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Recco - works when you're dead?

 Poster: A snowHead
Poster: A snowHead
Someone on the old SCGB forum claimed that there wasn't a single documented case of anyone being rescued from an avalanche because they were wearing one of those Recco thingies.

Always wondered whether that was true. Well, here's some evidence (via pistehors: http://www.pistehors.com/comments/253_0_1_0_C/) of Recco proving useful, but only for finding bodies...

"Although a notable success for Recco none of the victims was alive. However use of the equipment clearly minimizes the time spent by rescue services on the scene of an avalanche."
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 Obviously A snowHead isn't a real person
Obviously A snowHead isn't a real person
DavidS, If I am reading this article right (it is late, and I have a glass of wine at hand) then this is a terrible indictment of the Russian Rescue system.
The boarders were buried on Feb 10. Eight days later, on the 18th, the Russians asked the Germans for help using the Recco system. The Germans arrived on the 20th and found the first victim in 5 minutes!
This suggests that if the Russians had had the necessary equipment (I thought this was universal) these skiers would have been found on Day 1 (the 10th) and possibly alive.
Moral: don't go skiing in Russia.
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 Well, the person's real but it's just a made up name, see?
Well, the person's real but it's just a made up name, see?
Copy of above Shocked
To save you all from reading another jonpim splurge, but keep the relevance of the HompHomp's and Ian's postings I have not just deleted this double posting, but droned on with this explanation instead.
(I actully thought I had not posted at all, because the site had slowed to a crawl, and I just exited after waiting semingly ages for anything to happen)


Last edited by Well, the person's real but it's just a made up name, see? on Wed 31-03-04 9:23; edited 2 times in total
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Jonpim, You must have had more than one glass of wine to get triplepostinitis!
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 Anyway, snowHeads is much more fun if you do.
Anyway, snowHeads is much more fun if you do.
Oh dear, my attempt to smooth the piste before anyone commented has failed...
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Jonpim, is that the moral ? Maybe it's get your own kit, beeps etc, know how to use them and be self supporting whichI guess we all know already.
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Then you can post your own questions or snow reports...
I've been told by a mountain guide that whilst just about every resort has the Recco equipment it's very bulky and the first priority in a search is to get as many rescuers on site as possible. So the Recco equipment isn't loaded on the first helipcopters.
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 After all it is free Go on u know u want to!
After all it is free Go on u know u want to!
Recco is just a novelty item. So are avalanche dogs - they are just there to sell postcards to the tourists. None of these things can hope to be on the scene quick enough.

The only thing that can save you if buried in an avalanche is the fact that you are wearing a tranceiver (and possibly an Avalung etc) and your mate who is also fully equipped and knows what he's doing is waiting at the top of the slide, having decided to ski the slope one-at-a-time.
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Plake wrote:
Recco is just a novelty item. So are avalanche dogs - they are just there to sell postcards to the tourists. None of these things can hope to be on the scene quick enough.

The only thing that can save you if buried in an avalanche is the fact that you are wearing a tranceiver (and possibly an Avalung etc) and your mate who is also fully equipped and knows what he's doing is waiting at the top of the slide, having decided to ski the slope one-at-a-time.


You've quite obviously never seen S&R dogs in use which rather undermines your point. They are extensively used in the Alpes, the particularly amount depends on local conditions. Sadly for the handlers the dogs are often used many hours or even days after the incidents to find bodies.

There's a lot of information on the Internet about search and rescue dogs should you want to read it.
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Plake wrote:
None of these things can hope to be on the scene quick enough.


I think Plake's point seems fair enough actually, Ise. It seems that Recco may be most useful for body recovery - and that holds true for dogs as well. In most cases, you're a gonner unless someone can start digging within a very short time of you being buried....
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DavidS wrote:
Plake wrote:
None of these things can hope to be on the scene quick enough.


I think Plake's point seems fair enough actually, Ise. It seems that Recco may be most useful for body recovery - and that holds true for dogs as well. In most cases, you're a gonner unless someone can start digging within a very short time of you being buried....


No, dogs work and are used in the Alpes and the US quite a bit. A trained SAR dog can find people in up to a couple of meters of snow, pretty amazing. There's an issue of whether there's enough around though. There's no reason other than availabilty that SAR dogs or Recco can't be on the scene quick enough, there's nothing intrinsic in either that makes it slower than getting 10 blokes with transceivers and probes.

In Germany and Austria they've had quite a number of successes, one big advantage a dog has is the coverage area of course. I've been a member of a rescue team with a dog (not avalanche rescue) and the areas dogs can sweep is astounding.

Take a look at this I think it's part of longer docu' shown on German TV at least a couple years back. And
this makes mention of the role played by dogs.

