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Issues with Blackdiamond/Pieps transievers

 Poster: A snowHead
Poster: A snowHead
***This is not a product recall***

Christina Lutsi an ACMG Guide and pro skier has posted today about some issues with BD/Pieps transceivers and thought it was worth sharing to raise awareness in the interest of safety.

Nick is proskier Nick McNutt in the text below - Story is that during filming with TGR in Pemberton BC, Nicks sluff caused a big pillow to collapse that side swiped him through trees and buried him. The crew couldn't pick up his transceiver signal though they had done a safety check at the start of the day.

Quote:
In the following days I was in disbelief that Nicks transceiver had turned off. The experience left me questioning the Integrity of the Pieps DSPpro. A few days after the incident I sent a email to the guiding community enquiring about similar experiences or issues with this device. I was surprised to see my email flooded with similar accounts, even dating back to 2017. ⚠️The problem being it can switch modes easily without the user’s knowledge⚠️ Due to poor design the button wears out and no longer provides resistance allowing it to slide out of send mode. We suspect the impact from Nick being dragged through the trees switched his to off, burdening us with a full burial with no signal. This only confirmed our lack of confidence in the device, a piece of equipment that is paramount to the safety of backcountry riders. We as a community should not question the reliability of rescue gear and should demand industry standards. Nick has been in conversation with Black Diamond/Pieps with hopes of a product recall of the Pieps DSP pro/sport models and dismantling sales of this product. No recall has been publicly communicated and this device is still for sale online. Our main goal is to get this device off of users in the ski industry, so this doesn’t happen again and again.

•If you or someone you know owns one I would suggest contacting BD/Pieps warranty and request a replacement upgrade model.
•If you’re in the market for a new transceiver I’d suggest a Mammute barryvox #notsponsored I think it’s a premium product.
•Whatever gear you’ve acquired use it properly. Wear it properly. Practice all and every scenarios so when poo-poo hits the fan you can be there for your partners.
•Take avalanche training courses.
•Hire a guide! Lots will be looking for work this winter.
•Find a mentor. •Do a mandatory morning transceiver check
•Acquire a backcountry communication device.
The list goes on ... but I hope this has been helpful


Head over to Chrisitna's Instagram where she has a video showing how the button doesn't stay locked in place - and to read a full account of the events.
https://www.picuki.com/profile/christinalusti
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Also appears to have happened in 2017, and the widow tried to get BD to do a recall then!

https://www.facebook.com/bri.howard.18/posts/10104798993615257
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Well, the person's real but it's just a made up name, see?
So Pieps released a message on Instagram yesterday - recognising a potential issue but no recall yet:
https://www.instagram.com/p/CGT6EzAlgLn/
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Just seen this on Instagram shared by Cody Townsend, kinda shocking behaviour from Black Diamond
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extremerob wrote:
So Pieps released a message on Instagram yesterday - recognising a potential issue but no recall yet:
https://www.instagram.com/p/CGT6EzAlgLn/


The comments make for bad reading, mainly because of the poor response from Pieps. Strikes me that damage has been done, too many people are seeing this and won’t trust them, and when it’s a potentially life saving bit of equipment you kinda need to trust it.
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@SnoodlesMcFlude, absolutely right, though it depends how far and wide this is being spread, it also appears that BD aren't publicising a "potential" issue about their transceivers in the same way that pieps are.

Its now been picked up by TGR

https://www.tetongravity.com/story/gear-tech/whats-going-on-with-those-pieps-avalanche-beacons
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@extremerob, arguably one burial survived and a death are enough for it to be considered widespread imo. If I had one I'd be now using it as a practice bleep...but ymmv.

Makes me glad that my transceiver is a flip phone type and in send mode by default.
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After all it is free Go on u know u want to!
Ouch. These things happen, but that's going to be a product killer any way they spin it from now.

