Defect in Petzl ascenders: French article

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Defect in Petzl ascenders: French article

Postby Peggy Renwick » Apr 16, 2006 8:42 am

This popped up on the Italian "speleoit" Yahoo group today. I don't technically read French, but I managed to glean that the caver in question was climbing a pit and something went wrong with his upper ascender; he fell 7 meters, but fortunately had only some contusions, nothing serious.

The article concludes that the problem lies in the ascender, that is, the first Petzl model with a plastic thumb-thingy (the English word escapes me at the moment). Can anyone have a look at this article and, beyond reading it better than I, explain what happened and maybe give an opinion as to whether or not it is Petzl's defect?

I have a Petzl ascender w/plastic thumb-thingy, but I don't know what model it is. Is there a place on the ascender to look? I bought it in about January '03, but I don't know how long it'd been in the shop before that.

The article:
http://ecole-francaise-de-speleologie.c ... tbasic.pdf
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Postby Nico » Apr 16, 2006 12:40 pm

Well with my very little french knowledge I found out that the cam swings way too much, to the point that there's a gap between the cam and the ascender body therefore the possibility of sliding down the rope, it says the afected series # is 99109, 99091, 99112, found on the back of the ascender body, it also mentions that the previous all metallic cam version is not affected at all.

Any comments on this hank moon?
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Postby hank moon » Apr 16, 2006 2:50 pm

Nico wrote:Well with my very little french knowledge I found out that the cam swings way too much, to the point that there's a gap between the cam and the ascender body therefore the possibility of sliding down the rope, it says the afected series # is 99109, 99091, 99112, found on the back of the ascender body, it also mentions that the previous all metallic cam version is not affected at all.

Any comments on this hank moon?


Nico, that's pretty much the important stuff, with a few details added below.

The document suggests immediately checking all ascenders to see if they might present a problem [batch number on or before 99109 for right-hand models (blue) , 99091 for left-hand models (gold), and 99112 for the BASIC]. See diagram below for location/explanation of batch number. If batch number is illegible, do the following check: swing the cam open as far as it will go without manipulating the trigger/catch. If there is a gap between the cam and the side of the rope channel (see photo no. 2 in pdf), it should not be used. If there is no gap (i.e. cam remains partly concealed by the ascender frame as in pdf photo no. 4), there is no problem. Ascenders presenting the gap should not be used.

The document also makes reference to a forthcoming Petzl communication on this issue. It will be posted here as soon as it is available. That's all I know at this point. Gonna go down to the basement right now to check my ascenders...

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Postby Peggy Renwick » Apr 16, 2006 7:54 pm

Sweet! Mine is OK, though my smarty-pants other half figured it out just from the pictures.

Merci!
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but you wanted to keep his secret safe
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Postby Ralph E. Powers » Apr 16, 2006 8:48 pm

It would seem that the accident that is the reason for this new look into a possible defect was caused by something other than just cam failure in the handled ascender. If the guy who fell wasn't attached by more than one device to the rope, then the cam failure shouldn't be held entirely at fault. If he was using a frog system then the croll should've kept him on the rope right? Unless that was disconnected as well.
Details of the accident are in francais and thus a better assessment cannot be made (by us) as to why this particular incident occurred.

I've several blue ascenders of various ages. Not a one of them has been a problem during their years of service.

There's somethng more to this than meets the eye I think.
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Postby Nico » Apr 16, 2006 9:12 pm

If he was using a frog system then the croll should've kept him on the rope right? Unless that was disconnected as well.


I hadn't thought of that, but you're right, its kinda weird how that happened.
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Postby hank moon » Apr 16, 2006 9:15 pm

Ralph E. Powers wrote:If he was using a frog system then the croll should've kept him on the rope right?


