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Advances in Avy Gear
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Eric Blumensaadt
(Danepacker) - MLife

Locale: Mojave Desert
Advances in Avy Gear on 01/06/2011 23:30:00 MST Print View

Everyone who travels in the backcountry has (or Should have) at least one avalanche course and good avy gear. As an avy trained ski patroller and backcountry skier I'd like to say a few words about recent avy gear advancements

We are all familiar with the standard avalanche gear, i.e.


But in the past several years there has appeared some significant new avalanche gear.

1. AVALUNG - This is a piece of strap on gear (or built into some backpacks) that can extend burial survival time by 45 minutes in an avalanched victim (who has no additional trauma). It does so by taking air from a location away from the face where an ice mask will form and cut off the air supply. And it also vents CO2 away from the air intake area to help provide cleaner intake air. Ya gotta have the mouthpiece ready for instant deployment or it's useless.

2. FLOTATION BAGS - There are about three makers of instant inflating backpack carried bags that will keep avalanched people on the surface of most avalanches... provided they are not strained through trees, boulders or flung over cliffs. In addition to floating the avy victim on or near the surface they can provide some protection from trauma of the head and cervical spine. Air bags have been proven life savers in cars, and now in avalanches as well. If you're wearing a helmet, as you should be, then you have additional protection. And your avy bag/gear pack will help protect the rest of your spine.

3. NEW FAST-TO-USE AVY BEACONS - The Ortovox S1 is to me the easiest to use and most foolproof. Closed it's in transmit. Flip it open like a cell phone and it's on recieve. And with its advanced software you can walk straight(er) to the victim without being forced to follow circuitous transmitted beacon flux line paths until the final few yards. This is a great time saver and time is life for buried victims.
But the new TRACKER II is also better in several ways and very simple to use also, not to mention hundreds of dollars less expensive than the S1 (but still 'spensive).

4. PLRBs like the ACR units and SPOT II give rescuers in a party that has one or more avalanched members an INSTANT way to call for help. Remember, saving an avalanched person may mean saving a person with significant injuries and/or hypothermia.
(Yeah, sattelite phones are great too if you can give GPS or lat/lon coordinates but, seriously, who can afford them?)
But I suggest useing two PLRBs in a winter backcountry party. The FIRST and LAST person across dangerous terrain should be the ones carrying them, in case one PLRB user gets avalanched.

So these are my picks for some true advances in avalanche rescue gear and its deployment. With All of them in use by a party travelling in avy country I'd say chances of rescue at every stage are much greater. Nobody wants to be in "recovery mode" after an avalanche.

Comments anyone?

Edited by Danepacker on 02/01/2011 21:55:32 MST.

Dan Durston
(dandydan) - F

Re: Advances in Avy Gear on 01/30/2011 09:46:01 MST Print View

That S1 beacon sounds good. Not having to follow curving flux lines sounds great if it indeed works. So far I've been pretty happy with my Mammut Pulse/Barryvox beacon. I find it much easier to use and considerably more accurate than a few other beacons I've played with.

K. S.
(bwalt822) - F
Re: Re: Advances in Avy Gear on 01/30/2011 21:16:26 MST Print View

I have an S1 and it definitely follows flux lines, not sure where the straight line rumor started...

David Chenault
(DaveC) - BPL Staff - F

Locale: Crown of the Continent
avy gear on 01/31/2011 18:52:57 MST Print View

The Ortovox F1 still has the best range of any beacon available. And while important, learning to use a beacon (even an analogue one) is not that hard.

Sam Haraldson
(sharalds) - MLife

Locale: Gallatin Range
Advances in Avy Gear on 02/01/2011 15:17:13 MST Print View

My abilities to perform a beacon search successfully improved many-fold when I dumped my analogue Ortovox F1 and got a Mammut Barryvox. An F1 is still considered a perfectly acceptable beacon but I'd rather not be in a party where an individual using it isn't completely and totally skilled with it's operation.

David Chenault
(DaveC) - BPL Staff - F

Locale: Crown of the Continent
beacon practice on 02/01/2011 17:16:29 MST Print View

Practice is key. Bozeman's in-town beacon park is a work of genius.

Eric Blumensaadt
(Danepacker) - MLife

Locale: Mojave Desert
Ortovox S1 operation on 02/01/2011 21:53:36 MST Print View

Let me be more clear on the S1 use. It is a digital, 3 antenna beacon/reciever and in recieve mode will permit you to walk a zig-zag search pattern for a fast search to find the general area of a victim. Once the exact position is found (yeah, by following flux lines to some degree) the position can be marked on snow and in the S1's memory.

Up to 4 buried beacons/victims can be located and marked in the S1. This makes for quickly finding the victims with the shallowest burial - and the best chance of rescue.

And any updates or programming bugs in the S1 can be changed by downloading the fixes from Ortovoxs's site and uploading them into the S1.