The moral has to be to stick a couple of sausages down your boots Very Happy[/url]
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 And love to help out and answer questions and of course, read each other's snow reports.
And love to help out and answer questions and of course, read each other's snow reports.
Quote:

The moral has to be to stick a couple of sausages down your boots


Laughing I'll bear that in mind...
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So if you're just off somewhere snowy come back and post a snow report of your own and we'll all love you very much
Dogs are indeed amazing at finding people, and the handlers no doubt do a great job in difficult circumstances, but usually by the time they get there, all they'll find is a body. Of course there are spectacular survival stories of long burials, but these are the exceptions.

You really need to be dug out within 30 minutes to have decent survival chances, and unless you are avalanched very close to a piste which is very close to the Recco/Dog people this is not going to happen. My original point was simply that you MUST be self-sufficient in avalanche rescue, and simply relying on the resort is going to end in tears.
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 You know it makes sense.
You know it makes sense.
I think we can all agree on that - and the sausages are an excellent tip...
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 Otherwise you'll just go on seeing the one name:
Otherwise you'll just go on seeing the one name:
Would bacon work as a substitute? It's thinner and easier to slip down the ski boots (thinking of a new line for Thorlos here!)
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 Poster: A snowHead
Poster: A snowHead
Plake wrote:
Dogs are indeed amazing at finding people, and the handlers no doubt do a great job in difficult circumstances, but usually by the time they get there, all they'll find is a body. Of course there are spectacular survival stories of long burials, but these are the exceptions.

You really need to be dug out within 30 minutes to have decent survival chances, and unless you are avalanched very close to a piste which is very close to the Recco/Dog people this is not going to happen. My original point was simply that you MUST be self-sufficient in avalanche rescue, and simply relying on the resort is going to end in tears.


I agree (mostly) but we're talking at slight cross purposes. There is no intrinsic reason dogs cannot be on the scene, it's simply a question of whether the local teams are using them.

Being near a piste isn't really the point either, it's how far from the rescue team you are which is why they use helicopters of course.

Nevertheless, the numbers are pretty clear, you're best chance is to be rescued by a member of your party. You should read the links I posted as well, your 30 minutes figure is not strictly accurate although it depends how you define a decent chance of course Very Happy Around 18 min's would be nearer my idea of a decent chance.
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 Obviously A snowHead isn't a real person
Obviously A snowHead isn't a real person
Ise, that programme was shown on Sky TV a few months ago. One amazing rescue involved a dog finding someone after 24 hours - that person survived.

One major fact I learnt from that programme was the position in which the survivor was found - facing forward/down the hill in a seated position. An instructor once told me to pull my hat or gaitor over my face too if I had time. If I'm wrong then please correct me.
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 Well, the person's real but it's just a made up name, see?
Well, the person's real but it's just a made up name, see?
hayley t wrote:
Ise, that programme was shown on Sky TV a few months ago. One amazing rescue involved a dog finding someone after 24 hours - that person survived.

One major fact I learnt from that programme was the position in which the survivor was found - facing forward/down the hill in a seated position. An instructor once told me to pull my hat or gaitor over my face too if I had time. If I'm wrong then please correct me.


Read the link I posted to ICAR MEDCOM, you're quite right. Your chances of survival after 18 minutes depend on the air pocket you've created
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ise wrote:

Being near a piste isn't really the point either, it's how far from the rescue team you are which is why they use helicopters of course.


Helicopters are even thinner on the ground than rescue dogs. In the French Alpes it takes on average 45 minutes for a helicopter to arrive at the scene of an accident. There are a number of areas where you can't get a good mobile phone signal and the weather may prevent the helicopter from landing or taking off.

I've done exercises with the rescue dogs of the REGA (Swiss rescue services). They are indeed wonderful creatures and far faster than humans but they are expensive to train... about the same as a guide dog, around 15,000 Euros. An alternative is to buy a dog and train him youself, it is amazing just how fast dogs are off-piste, but don't forget to fit Fido with an avalance transmitter.

Earlier in the season I reflected on a particuarly tragic accident in an article called 15 minutes which I invite people to read.

David

ps as you can see from the original article Recco[tm] is at least good for finding your boots in the morning. :-) Personally I support the system, anything that reduces the rescue services exposure to danger is a good thing. The trauma for families of not finding bodies until the spring thaw doesn't bear thinking about.
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 Anyway, snowHeads is much more fun if you do.
Anyway, snowHeads is much more fun if you do.
Good article davidof, but I would lay the blame elsewhere. I blame the mountains. When covered in snow they look so fluffy and friendly, so it is hard to think of them as merciless unpredictable killers. And I think many of us reckon we can spot a dangerous piste - a potenial avalanche - but of course we can't.
As we have said so many times before: if you are going backcountry (off piste), get expert advice before you go, and ideally take the expert advice along with you.
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Jonpim wrote:
I think many of us reckon we can spot a dangerous piste - a potenial avalanche - but of course we can't.
As we have said so many times before: if you are going backcountry (off piste), get expert advice before you go, and ideally take the expert advice along with you.


