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The cold world of alpine climbing.

The cold world of alpine climbing.

Wednesday, December 19, 2012

Black Diamond Heel Lever Concerns?

Editors note:
The following blog entry is by NE climber Joe Palma. Once Joe had warned me of the issue on his crampons I looked at my own. I use Black Diamond heel pieces (bought from BD mail order) on my own hybrid crampon binding systems. I found 3 or the 6 heel pieces deformed from pressure where Joe's failed.   *Just to be clear here, this is not a cosmetic issue.  If the heel wire slips through the heel piece as Joe's did, you'll loose tension on the binding and likely loose a crampon.* 

Black Diamond Heel Lever concerns by Joe Palma

A couple of evenings ago I was inspecting and fitting my Stinger and Sabretooth crampons to a new set of La Sportiva Baturas, when I discovered a problem. Wanted to get the word out for others to inspect their newer style BD crampon rear bails for similar issues.

I was adjusting the length of one of the Stinger crampons, when I noticed that the rear bail wire was no longer sitting in the groove of the retainer in the tension adjuster; it was rattling around free in the plastic track between the retainer and the bottom of the lever. At first I thought it might have been a manufacturing goof, but that didn't make sense as I'd had about 10 days last season on the Stingers, and there's just no way I wouldn't have noticed the wire not sitting in the retainer. The date code on the Stingers is 1334.

Pulled the rear bail apart completely and found that the bottom lip of aluminum retainer, which the tensioning screw runs through, had deformed with the tension of the bail wire. I can only assume the wire deformed the retainer sufficiently, such that the wire was able to pull through.

When I checked the rear bails on the Sabretooths, same design, they didn't show similar patterns of wear

I wear a large boot (size 46) and size/tension my crampons carefully; amongst the things I take into account are making sure the rear points don't extend beyond the back of the heel, that the retaining posts on the rear assemblies clear the heel of the boot, and that there's no rattle nor play in the crampon. That generally means I have a reasonable amount of tension on the heel bail; not so much that I have to struggle to get them on/off, but enough to ensure a secure fit and interface.

Attached a few pictures below that should help clarify:

First is of the aluminum retainer. Note the deformation on the left hand side of it; that was the end that was tensioning up on the wire. There is some deformation on the right side as well; that's from me re-assembling the bail with the retainer reversed and tensioning the rear bail on the boot with a moderate amount of pressure. Wanted to see how easy/difficult it would be to deform the retainer. It doesn't take much.

Retainer <br />
Retainer

Submitted By: Joe Palma on Dec 19, 2012


And the retainer assembled in the levers on the Stinger

Rear bail 1
Rear bail 1
Submitted By: Joe Palma on Dec 19, 2012



Rear bail 2
Rear bail 2
Submitted By: Joe Palma on Dec 19, 2012



Rear bail 3
Rear bail 3
Submitted By: Joe Palma on Dec 19, 2012


Next are a couple of photos of the rear bails of my Sabretooths, have more days on them, but they don't seem to show anywhere near the same pattern of deformation

Sabretooth 1
Sabretooth 1
Submitted By: Joe Palma on Dec 19, 2012



Sabretooth 2
Sabretooth 2
Submitted By: Joe Palma on Dec 19, 2012


I've emailed BDEL's warranty group and, of course, they put replacement rear bail assemblies in the mail to me yesterday, and I've shipped back the bails for their inspection. I asked them to have someone from the QA group get back in touch with me once they've had the chance to inspect the assemblies. Whatever I hear back, I'll pass along.  Joe Palma

Update from Joe 1/4/13
"Heard back from BD's QA folks and they've not seen a similar situation with the rear bails. There wasn't anything remarkable with the aluminum insert; certainly doesn't appear to be defective materials or design. Only thing that makes sense as a cause is that during fitting the Stingers to the Baturas I hadn't adjusted the frame length and in the process of levering the rear bail, I applied enough force to flex the plastic heel lever and deform the aluminum insert such that the wire slipped through. I was fitting the crampons on a workbench in my basement, not in the field, so I could exert considerably more force on the lever than I would when actually apply when putting them on in the field. Bottom line is inspect your crampons for wear, particularly the rear bail assemblies if you like to reef them down tight and during sizing. Had replacement bails shipped to me by BD's warranty department and the Stingers are back in action. "

5 comments:

Eric K said...

I just check my sabertooths and I had the same problem you mentioned with your stingers! So this problem is with all BD crampons.

Guv said...

Are you seeing only the deformation; or have you had the wire pull through as well? Given the common design of the heel bail on the BD crampons, I'd think it could be a common issue. That said, in the case of my Stingers and the wire pulling through, I'd have to think it would be a material problem with the inserts in particular.

Eric K said...

The wire pulled through on my crampons.

Patrick Broccoli said...

Pat B

Just inspected my cyborgd and i seem to be having the same problem with rear heel bail,what really suck is that i just order a pair for my petzl lynx crampons!!!

Guv said...

Heard back from BD's QA folks and they've not seen a similar situation with the rear bails. There wasn't anything remarkable with the aluminum insert; certainly doesn't appear to be defective materials or design.

Only thing that makes sense as a cause is that during fitting the Stingers to the Baturas I hadn't adjusted the frame length and in the process of levering the rear bail, I applied enough force to flex the plastic heel lever and deform the aluminum insert such that the wire slipped through. I was fitting the crampons on a workbench in my basement, not in the field, so I could exert considerably more force on the lever than I would when actually apply when putting them on in the field.

Bottom line is inspect your crampons for wear, particularly the rear bail assemblies if you like to reef them down tight and during sizing.

Had replacement bails shipped to me by BD's warranty department and the Stingers are back in action.