It's not uncommon for things to be recalled or to have "advisories" published - my own air bag had one of those for example.
If they strengthened the selector for later product but didn't recall the early devices,
and if those early devices are causing this type of behaviour... ...a recall is presumably now inevitable.
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I finally got round to digging mine out of my pack, and sure enough it's quite easy to switch it from send to search without pressing down on the button that is supposed to lock it in place. It's even easier if you push the switch up at the back (it wraps around the device).

So it looks like I'll buy a Barryvox, which has a great reputation, and from the (admittedly fairly basic) testing at the last 2 PSBs is the only one to outperform the Pieps.

So, Barryvox or Barryvox S?
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I missed this thread

I own three DSP Sport and I have had two replaced due to the switch breaking. This is a real issue.

What I think I have discovered is that the catch on the switch can crack and stop working. I'm not sure this happens with age but with IMPACT. I now take particular care that we wear them in the holster with the switch facing in to the body (as opposed to outward where it can get bashed in a fall or collision). Since doing that we have not had a repeat.

That said, I would not recommend anyone buy one. This is a risk that you don't need to take.
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@Tom Doc, we have one of each - only because the retailer made a mistake and sent us one of each rather than the two Barryvox we’d ordered. I’ve had a lot of training but despite that don’t really see the benefit of the ‘S’ version, for use at ‘keen, well-trained amateur level’ - the added functions aren’t necessary and I find I have to take time to remind myself how to use it which wouldn’t be the case with the basic model. If I were buying now, I’d only get the basic one.
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@Tom Doc, I have the S. I handed it to my 9 year old and she could use it without any specific training on it; she's used to a Tracker 2 so not a complete novice with transceivers.

I don't understand the comments about complexity that come up sometimes on here - the standard workflow on the S is _simpler_ than on the basic model given all the icons etc guiding you through it.

It's possible to make the S much more complex by enabling extra features, but without these it functions as a very good, simple transceiver. It can also take lithium batteries which function materially better in extreme cold as well as being lighter for touring.
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@Inboard, @snowdave, thanks guys! Confused None the wiser then!


@Inboard, hopefully see you on the slopes somewhere, sometime this year.
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You know it makes sense.
@Tom Doc, just had a go with mine and can't seem to be able to move it from the send to the search/off mode with ample pressure - I guess the issue is once you get to the point where you have applied enough pressure to get it to slide you may damage it.

@Inboard, I have had my DSP sport for 7 years now - can't see any cracking - always use the Holster, will place facing the body, but now also thinking it may be time to replace what I thought was a great piece of kit

Hopefully Pieps will get their act together and recall - as confidence in this product is not going to come back
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@Tom Doc, yep! Had been planning on doing the PSB again but who knows... shout if you venture across the north channel for some Scottish sliding!
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extremerob wrote:
@Tom Doc, just had a go with mine and can't seem to be able to move it from the send to the search/off mode with ample pressure - I guess the issue is once you get to the point where you have applied enough pressure to get it to slide you may damage it.

@Inboard, I have had my DSP sport for 7 years now - can't see any cracking - always use the Holster, will place facing the body, but now also thinking it may be time to replace what I thought was a great piece of kit

Hopefully Pieps will get their act together and recall - as confidence in this product is not going to come back



When I have had them repaired they have come back with identical switches - I don't think they have a fix. My guess is a full recall would kill Pieps stone dead.

To reassure you though, when the catch goes it takes almost no pressure to move the slider. If you feel resistance then I reckon the catch is completely fine.

One other precaution I take is to check the catches every morning we are using them
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@snowdave, I’d agree that the S is in default mode not difficult, but it’s not quite the same as the standard one. However for keen amateur use I don’t see the extra functions as worth the extra expense.
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@extremerob, Mine moved fairly easily, and like I mentioned above, it was easier if I pushed at the back than the front.

The worry is that just because it works ok when you try it, that doesn't mean that it will still work the next time you try it, or if you get buried. Knowing that they CAN fail means that no one can have any confidence in them, even if they seem ok.

@Inboard, Will do. I'm a long way from giving up on skiing this winter!
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My Utah-based mate had a pair of the original batch which turned off on him a couple of times with suspected worn switches after the first 400 days or so of use. He took 'em back to Black Diamond SLC and the bloke there broke the switches off there and then and handed him a couple of warranty replacements. => This isn't a new issue, BD were aware of it, and it's apparently easy to tell if your device has the problem (as per BD's video)

I'm not up on the Pieps stuff, but from what my mate said it's only the older transceivers which were prone to this.

TGR's hacks ought to know that Pieps is not a "sister" company of BD: it's owned by them.
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I've just pulled out my brand new (exchanged under warranty) DSP Sport. It's not been used yet. The switch is stiff-ish but works smoothly. With the transceiver correctly positioned in its harness, as per Pieps instructions, it is easy to induce the failure mode by pressing on the back of the harness with my thumb and sliding the switch. However, that's when I put pressure on a specific point. If I hold the harness against my body, then I can't put enough pressure on and the switch stays locked in "send" mode. It's possible that an impact strong enough to break my ribs (an avalanche, plus hitting a tree perhaps) would do it, but I haven't plucked up the courage to try that yet. Shocked
I *think* I'm happy that the issue is really really unlikely to actually play out in the real world, but not absolutely 100% sure. Whether it's enough to replace the transceiver, which I am otherwise very happy with, I don't know.
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@mgrolf, isn't the point that twice this has played out in the real world, with tragic consequences?
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@kitenski, potentially but from my reading of the articles it seems that there have been cases where transceivers have been found to be in search mode rather than send, and this is linked to a potential failure mode. This is circumstantial, albeit it looks strong. But I've not seen a good demo of how it would happen without very specific intervention. I guess that's my question: is it actually feasible for the transceiver being smashed into a person's body, to move the switch? Or is it a case of coincidence?
On balance, the best thing would be for Pieps/BD to issue a recall, then I wouldn't have to wonder about the risk for an occasional (<15 days a season) off piste skier like me, vs the cost of a new transceiver (which is of course much less than the "cost" of a failure). But I doubt that will happen.
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@kitenski, I think once ended bad one, once all was good (Lusti's case). But honestly, as I have DSP Pro, I'm not super confident anymore. Before it was mainly the case if you were carrying it wrong way (screen facing from the body, not screen facing body), now it's obviously case where it really doesn't matter how you wear it. My looks fine, not cracked, and there's no way that I can switch it without some hard force, but still doesn't make me feel too comfortable.
DSP issues statement, that if you want you can contact them and they will offer you upgrade to their newer products. It's not recall, it's not free of charge, but it's at least something. No I have no idea how much is this "we will offer you upgrade to latest generation" in money, but I'm probably gonna try... or try to sell my DSP Pro and get Mammut. But in meantime, I'm back to Ortovox S3+.
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@mgrolf, I don't even ski off piste as often as that, but even with the long odds of it happening I wouldn't be willing to gamble my life for the sake of spending £300 on a different transceiver.
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I think it is early days - We're still in the pre-season period except for the select few already in the mountains, so lets see if there is anything further in the next month in terms of recall/clarity on what is being offered to customers.

@mgrolf, @Tom Doc, @jedster, should write to Pieps, post publicly about the failures to gain attention, the more people that make noise about this it may generate a further response from Pieps.

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jedster wrote:
extremerob wrote:
@Tom Doc, just had a go with mine and can't seem to be able to move it from the send to the search/off mode with ample pressure - I guess the issue is once you get to the point where you have applied enough pressure to get it to slide you may damage it.

@Inboard, I have had my DSP sport for 7 years now - can't see any cracking - always use the Holster, will place facing the body, but now also thinking it may be time to replace what I thought was a great piece of kit

Hopefully Pieps will get their act together and recall - as confidence in this product is not going to come back



When I have had them repaired they have come back with identical switches - I don't think they have a fix. My guess is a full recall would kill Pieps stone dead.