He wasn't using a frog - he was self-belaying/aiding up a fixed rope, walking up a steep flowstone slope, ascender used as handhold and attached to harness with lanyard.
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Postby speloman » Apr 16, 2006 9:23 pm

Probly Still should have had a Croll or other type of safety I would think.
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Postby Ralph E. Powers » Apr 16, 2006 9:57 pm

hank_moon wrote:
Ralph E. Powers wrote:If he was using a frog system then the croll should've kept him on the rope right?


He wasn't using a frog - he was self-belaying up a fixed rope, pushing against a flowstone slope with the feet to make progress, ascender used as handhold and attached to harness with lanyard.

Ok that helps and gives a better picture as to what/how it might have happened... I've done that before (Spanish Moss if you recall Hank). It can be easy to twist off the rope from the ascender if you're not watching what you're doing and if your thumb is on the cam button, but if the defect is with the device itself ...
So would this mean a recall of that particular batch?
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Postby Nico » Apr 17, 2006 11:18 am

Probly Still should have had a Croll or other type of safety I would think.


Well he learned the lesson the hard way..back up your ascending gear
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Postby NZcaver » Apr 17, 2006 7:48 pm

Nico wrote:
Probly Still should have had a Croll or other type of safety I would think.


Well he learned the lesson the hard way..back up your ascending gear

Yes - for "normal" ascending, when you need at least 2 ascenders or else you can't move anyway! :doh: But I think you've missed the point of why a single ascender was being used when this incident occurred.

As Hank said, it appears the defective ascender was being used as a climbing safety, sort-of like the "next step up" from just using a hand line. Not all that different to self-belaying by clipping an ascender onto a fixed rope when you're climbing a cable ladder. I'm sure many of us vertical cavers have done that at one time or another. At the very least, we've probably all used a single ascender as a Quick Attachment Safety before.

Although toothed-cam ascenders are NOT ideally suited to situations where they could sustain shock-loading (and shred the rope), they are rated as Personal Protective Equipment (PPE). The Petzl Ascension is listed as withstanding a minimum force of 4kN when attached to an appropriate rope - and the failure point is the rope, not the ascender.

So yes, ascenders are commonly used without "backup". And without being fluent in Francais or knowing more about this particular incident, it doesn't appear there was a "lesson that was learned the hard way" here - as far as technique, anyway. Checking your gear to see that your cam doesn't have a gap when it's supposed to be closed - maybe. I would hope that if one of my Ascensions had a manufacturing defect like that (and they don't) - I would have noticed it as soon as I got it. But it's tough to second-guess things like that. :?
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Postby Nico » Apr 17, 2006 8:22 pm

In a case like this I would have definately used only my hands unless the slope was reaally steep, I tried once what this guy did and it was more difficult than just using your hands cause the ascender wouldnt go up sometimes unless I was stepping on the rope or somebody was pulling it from below, thats just my two cents or whatever my opinion is worth
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Postby NZcaver » Apr 17, 2006 8:37 pm

Nico wrote:In a case like this I would have definately used only my hands unless the slope was reaally steep, I tried once what this guy did and it was more difficult than just using your hands cause the ascender wouldnt go up sometimes unless I was stepping on the rope or somebody was pulling it from below, thats just my two cents or whatever my opinion is worth

Yes, you're right - it can be awkward using an ascender this way, especially if there's no weight on the rope below. But if you're just using hands and feet - and you slip and lose your grip - bye-bye! :cry:

So it's totally a judgement call. The point I was making is that using a single ascender for assistance/protection is one "accepted practice", just like using a hand line (with no ascender) is another. I've climbed both ways many times, and neither seems to get easier for me... :wink:
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Postby Will Heltsley » Apr 18, 2006 9:39 pm

Hi Folks,

I don't read French either, but after some finagling I was able to get around the apparent copy protection on the file and get Google to translate it. It isn't all that helpful since the translation is just a machine translation and is not that great in some spots, but it might be a little enlightening. All the formatting has been lost, so you might need to refer to the original article for paragraphs and so forth.

