Sandbanks, Bristol and Wimbledon Village are unlikely settings for a series of Avalanche transceiver training sessions but as Mark Brigham found out, these locations offer all you need for learning about transceivers….
Held in association with Henry's Avalanche Talks and the Ski Club of Great Britain the 'bleeper' or transceiver sessions are an integral part of the 2014 Ortovox Avalanche Awareness Tour. The sessions aim to equip you with the practical skills and knowledge to be able to confidently use a transceiver and perform a successful rescue should it be required.
"Held on a damp November morning in Leigh Woods, Bristol, 8 individuals gathered – each eager to improve knowledge about transceivers. Our host, Susie (a rep from The Ski Club of Great Britain) quickly impressed us with her credentials and experience (having been involved in a number of avalanche rescues for real) and we knew we were in good hands.'
"Susie was armed with no less than 12 transceivers, both analogue and digital. We used the latest Ortovox 3+ Transceiver with an easy to read display screen. This is a really simple and effective device equipped with 3 antenna to ensure maximum accuracy. Whilst not the only piece of kit required for backcountry exploits (you'll also need a shovel and probe – see our Safety Guide for more info) the transceiver is what we were to focus on today.'
"The aim of the day was summed up by one gentleman who had been to the Avalanche Awareness Essentials Talks (twice) and more recently the Avalanche Awareness Advanced Talk in Bristol. When asked why he was here he simply said 'if the unthinkable happens you can never know too much, so the more of these training courses I go on the more it will become second nature when it does happen.'
"The transceiver training sessions last 4 hours and we were demonstrated how a transceiver signal works (using flux lines that send signals out in an arch) and were given time to use the transceivers to find single and multiple buried 'bodies' buried deep under tress and leaves.'
"To finish we covered probing and shoveling techniques – I don't think any us fully appreciate how hard moving a ton of snow can be and so mastering some easy techniques could save time and effort and ultimately a life.'
"I'd recommend the day as a refresher course or for anyone who is new to off-piste skiing and wants to get to grips with using their transceiver. The sessions are aimed at skiers, snowboarders, climbers and anyone else who is planning to venture backcountry, and as I learnt you can never know enough about this area of mountain sports.'
What I Learnt
- It's essential to familiarise yourself with your device and those of your companions before heading out.
- Always check all transceivers in your group are working by using their partner check function to confirm the units are both transmitting and receiving properly.
- In order to carry out an effective rescue as well as a transceiver you'll need a shovel and a probe. Only with all three can you carry out a rescue within a time that maximises the survival chances of the victim (less than 15 minutes). Each person should always carry a transceiver, shovel and probe when venturing off-piste.
- When starting a search make sure all transceivers are turned from transmit to search mode at the same time, otherwise you'll end up causing mayhem as the transceivers in the search party try and locate each other rather than the searching for the signal of the buried victim.
- When searching always work systematically within the avalanche area. Depending on the number of helpers, you should either search in a parallel search strip, or by meandering in a zip zag with one person searching.
- Only use quality brand alkaline batteries in your transceiver and check before heading out. Do not use lithium or rechargeable batteries as the way they deliver their power can mislead your transceiver into showing that it has more charge than it actually has.
- The jury is still out on whether mobile phones affect signal – best to always switch your mobile off when searching.
There are some great resources available for self education including apps, videos, booklets and websites with up-to-date forecasting info. Our recommendations are to checkout some or all of the following resources:
A great source of info is the Ortovox Safety Academy where you can watch videos and download the latest research.
Mammut offer a superb range of safety apps that can be found here.
This app focuses on Switzerland but gives you up-to-date information about the snow and avalanche situation and can be downloaded here.
Henrys' Avalanche Talks
Henry has built up a reputation for delivering some of the best Avalanche and backcountry skiing courses in the Alps and you'd be wise to further your knowledge through him: www.henrysavalanchetalk.com
Scottish Avalanche Information Service
If Scotland is your destination of choice that the SAIS has a great little booklet on risk that can be downloaded here, plus there is plenty of other info on their website.
Book a place on the next Avalanche Transceiver Training course here: