Tuesday, 22 May 2018

Monday, 21 May 2018

Recco Finds

Some reports from searches with RECCO 2018

Avalanche in Cauterets, France – 14th of February 2018
Reported by: Manuel Freyche CRS Lannemezan

- A call was received in the evening saying that 3 skiers were missing.  Unfortunately, the conditions were too dangerous to start a search the same evening.
- The following morning a helicopter brought a rescue team up to the main avalanche field (200m long and 100m wide). The deposit was at least 3 m deep.
- The rescue team consisted of 2 avalanche dog teams and 2 rescuers with RECCO detectors. They were told that none of the victims were equipped with transceivers.
- One rescuer quickly received a RECCO signal from the top but when checking with his probe he found that there were only rocks on less than 1 m. He folded his probe since it created distracting signals.
- He continued his research and quickly got a new signal around 7m from the exact location and marked the spot.
- 25m further down he got a second, very strong signal around 7m from the location.
- The rescuer continued to search towards the deposit, whereas a dog team and probing confirmed and excavated a victim at the second signal.
- Due to high risk of new avalanches the head of operation had to evacuate the area
- Before leaving the rescuer decided to double-check the area around the first victim but without result. 
- He continued towards the first signal and half-way he got a third, very weak, signal, that he confirmed together with the dog team.
- The rescuer continued to the first signal that he could confirm, too. The 2 victims were then excavated and evacuated.
- The 3 victims were buried under approximately 2m of snow and excavated by 4 shovelers.
- The first 2 victims were marked 20 minutes after the start of the search and the third one somewhat later.

Avalanche in Vallon d’Arby, Riddes, Valais, CH – 16th of March 2018
Reported by: Raphaël Troillet, Mountain Guide & Ski Patroller Téléverbier, and Raphaël Richard, Mountain Guide & Rescuer Air-Glaciers

- 6 people were swept away by an avalanche with heavy snow, 4 of them were completely buried.
- The avalanche was 150m wide and 400m long.

- 2 victims were located with the RECCO system.  The first one was buried under 6.5m, the second under 8m of snow.
- 2 rescuers searched with 2 RECCO detectors on the ground and marked 2 different points, 15m apart, with a rather vague signal between very large blocks of snow.
- The rescuers took each other’s positions in order to confirm the marks of the other one.
- After that a helicopter flew over the avalanche field with a RECCO helicopter detector, marking a very vague signal between the two zones.
- Since the victims could not be confirmed by probes, the snow ad to be evacuated bit by bit by pist machines, until the two bodies could be found under 6.5m and 8m respectively.

Lost skier in Squaw Valley, USA – 1st of March 2018
Reported by : Squaw Valley ski patroller

- A person who was reported missing on Thursday evening was located with a RECCO detector Friday morning.
- The call came late, around 9 p.m. Due to the high avalanche danger a search during the night was not possible.
- The search started the following morning in the skier’s last known location, and in a prioritized area.
- After a few minutes’ search with the RECCO detector, a signal was received from about 45 feet (10 m) away. The rescuer immediately closed in on the signal and found the person 3-5 feet (1-1.5 m) deep.

Tuesday, 15 May 2018

Ortovox 3+ Recall for Software Update

Lots of folks will have the Ortovox 3+ Please fill in and send the online form after 25th May. Postage and upgrade free https://www.ortovox.com/uk/services/emergency-equipment/avalanche-transceivers/recall-3/


Dear ORTOVOX Customer

Feedback from our SAFETY ACADEMY PARTNERS has revealed that, in some very rare situations, temporary disruption of the transmission function may occur on our 3+ avalanche transceivers. This can lead to prolongation of the search process. The reason for the disruption is a software error.
There have been no known accidents caused by the software error. As a precautionary measure to ensure our customers are not at risk, we are recalling all 3+ transceivers running software version 2.1. Devices affected by the recall may no longer be used without the required software update.
The following information is confidential and for your internal use only. Should you wish to publish information on your channels, then please use the press release only.
Which devices are affected?
This precautionary recall applies exclusively to ORTOVOX 3+ avalanche transceivers running software version 2.1.
3+ devices running the following software: 1.0, 1.1, 2.0, 2.2 – no matter what color – and all other ORTOVOX avalanche transceivers (S1+, S1, ZOOM) are not affected.
How do I know which software version is running on my ORTOVOX 3+?
Push the search/send switch into the send position. For this to work, the switch has to be pushed in! Now switch on your 3+. This information will be displayed consecutively:
·         10-digit serial number
·         Display test screen
·         Remaining battery capacity
If 1.1, 2.0 or 2.2 is displayed: Your device is NOT affected.
If NO NUMBER is displayed, your device is running software version 1. This device is NOT affected
What is the disruption?
Temporary disruption of the transmission signal’s pulse may occur on rare occasions. If this happens, the breaks between the transmission signals may be prolonged by a few milliseconds. If this happens when the device is searching, confusing messages may be temporarily displayed on the transceiver. This may cause time to be lost in the search.
How much longer might the search time then be?
Searching will still be possible during the disruption, but it will be more difficult. We cannot generalize as to whether the disruption will last just a few seconds or whether it will be longer. This depends upon the type of disruption and the behavior of the person searching.
What is causing the disruption?
It is caused by a software error in version 2.1. A software component that was changed when updating from 2.0 to 2.1 is responsible for the pulse variation. In rare cases, the 2.1 software will transmit to the antenna in varying transmission periods.
Why wasn’t the error discovered beforehand?
Our avalanche transceivers undergo 100% comprehensive quality control and are tested several times for functionality before distribution. Despite our comprehensive quality control measures, we have now discovered a scenario that has never before occurred in our QA processes.
How did we discover the error?
The error was discovered during intensive training sessions by ORTOVOX SAFETY ACADEMY partners. The error was identified and rectified in the following internal tests.