ENGLISH
Attention. Of the precautions to be taken with certain models of Handles and Basics Petzl. An accident fortunately without gravity updated disfonctionnement certain models of handle and BASIC Petzl. Friday March 10, 2006: Cave of Calles (Bez 30) the spéléo went up a puit in climbing ensured by its handle connected to the large longe. Like the rise is made on calcite castings the feet in adherence, the spéléo used the handle like catch of hand to rise. The handle did not any more play its role and slipped on 7 meters, along the cord. Fall vertical of 7 meters for the spéléo. As it is the support of the hands which released, the arrival on the ground was done on the dos.(Pas serious lesions, multiple contusions) We took the time of the reflexion and that to carry out some tests. Here conclusions: 1) the situation at the risk which was that of the accident can be defined as follows: The spéléo reassembles car ensured by its handle by holding it with the hand. If the handle slips a little the reflex of the spéléo is to be held even more firmly. It is enough that it twists the hand slightly so that the cord is pressed on the with dimensions superior of the trigger and the starter of hangs trigger cannot be done more. The cord slides along the higher part, nothing does not engage the rotation of the trigger. See Photo 1. The solution to remove this phenomenon would be to release the handle so that traction is done by the longe, but it is incoherent to imagine that somebody who falls coward his only catch! (such a fall lasts approximately 1 second) This phenomenon is independent of the wear of the handle. In the same way it does not seem as the fact of passing the cord in the snap hook of the longe downstream from the handle would remove the risk systematically. 2) the problem relates to only the first series of Basics blockers and handles Ascension Petzl with safety stop of the plastic trigger. (see communicated of Petzl) the design of this handle had been made to support a handling and an easy descent, it was quickly modified in order to improve blocking when the handle is held tilted 4) If you have a Ascension handle or a BASIC of this series do not use them any more. This time Ci, the chance was side spéléo, do not play more!!!! 5) How to identify this series: That is to say the job number (engraved with the back of the apparatus between the hole top and the rivet cam centers) is still visible, and the problem relates to the following series: Référence B17 R until the n° 99109 Reference B17 L until the n° 99091 B18 Reference until the n° 99112 Is the number is not more visible and you can identify it while comparing with joined photographs Ci. N°2 photographs and 3 relate to the accused series: the pushed cam with full opening is entirely visible. One can pass a sheet of paperboard between the cam and the hand grip. Photo N°4 normal series the cam opens much less, one part is hidden by the hand grip. 2) All the older series with metal trigger and block are not concerned. Attention however, if this phenomenon were strongly tiny room on the current products, it therefore completely is not removed whatever the usual terms (see communicated of Petzl) Vérifiez thus your material spéléo and canyon, that of the club, the stock of initiation, the SSF, the EDS. Establishments PETZL will diffuse an official statement defining their position and indicating the methods of modification of these handles and basics. Serge FULCRAND National Technical Adviser of speleology. French federation of speleology

