crux and all my other nuts zippered and the link cam held. My partner also took a fall in the same place with a long fall and he out weighs me by a bit and the link cam saved his ass. I have always placed cams for downward fall in most situations and I guess I was taught well. I am not an expert but I will still use this piece of gear keeping in mind the information shared.

 

By the way I am setting my nuts much better these days. Setting them with outward pull in mind.

 

Plaidman, I'm very glad to hear you are setting your nuts much better these days as what you recounted above is pretty frightening to read and a big reason I personally recommend beginners and intermediate climbers focus on the basics and not get involved with Link or Max Cams. With regard to your having "throughly tested this piece in falls" - none of these Link Cam failures have been a problem of manufacturing or quality failures; they were completely good cams that were used in ill-suited placements. What that means is, your Link Cam is also completely fine, but a single misuse of it and it too will break just as easily as the others have. "Testing" of yours or anyone else's Link Cam by falling on it successfully means nothing with regard to it breaking in the same way others have if you misuse it. It's very important not to confuse the two different contexts because good cams can and will break in bad placements.

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You are correct. The current cam I have has not been fall tested. I take great care with cam placements as noted above. The right gear for the situation. As to falling. I try not to fall as I believe it is called climbing and not falling. Not that falling is a skill that should be neglected. I have not mastered it to the greatest degree. The nuts that I place are always bomber in a downward fall, but I was neglecting the outward pull on the passive gear previously. I normally place long runners on my passive pieces and in this instance the runners were not long enough. I now set my nuts and passive gear more vigorously. The place of this incident was at the crux move at the top of Jill's Thrill at Beacon. Always learning and applying the lessons learned.

 

Plaidman

Edited by Plaidman

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...runners were not long enough. I now set my nuts and passive gear more vigorously.

 

Just a quick note on this front - you do sometimes run into situations where the only available placement isn't optimal to the overall rope path you are constructing. In such instances you try to sling long, but as you note, sometimes you can't. In those instances one option would be to 'set' your passive gear harder, but I don't really consider that the best or even necessarily a reliable method to deal with the situation. Generally in the situation you describe what you really want is an opposition piece if you can get one - if not, the fall back is to place or set the nut as best you can so it resists the pull.

 

In general, I try to work with the geometry of placements to the degree that I can to retain passive pro; I only rarely 'set' my pro and then usually only the slightest tug until I feel some 'grit'. That came about after years of following my own pitches roped-soloing - eating my own dog food as it were. The point being setting all your passive pro hard can create a real nightmare for your second to clean which in turn wears them out and slows down the whole parade. I'm not suggesting at this point in your career that you not set pro, but rather that you not generically substitute that for carefully thoughtout placements and opposition pieces. Good for you for getting after it, being cognizant of the importance of slinging, and being conscious of the rope path you're building.

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To put my money where my mouth is: I just bought the yellow linkcam. I too have been following these stories about the use/missuse of linkcams.

 

I didn't buy it so much because I plan to take whippers on it. Call me a pussy, but I don't like to climb to the point of falling. I'll hangdog to rest, but rarely fall on gear. It just seems safer. I have a "u" stem yellow #2 chouinard camalot with a frayed main wire. It needed replacing and I also need another red camalot...I killed two birds with one stone on the yellow link cam.

 

These are obviously not plug and run kind of cams. They need careful thought to direction of pull force and should not be placed carelessly. All you have to do is look at them to see they aren't going to spin on their axis to face a changing fall direction like a camalot or tcu.

 

As has also been noted, it's probably not a good idea to place nothing but cams on any given pitch. I try to always place at least one passive piece in any crux section, even if the rest are cams. Think: Karate at smith. I simply feel safer looking down a pitch and thinking, even if most of those cams fail, I've got those bomber nuts on long slings, they are gonna keep me off the deck!

 

We used to climb before cams existed, and it just means slowing down occasionally to fiddle in some passive gear. It's worth the time.

 

I got some great advice from Arno Ilgner while leading the 5.7 crack left of bunny face at smith. I was 30 feet up and just had one piece in. Arno was guiding two chicks on bunny and I'd recently read his book.

 

To tease Arno, I said, to my belayer: "Now, Arno would say, place your gear, examine the landing, and go for it."

 

The real Arno, on the ground, said: "No, no no! Place gear like you vote, early and often."

 

I loved him for that, and returned to my favorite habit of sewing the crap out of everything.

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Cams are complicated devices whose security cannot be evaluated in the same way as a nut---consider, for example, the Metolius tests that suggested that one in twenty "well-placed" cams fail.

 

Bill any idea where one can read about the Metolius tests? In general I agree that most of what climbers do is "faith" based; however, the 5% failure rate seems very high.

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Cams are complicated devices whose security cannot be evaluated in the same way as a nut---consider, for example, the Metolius tests that suggested that one in twenty "well-placed" cams fail.

 

Bill any idea where one can read about the Metolius tests? In general I agree that most of what climbers do is "faith" based; however, the 5% failure rate seems very high.

 

you're so needy..... :lmao:

 

Peter, that was a Richard Goldstone quote (the Gunks climber/mathematician) I copied and pasted up there. I do remember that myself and in my poor memory I think it might have been in an interview with Doug Phillips. I'm thinking one of the climbing mags. The rest of the story which got seared into my brain, and the important lesson for us, is that they recommended just giving each of our cam placements a slight tug, essentially to set it/confirm it's good.

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As has also been noted, it's probably not a good idea to place nothing but cams on any given pitch. I try to always place at least one passive piece in any crux section, even if the rest are cams.

 

I'm going to argue the opposite here. I was thinking of a story a few years ago about a guy freeing a pitch on El Cap and he took a huge whipper when 8 nuts in row failed. (Anyone recall anymore details about this accident) Given a choice, I always like to make my first piece or two cams, they can rotate around and get jerked upward and not fail Sure, a well-set nut can do the same thing, but too often when I fall I see nuts that I placed at the bottom of the pitch fall out and hit my belayer.

 

As for Smith Rock, yes nut seem to be a better choice out there (unless were talking the Gorge) I have all kinds of problems getting good cam placements to stay put in tuff.

 

-Nate

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It's a generational thing, most old guys go with passive pro whenever possible; young folks are typically the opposite. I suspect that nutcraft and opposition placements are just not high on the priority list for them and cams have the appearance of being more secure and so that has ended up being the prevailing mindset for younger folks. All in all in a toss up between a good nut and a good cam, I'm going with the nut every single time.

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between a good nut and a good cam, I'm going with the nut every single time.

 

Me too. Which is why I love Beacon rock. The nut placments there are amazing.

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Michael Lane from Omega Pacific says on RC.Noob that they will be adding info to the instruction sheet and are intending to beef up or change the material on the pins....but it doesn't appear to be the issue here at all.....Unless making the pins more malleable might lead to pin deformation instead of the actual cam breaking on those angled placements.

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