The new software version 2.2 will rectify the error. It will ensure that the transmission pulse will remain constant. Devices can be sent in to our ORTOVOX service point to have the new software version installed free of charge FROM MAY 25 onwards. Devices cannot be sent in any earlier. Please do not use any other form of shipping and do not include other products with the device(s).

All necessary information about the recall can be found on our website: www.ortovox.com/recall-3plus. In addition to our website, you can also contact us at recall@ortovox.com and on our hotline: 089- 66674-215.

Glencoe's Low Level Cragging

Stunning Spring weather so I took a run up Glencoe to visit some of the roadside crags. "The Bendy" has many routes. I did routes at either end and one in the middle with Gary Latter back in the 1980's and Gary and Stork did some other ones. The Bendy is a great Spring and Summer morning venue and has a tremendous big swimming pool below it. Midge hell at night though. Sad to see the old Rannoch Club Doss debris after the fire. As a rescuer we were there a few times taking club members out who had broken legs on the wooden ladder climbing down into the gorge to get to the hut. Often on return from Clachaig.

Below this is the really good little "Dry Gorge Crag" an excellent evening crag which catches the sun and has easier less bold routes than the Bendy. Up the dry gorge is "The Squirrels Crack" and opposite a nice but short crack route that I did with Mark Tennant which about HVS 5a/b. Further up is the bold blank crag that Garry Latter did a few routes on.  I think these routes are in the new outcrops guide and some are certainly in Garys selected climbs guide Scottish Rock Vol. 1 South. If you want to study the images closer just click on them and open up a bigger size.

All that remains of  "The Rannoch Doss" a once well used and secretive hut below Allt na Reigh
Bang in the pic centre at the top of the wall is the final groove (with a peg runner) of "Simmering Psycho" E3 6a Davy Gunn lead and Chris Ducker (Fionas Brother) 1998
The left side has a cracking E2 5b that I did with Mark Waugh as second. In the middle wall are the E4 6a's that need RP's and have exploding crimps!  I did a FA of one with Gary and the others I think he did with Stork. There is a dry platform below so no need for wet feet. Quite a pool and roaring waterfall across from you.
The Dry Gorge Crag. A great little micro crag. Maybe 18m in height. Right to left. The grey wall on the right with a very thin crack is "Crimp" needing a couple of RP's is E2 6a and crimpy. Left again is the very well protected "Sin Nombre" E1 5b a bomber crack for cams and mid sized stoppers. Left again across the black streak is "Ascolatre" E1 5c again good pro but a bit thuggy. Then left is an alternative direct start to the same finish which is maybe 5b/c. FA's Davy Gunn with Chris Ducker and others.
Slightly further up on the same side as the dry gorge crag is"Crack Route" HVS 5b FA Davy Gunn and Mark Tennant. A damp little number but well protected with cams and nuts.
Even further up on the left side is "The Squirrels Crack" by - you guessed it, the Edinburgh Squirrel climbing club.  No give away at HVS 5a/b it used to have a peg runner at the overhang and is fairly well protected but no belay at the top so its a sit and squat job or leave a rope far back. You can get to this route from the top of the dry gorge by scrambling in from the high point.
Garys Crag has a few hard routes but no gear. Multiple bouldering matts might suffice as they are "highballs"
Looking up into the bowels of Beinn Fhada in the middle is a slot. The left side is a detached pillar with a route called "Triple C Special" HVS 5a. You can take it that it's pretty much ungradable much like KAK it's V-Diff neighbour lower down which in the old english would be XS and would both be nice for those of a JH Bell style such as Chimney Route - Severe Aonach Dubh "and the last 20 feet are on rock"!!
Looking across from the top of "The Squirrles Crack" to Allt na Reigh home of  Downie's Barn (on the right of the cottage) which is often mentioned in Alastair Borthwicks book "Always a Little Further". This later became Hamish MacInnes's workshop when he started making ice axes and stretchers so is a bit of Glencoe's history. Under the old road bridge used to be another doss which in my day the donkey jacket clad "Black Frank" lived in. He was a dirtbag climber who lived rough and climbed hard in the 1970's who's favourite ice tool was shortened wooden grivel axe with a bent pick he had shaped over a gas stove.