ORIGINAL FRENCH
Attention. Des précautions à prendre avec certains modèles de Poignées et Basics Petzl. Un accident heureusement sans gravité a mis à jour un disfonctionnement de certains modèles de poignée et de basic Petzl. Vendredi 10 mars 2006 : Grotte des Calles (Bez 30) Le spéléo remontait un puit en escalade assuré par sa poignée reliée à la grande longe. Comme la montée se fait sur des coulées de calcite les pieds en adhérence, le spéléo utilisait la poignée comme prise de main pour se hisser. La poignée n'a plus joué son rôle et a glissé sur 7 mètres, le long de la corde. Chute verticale de 7 mètres pour le spéléo. Comme c'est l'appui des mains qui a lâché, l'arrivée au sol s'est faite sur le dos.(Pas de lésions graves, contusions multiples) Nous avons pris le temps de la réflexion et celui de faire quelques essais. Voici les conclusions : 1) La situation à risque qui a été celle de l'accident peut se définir comme suit : Le spéléo remonte auto assuré par sa poignée en la tenant à la main. Si la poignée glisse un peu le réflexe du spéléo est de se tenir encore plus fermement. Il suffit qu'il torde légèrement la main pour que la corde s'appuie sur le coté supérieur de la gâchette et l'amorce de l'accroche de la gâchette ne peut plus se faire. La corde coulisse le long de la partie supérieure, rien n'enclenche la rotation de la gâchette. Voir Photo 1. La solution pour supprimer ce phénomène serait de lâcher la poignée pour que la traction se fasse par la longe, mais il est incohérent d'imaginer que quelqu'un qui chute lâche sa seule prise! (une telle chute dure environ 1 seconde) Ce phénomène est indépendant de l'usure de la poignée. De même il ne semble pas que le fait de passer la corde dans le mousqueton de la longe en aval de la poignée supprimerait systématiquement le risque. 2) Le problème ne concerne que la première série de bloqueurs Basics et poignées Ascension Petzl avec taquet de sécurité de la gâchette en plastique . (voir communiqué de Petzl ) La conception de cette poignée avait été faite pour favoriser une manipulation et une descente facile, elle a vite été modifiée afin d’améliorer le blocage lorsque la poignée est tenue inclinée 4) Si vous possédez une poignée Ascension ou un Basic de cette série ne les utilisez plus . Cette fois ci, la chance a été côté spéléo, ne jouons plus!!!! 5) Comment identifier cette série: Soit le numéro de série (gravé à l'arrière de l'appareil entre le trou du haut et le rivet axe de la came) est encore visible, et le problème concerne les séries suivantes : Référence B17 R jusqu’au n° 99109 Référence B17 L jusqu’au n° 99091 Référence B18 jusqu’au n° 99112 Soit le numéro n'est plus visible et vous pouvez l'identifier en comparant avec les photos ci jointes. Photos N°2 et 3 concernent la série incriminée : la came poussée à pleine ouverture est entièrement visible. On peut passer une feuille de carton entre la came et le corps de la poignée. Photo N°4 série normale la came s'ouvre beaucoup moins, une partie est cachée par le corps de la poignée. 2) Toutes les séries plus anciennes avec gâchette et taquet métalliques ne sont pas concernées. Attention cependant, si ce phénomène a été fortement réduit sur les produits actuels, il n’est pas pour autant totalement supprimé quelles que soient les conditions d’usage. (voir communiqué de Petzl ) Vérifiez donc votre matériel spéléo et canyon, celui du club, du stock d'initiation, du SSF, des EDS. Les établissements PETZL vont diffuser un communiqué précisant leur position et indiquant les modalités de modification de ces poignées et basics. Serge FULCRAND Conseiller Technique National de spéléologie. Fédération Française de spéléologie
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Postby NZcaver » Apr 19, 2006 2:42 am

Will Heltsley wrote:Hi Folks,

I don't read French either, but after some finagling I was able to get around the apparent copy protection on the file and get Google to translate it.

Thanks for the translation! I was trying to do the same thing last night, but eventually gave up. :hairpull:

The handle did not any more play its role and slipped on 7 meters, along the cord...If the handle slips a little the reflex of the spéléo is to be held even more firmly. It is enough that it twists the hand slightly so that the cord is pressed on the with dimensions superior of the trigger and the starter of hangs trigger cannot be done more. The cord slides along the higher part, nothing does not engage the rotation of the trigger.

So I'm trying to figure this out - it seems the cam was able to open wider than it should have (when closed), and this allowed the ascender to somehow slide down the rope without the teeth catching and arresting the fall. The caver appears to have grabbed the handle in a death grip at some odd angle, so his weight was never transferred to the ascender via his long cowstail. Interesting that you can apparently position your ascender in such a way that the rope sliding past holds the cam open, but doesn't engage the teeth. I guess that's why they said it's "defective"!

But my previous comment about "no lesson to be learned" may have been a little hasty. :oops: If you're using an ascender as a climbing safety, you may want to keep the cowstail as short as practical... :shock:
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