To reassure you though, when the catch goes it takes almost no pressure to move the slider. If you feel resistance then I reckon the catch is completely fine.

One other precaution I take is to check the catches every morning we are using them


ACtually, on reflection I think in both cases I was sent a replacement not a repair but that the replacement looked identical. SOrry if I misled anyone
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jedster wrote:
To reassure you though, when the catch goes it takes almost no pressure to move the slider.


The problem with that is that you don't know when it's going to go - you could check it, it's ok, and then get caught in a slide an hour later and that is when it 'goes'.

And mine is still stiff, but does slide with a bit of pressure - if not for all the publicity I wouldn't have tried the extra bit of pressure it took, but it definitely slides too easily.
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Tom Doc wrote:
jedster wrote:
To reassure you though, when the catch goes it takes almost no pressure to move the slider.


The problem with that is that you don't know when it's going to go - you could check it, it's ok, and then get caught in a slide an hour later and that is when it 'goes'.

And mine is still stiff, but does slide with a bit of pressure - if not for all the publicity I wouldn't have tried the extra bit of pressure it took, but it definitely slides too easily.


Yes - you are completely right.

It's not even really acceptable that you HAVE to wear them the right way round in the holster - a safety critical design should cope with that kind of user error
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Sorry - I cross posted another thread on the issue. Does the Pieps commitment smack of weasel words? They will offer you an upgrade - implies free swap but the word free is not mentioned - could dig them deeper into poo-poo.
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I've just emailed pieps about the upgrade offer - I'm not sure this upgrade will address the problem but want to hear what they have to say.

While I was doing that I dug out my old emails about replacements (were in 2017 and 2018 so they have known about these issues for quite a while). Here is what I wrote last time (to the UK agent that deals with BD warranties):



Sent: 03 January 2018 12:11
To: Lauren Callaghan <lauren>
Subject: Re: Pieps DSP Sport Rekla



Hi Lauren,

You replaced my DSP Sport last year.

I own 3 of these. Believe it or not, I got them out of storage in our place in France on dec 28 and another one had failed in exactly the same way.

I presume I should send this one to you as well?

Beyond that, how worried should I be about this? Seems like it might be a systematic fault in a safety critical piece of kit?

Thanks

Jeremy


She replied saying she would contact Pieps and investigate. They responded by saying they would replace the transceiver but no comment on the problem. I really regret not following it up then and here Sad
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SnoodlesMcFlude wrote:
@mgrolf, I don't even ski off piste as often as that, but even with the long odds of it happening I wouldn't be willing to gamble my life for the sake of spending £300 on a different transceiver.


In isolation, i agree. But would that £300 be better spent on e.g. an avalanche awareness course? Someone cleverer than me could probably do the maths, but my gut feel is that if I have £300 to invest in my safety, I'm more likely to benefit from something like that than by eliminating a very low probability risk.
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Incidentally, I THINK that Black Diamond was formed out of Patagonia because the guys running Patagonia realised that their exposure to product liability on climbing equipment (protection, etc) was huge and they want to separate the much less risky clothing business from that risk.

I don't know how big Pieps is as a share of Black Diamond (I guess not very) but the fall out on this is quite likely a company killer for Pieps and could weigh heavy on BD...
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^ the sort of practice and denial that ends up taking a company down. If there is at least one fatality there's potential for one wrongful death suit possibly and if a slew of evidence of people having devices replaced emerges
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mgrolf wrote:
SnoodlesMcFlude wrote:
@mgrolf, I don't even ski off piste as often as that, but even with the long odds of it happening I wouldn't be willing to gamble my life for the sake of spending £300 on a different transceiver.


In isolation, i agree. But would that £300 be better spent on e.g. an avalanche awareness course? Someone cleverer than me could probably do the maths, but my gut feel is that if I have £300 to invest in my safety, I'm more likely to benefit from something like that than by eliminating a very low probability risk.


