/ Avalanche Transceivers and Kits

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RobbieT - on 31 Oct 2012
I'm away skiing/climbing for this winter season and was planning on getting into off piste skiing.
Is it worth getting at least a small avalanche kit (shovel/Probe) or go the whole way and get a transceiver too? I dont know anything about these so any help would be much appreciated.
I'm also on a very tight budget.

Cheers,
Robbie.
davidbeynon - on 31 Oct 2012
In reply to RobbieT:

Not much point in having a shovel if you can't find the person who gets buried.

I have been considering getting my first beacon this year, and have found this website most useful: http://beaconreviews.com/transceivers/

I have also read elsewhere that plastic/composite shovels are about as much use as a chocolate fireguard. I have a BCA aluminium job that has a probe folded up in the handle. Not used it in anger yet, and hopefully won't have to.
Frank4short - on 31 Oct 2012
In reply to RobbieT: there's no point in spending money on a shovel and probe unless you've a transceiver. Probably visa versa too. There's also little point in having all of the above unless you know how to use them properly (bigger proposition than you'd think) and the people you're with also have them and know how to use them. In saying the above I wouldn't ski off piste without mine and wouldn't ski with anyone else who didn't have them either. It's false economy in trying to save on them and they're investments that will stand to you for years to come.
niallk on 31 Oct 2012
In reply to RobbieT:

As per others posts, there's little point in having a shovel and probe without a transceiver.

It kind of depends on how much off-piste skiing you are planning on doing, and whether it is stuff 'in-bounds' where you can probably get away without one (is your call though), or tours/itineraire well beyond the lift systems.

You can rent them, which works out well if you're only doing 1-2 weeks a year, but if you're out all season then you're as well buying one.

matejn - on 31 Oct 2012
In reply to Frank4short:
Totaly agree. And as far as transceiver goes. Don´t go tight on that one. Buy digital model with three antennas. They are so much easier and faster to use. Ortovox 3+, Pieps DSP tour and Barryvox Element are all very good options that are to expensive.
Frank4short - on 31 Oct 2012
In reply to niallk:

> It kind of depends on how much off-piste skiing you are planning on doing, and whether it is stuff 'in-bounds' where you can probably get away without one (is your call though), or tours/itineraire well beyond the lift systems.

That's possibly one of the most dangerous pieces of advice i've read on here in a long while. I would hazard (though don't have the time at present to research it) that most skiing avalanche fatalities in France, if not Europe, happen "in-bounds" as you put it. Just because a resort is patrolled and controlled does not automatically make it safe. I've personally set of one major avalanche in bounds with a ski cut and a number of smaller ones that could have easily trapped someone. If you were to look at the pistehors.com news of avalanche fatalities a large amount of the time they appear to be people skiing or boarding on slopes in between pistes on days of 3 or 4 on the scale. These are some of the most dangerous circumstances because the appearance is of apparent safety when the reality is often very different.
ccmm on 31 Oct 2012 - 194.82.141.222 whois?
In reply to davidbeynon:

The probes in the BCA shovels are 1.8m long - a wee bit on the short side for the job. I've also managed to snap a shovel blade where it's rivited to the shaft quite easily.

I suppose with touring carrying weight is always going to put some folk off but a more robust shovel with a longer probe could be well worth the carry if you are faced with having to dig out your mate.

Having said the above if you're touring in Scotland anyone unlucky enough to be buried under more than 1.8m of wet slab will probably succumb to crush-related injuries before asphixiation.
davidbeynon - on 31 Oct 2012
In reply to Craig Mc:

In that case I may invest in something a bit longer before I travel. Probes aren't that heavy and it won't kill me to have a spare.
Rollo - on 31 Oct 2012
In reply to davidbeynon:

> I have been considering getting my first beacon this year, and have found this website most useful: http://beaconreviews.com/transceivers/


Yes! Brilliant website, skip straight to this page for the comparison http://beaconreviews.com/transceivers/Comparison.asp

I got this one which I think is good value for money http://beaconreviews.com/transceivers/specifications.asp#tableArvaEvo3PlusHeader

Get out there and practice with them
Blinder - on 31 Oct 2012
In reply to RobbieT: Not worth scrimping on in my option. Euro resort are getting more controled however there are always deaths in-bounds every year (one in Saas Fee last year)

You think what a jerk you would feel if your partner got burried and he had a transiver and you did not.

Anyway enjoy the winter!
aligibb - on 31 Oct 2012
In reply to Blinder:

The death in Saas Fee was an avalanche that crossed a piste and was a young boy having a lesson. I'm always amazed how many people go off piste with either no gear or carrying it still in the plastic bags from the shop. transceiver shovel and probe are the 3 bits of kit not to scrimp on.

Also if you get a decentish shovel its v handy to have in the car for digging it out of the snow when youre not skiing!
jhw - on 31 Oct 2012

Also note guidance I've received, that when you need a shovel, you NEED a shovel. Get a big, heavy one; not a light, baby one.
Henry Iddon - on 31 Oct 2012
In reply to RobbieT:

Good paper here on 'strategic shovelling'

https://s3.amazonaws.com/BackcountryAccess/content/papers/EdgerlyAtkinsISSW06.pdf

And youtube video here - http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=zxMXX6b13L0

I'm no expert but it seems that modern beacons often mean victims are located pretty quick - the delay is often in the digging.

