Simon, Sarah, Ciara and myself went to the beach on Sunday to get some practice in with the new transceivers. The beach is handy as it provides a nice open space to work with and sand that’s easy to dig in. The dune rushes are also good to conceal the exact placement of the transmitting beacon…

It was definitely a useful session. Simon’s used his transceiver in the past and I’ve read a few things here and there and watched some basic instruction. For Ciara this was her first real exposure to working with a beacon. Searching for a signal in a wide open space definitely helped to get a feel for how the transceivers work and how long certain things can take.

The Tracker DTS beacon really is quite easy to use, with single burials at least, as we haven’t tried the multiple case yet. I pretty much followed the guidelines in the manual, which cover: 1st getting a signal, 2nd moving to within 3 meters and 3rd performing a pinpoint search.

Our practice searches consisted of:

  • Hiding a beacon
  • Marking out the avalanche debris pile
  • Marking out the last seen point
  • Doing the search

The thing that I found most impressive was how reliable the unit was once a signal was detected. In one case Simon actually burried the transceiver outside of the assumed debirs pile, but close enough to be realistic. Totally unaware, once my beacon picked up the signal I blindly follwed it down to 3 meters and then did the fine search. It was spot on.

Here’s a video I took of Ciara trying her first search in the open. Despite our banter (watching it back I can see how interfering I am, what a dick!), the video shows how an inexperienced user can go straight to the signal. Ciara started off around 100 meters away and had no idea of where it was burried…

I expect things are less clear when the transceiver is burried deeper beneath the surface, as would be the case with a real avalanche. There’s also the issue of probing and then digging… Apparently within 15 minutes there’s a 90% chance of survival, of which the digging uses almost all, so you’ve got to find the signal fast. That’s why I think it’s important to practice.

All in all it was as much fun as it was educational. We had really nice weather for visiting the beach, and, being at the seaside, we finished things off with fish & chips plus beer 🙂

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