Thursday, 22 February 2018

Avalanche Awareness Training

I have been getting a lot of folk asking for training. My apologies folks. I think I did my bit for the moment but might well re visit it if it becomes practically viable another season. But not this one. Here's a bit of history and all in I think its done its job. A special thanks to Keith and Christine of Glencoe Ski Patrol for helping out over the years and as said in my previous post on an avalanche, go speak to the ski patrol for advice. Not getting in an avalanche is the goal.

All the pictures will appear full size on your browser if clicked:

Hamish MacInnes opened the training park

Legends Phillip Rankin, Dr Ian MacLaren, Peter Weir and SAIS Paul Moores at the opening of the glencoe mountain transceiver park
Ten years ago I saw an increase in folk going off piste and touring and many near misses locally. Folk have explored off piste in Scotland since way back before I was around. Many of the classic local tours and off the back of the Glencoe mountain descents were done by ski patrol or regular Coe skiers. Same at Nevis Range "over the back" and "off the side" were done by early ski school instructors and local legends many of whom are still about.  A lot of these folks had a mountaineering back ground or were local mountain rescue, or were just "Chancers" if you don't mind the pun (it's an in joke).

The new explorers were, and often still are boarders or freeride tourers or hike and drop skiers many whom didn't have a broad range of mountain skills and were not avalanche aware. I thought maybe I could do something to help. Anatom and BCA gave me a rudimentary wired transceiver training system which we had put in next to the lower T bar Glencoe and also we had some money donated for signs and banners. Anatom were an early sponsor and Gordon and the guys superb support with BCA kit for students to borrow

The early wired system waiting to be laid out
A few signs to help 
All of the above worked well increasing folks ability to test transceiver search skills. This was only possible because Andy Meldrum, Staff and Glencoe Ski patrol all bought into the concept and set aside some land and caretaked the park. It also allowed me to run each year for five years up to ten basic level 1 avalanche awareness courses or transceiver and search and recovery workshops. During this time the Mill Cottage Trust also donated money and bought a portable Ortovox STS system which can be used when snow levels are low but its not possible to get up a mountain. This system is available to any instructor or guide working locally providing an avalanche education course, on loan. Despite offering it out so far no one else other than myself has used it. Please borrow it if you need it!

For three years Clachaig hotel gathered some money from mountain safety lectures which I took part in giving talks on Avalanche Awareness. This raised over £2,500 for the replacement of the old system with a new top of the range wireless training system and some more upgrade to the Glencoe training park. This season there are 3 of the possible 8 remote beacons out.

Last year was a poor snow year and there was no demand for training. The previous season every weekend course I had booked had to be cancelled due to wind/weather (I prefer to get folk up the hill on ski's and make it real rather than at the base). That and lack of place to do the introductory lecture made it problematic. I don't see many folk in the transceiver park these days. Maybe the transceiver parks have had their day and its job done. 
Ski Patrol and Course Students learning that survival depends on shovel skills
Students taking a break during a level 1 course

SAIS snowsports Scotland avalanche course instructor George Reid in the park

Scottish Freeride organisers and legends getting in some practice at the park

Boot Hill

Killin MRT getting some transceiver work done at the park
Unlike ten years ago when no one else was providing off piste safety and avalanche awareness training, now Glenmore Lodge, Avy Geeks. Off Piste Performance and many others are providing quality training. That's great for mountain safety. I would recommend these providers to you, or a local IFGM guide.

If you buy avalanche safety equipment from me I am more than happy to give some free tuition up at the ski areas that doesn't take up too much of your ticket ski time, but I will not be doing anymore of the courses as in the past at Glencoe. I ski a bit more at Nevis Range these days as its where a lot of local freeride skiers seem to go, and where many of my customers are as "over the back" skiers, so often up there as well as Glencoe. Grab me any time if you want advice on equipment or a quick run through on your transceiver. But not on a powder day as I might be another of the Chancers.

If you need any kit then this is the stuff you want


Davy Gunn