One piece of advice I was given by a guide was if your shovel is better than your buddies then swap - your quality shovel will be used to dig you out.
Blinder - on 31 Oct 2012
In reply to Henry Iddon: If you mate turns up with a placitic shovel, lend him yours. At the end of the day then reverse over it (accidently).
aostaman - on 31 Oct 2012
In reply to RobbieT: In the Piemonte and Aosta Valley (Italy). A transceiver, shovel and probe are a legal requirement as from last year.
aostaman - on 31 Oct 2012
In reply to RobbieT: Sorry the Aosta / Piemonte reference is for off piste.
JIB - on 01 Nov 2012
In reply to RobbieT: Agree with Frank4Short's comments (above) about terrain. You must carry the kit and know how to use it, but you must also know where to go and when.

Having 'a tight budget' doesn't inspire confidence in developing the strategies to stay alive out-of-bounds, because it's how you manage avalanche terrain that is more important than *just* having the kit.

The avalanche transceiver could - more or less - guarantee that your body will be recovered, when it's not too hazardous for the SAR team to do so.

Consider that managing terrain effectively is the way to avoid being avalanched, and the 'Avalanche Trinity' (transceiver, probe & shovel) comes into play after you've been avalanched.

Sadly, carrying the avalanche trinity doesn't stop you being hurt or killed: You could be dead as a result of trauma or brain-damaged through lack of oxygen. Yes, there are ABS systems to help avoid burial but they don't stop injury and death from trauma.

"Terrain, terrain, terrain" as the avalanche professionals like to say...

JIB - on 01 Nov 2012
Report from yesterday's avalanche in the Bridger Bowl area, Gallatin National Park, Bozeman, Montana:-

http://www.mtavalanche.com/sites/default/files/Northern%20Bridger%20Avalanche%20Oct%202012.pdf

davidbeynon - on 01 Nov 2012
In reply to RobbieT:

Well, I just ordered an "Element Barryvox". More than I wanted to spend, but machines that go "bing" are always worthwhile.

Looking forward to traipsing around in the snow to practice as soon as we get some.
AdrianC - on 01 Nov 2012
In reply to JIB: I just want to second JIB's remarks here. Remember that transceivers, shovels & probes have little to do with avalanche safety. They're what you turn to when you screwed up your avalanche safety and are trying to retrieve a situation in which your mate(s) may already be dead.

So carry them and know how to use them, for sure. But even more importantly, put the time & effort into reducing your chances of being in the wrong place at the wrong time.
niallk on 01 Nov 2012
In reply to Frank4short:

I wasn't suggesting that to do so would be without risk nor that one should assume safety and abandon all normal considerations of conditions and terrain. And yes, you would probably err even more on the side of the caution and maybe forego freshies. But as others have said, even having a transceiver doesn't remove the need for such assesment or reduce the probability of occurence, just the potential impact.



cbeard - on 01 Nov 2012
In reply to RobbieT:
Shovel - Beacon - Probe. All gear I would never ski tour without.

Shovel - Voilé XLM is cheap, lightweight and also has a proper metal blade which won't snap when shoveling broken crust. I'm not sure how easy they are to come by outside North America.

Probe - At least 2.5 m. Something which won't snap.

Beacon - As long as you can use it efficiently, it doesn't matter too much what it is, though the new three antennae Mammut ones are great (Element and Pulse). Practice beacon searches frequently, as the sooner you can dig out an avalanche victim, the greater their chances of survival.

Learn how to read snow pits and assess slope stability. Ski with people you can trust to dig you out, and make sure your shovel and probe are easy to access quickly, i.e. not at the bottom of your pack!

As to in-bounds skiing, if you have a transciever, you may as well be wearing it. Those Recco tags on ski wear require some big kit to detect (read slow) thus are only good for body recovery.

Lastly have fun! Ski mountaineering is a blast! I hope you get some cool places with beautiful views.
RobbieT - on 02 Nov 2012
Thanks a lot to everyone for your advice, some really great responses here. Cheers.
ads.ukclimbing.com
Morgan Woods - on 02 Nov 2012
In reply to cbeard:
> (In reply to RobbieT)
> Shovel - Beacon - Probe. All gear I would never ski tour without.
>
> Shovel - Voilé XLM is cheap, lightweight and also has a proper metal blade which won't snap when shoveling broken crust. I'm not sure how easy they are to come by outside North America.
>
> Probe - At least 2.5 m. Something which won't snap.
>
> Beacon - As long as you can use it efficiently, it doesn't matter too much what it is, though the new three antennae Mammut ones are great (Element and Pulse). Practice beacon searches frequently, as the sooner you can dig out an avalanche victim, the greater their chances of survival.
>


I tend to favour BD kit. The shovels are good and light and the probes very easy to use, much better than an Ortovox one i borrowed from a friend. No complaints so far with my Mammutt Pulse but never used it in anger.

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