That was sort of my thinking but given I own three DSPs and have had two switch failures how small a risk is it?
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@jedster, am really interested to see what they say. I'm not fussed about paying a small amount to upgrade (given the minimal difference in rrp between the DSP Sport and the Powder, it really shouldn't be much). I'm more concerned about the various comments suggesting that the switch/lock mechanism on the newer model is actually worse than the DSP Sport.
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Dave of the Marmottes wrote:
Sorry - I cross posted another thread on the issue. Does the Pieps commitment smack of weasel words? They will offer you an upgrade - implies free swap but the word free is not mentioned - could dig them deeper into poo-poo.


I also don't know how much the switch has changed. It LOOKS the same. Does the upgrade even address the issue well enough? DOn't know yet
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mgrolf wrote:
SnoodlesMcFlude wrote:
@mgrolf, I don't even ski off piste as often as that, but even with the long odds of it happening I wouldn't be willing to gamble my life for the sake of spending £300 on a different transceiver.


In isolation, i agree. But would that £300 be better spent on e.g. an avalanche awareness course? Someone cleverer than me could probably do the maths, but my gut feel is that if I have £300 to invest in my safety, I'm more likely to benefit from something like that than by eliminating a very low probability risk.


Fair enough. Personally I'd rather do some more research myself and if I do get buried I know I've got a reliable transceiver.
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Its looking like the issue isn't a problem for the newer black diamond and Piep's models with slider rather than a button.

https://beaconreviews.com/Specs_PiepsDSP_switch.php
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jedster wrote:


I also don't know how much the switch has changed. It LOOKS the same. Does the upgrade even address the issue well enough? DOn't know yet


Different locking mechanism. The new one is a slide at 90 degrees to the main slider, rather than a button to press. It looks as though it might be easy to not fully engage it.
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I have emailed Pieps this afternoon and will report back what they are offering but as @mgrolf, says, even the newer pro and powder model are the same units which BD are selling which I understand are also problematic?

There is some really good info over on the TGR forum:

Quote:
Another video (the person in the video is me).

https://photos.app.goo.gl/e2atL2zKM5p3XDWRA

This time I put it in the harness with the screen facing my body (even though the user manual shows the beacon in the harness screen-out). Then I rubbed the whole thing firmly against my ribs. This was enough to unlock the switch and move the slide out of the lock position. Then I slid it into the off position. The sequence is important here. I did not slide the switch while depressing the lock against my ribs. I slid the switch afterwards. Rubbing it against my ribs was enough to depress the lock and move the slide enough that it did not re-lock itself. I repeated this result 8 times before recording the video.

In my opinion applying the right kind of pressure to unlock the switch while touring is a realistic scenario. And bumping that switch into OFF at some point over the next 10,000 steps is also not outlandish. Will it happen every time out. Of course not. When I read through the initial social media storm I guessed that most of the reported failures were the result of user error. I still think that user error is the most likely cause of someone discovering their DSP is off at the end of the day of skiing. But I'm now convinced some users have handled their non-broken beacons properly and found it off later through no fault of their own.

I'm glad Pieps/BD is offering some kind of upgrade. I actually think they've handled all tis pretty well. The social media storm did not convince me that a non-broken switch could be dangerous. I've worn my DSP Pro 100-150 times and it never surprised me by being off. Even after a good bit of fiddling with it I was still leaning toward continuing to use it until I discovered the issue in the videos: a moderate amount of well place force can unlock the switch while it's in a harness. It is not likely. But it's likely enough that I'd rather use something else.

As I mentioned by Beacon has seen a good bit of use- nothing like a professional user, but probably more than most folks. I don't know if my button functions differently than a new one, but it is certainly possible that it is worn in some way. Putting all the pieces that I have seen together I just don't think Pieps released an obviously flawed product, or that they should have rushed to recall at an earlier time.


Last edited by Ski the Net with snowHeads on Wed 21-10-20 22:13; edited 1 time in total
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