I would agree with that.
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Like a large number of off-piste skiers now I always ski with transceiver, probe and shovel (plus a few spare items of clothing).
I recently replaced my old transceiver with a digital one (a Tracker). They are so easy to use and so quick. It takes lots of experience to use the old ones well, but very little for the digital ones. The chief benefit is the little lights that indicate the direction of the lines of force, so all you have to do is follow the line to the "body"(the pitch of the "beep" goes up as you get close, rather than louder as with the old ones, which meant you had to keep turning the volume down).
I usually take the old one on holiday to lend to anyone in the group who doesn't have one (when not skiing with guides). But it has been pointed out to me that for my own safety I should carry the old one and lend out the new one!
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After all it is free Go on u know u want to!
snowball, if you are going on an off-piste expedition without a guide, what precautions and/or advice do you take before you go. Do you tell someone where you are going, when you should be back, etc.? And do mobile phones work way off-piste?
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80% of the time I ski with a guide off-piste and probably 10% off piste without a guide. I never do this alone (well, officially, though I have been known to go off near to the piste once or twice).
I and most of those I ski with have had a limited amount of snowcraft training (and reading of books on avalanche causes) and years of talking to guides. However we all recognise this only takes us a limited distance and choose slopes cautiously. If any of us has any doubts about a slope we don't ski it. During a thaw we wouldn't go off piste except on gentle, unthreatened slopes we knew well, and in sunny spring conditions would also be very cautious in the afternoon. (Also of course after heavy snow falls, especially if there has been wind). Any recent strong wind is a danger sign.
I would want to know the avalanche danger level and, if there had been much wind (normally from the South and west in the Alps, which means wind slab on north and east facing slopes) and take into account anything I know about earlier weather gleaned from resort snow reports before going on holiday.
If I've already skied with a guide I will have talked to him about conditions.
I don't ski off piste somewhere I don't already know, or, for a shorter route, have at the very least seen from a vantage point.
I would want everyone in the party to have a transceiver, and if possible a shovel.
Although generally someone where we are staying knows we are skiing off piste, we are probably doing several routes in a day and I'm afraid we seldom tell people where we are going. We tend to decide on the snow what looks good and what we judge safe enough.
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snowball, what an honest reply. I fear you may get some criticism here, but I think there are many others who regularly do exactly the same.
However, I do note you clearly realise your precautions could be better (eg. "I'm afraid we seldom tell people where we are going"). Is this an acceptable gamble, or are you being wreckless?
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Well, there is a small risk, of course, but of those who ski off piste without a guide we are very much at the cautious end of the spectrum. Lots of the slopes that guides take us on we wouldn't risk on our own. Normally we are skiing areas where at least a few other off-piste skiers are skiing.
I gather the Scandinavians are famous for sending someone off with a guide and then all skiing the routes the next day. But you can't presume the same snow will be safe even later the same day.

A friend and I once skied for part of a day with a group of British resort staff who had been out all season and we were horrified with the things they were skiing, totally oblivious, even going onto a glacier and blundering accross cravasses that we had to point out to them. We just left them to it. We were too scared to stay with them.

I think the only thing we should do and don't (given we ski off piste) is telling people which route we are about to ski before doing it. I don't think I know anyone who does. It probably wouldn't help much if we were in an avalanche.
The one time I remember telling a lift operator we were about to ski off piste off the back of his lift he was rather startled and amused, though he quickly said it was good I told him. Of course that meant I had to go back to the lift afterwards to say we were OK, which we might not have done otherwise. But he wasn't there. He had gone off duty and not told his replacement about us.

I should point out that SCGB reps do guide off piste and many know less than we do. I admit we are probably a bit more adventurous than they are, but we aren't responsible for other people's lives.
Mind you, I gather they are now more restricted in what they do than they used to be. ( Probably even more since Caroline Stuart Taylor was in an avalanche).

PS You can't rely on mobile phones but in general I find they do work.
Once when I was with a mixed group at St Foix and someone did their cruciate ligament even the guide's radio didn't work to call the helicopter because the battery on the relay station on the top of the Aiguille Rouge (Les Arcs) was flat. He had to ski a mile down the valley to get a signal, leaving me to mark out the landing and stand in front of it to call in the helicopter (which was briefly quite exciting after about an hour standing around).


Last edited by snowHeads are a friendly bunch. on Fri 4-06-04 8:49; edited 3 times in total
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 And love to help out and answer questions and of course, read each other's snow reports.
And love to help out and answer questions and of course, read each other's snow reports.
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Caroline Stuart Taylor was in an avalanche
was that the avalanche of requests that the Discussion Forum be re-opened? Wink
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 So if you're just off somewhere snowy come back and post a snow report of your own and we'll all love you very much
So if you're just off somewhere snowy come back and post a snow report of your own and we'll all love you very much
I think it was in 2000. I don't think the avalanche you mention had as much effect on her.
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