Localization With An Avalanche Transceiver

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Looking at eight rescues where there are sufficient details that one notices that finding someone with an avalanche transceiver requires two big prerequisites to be effective. An immediate search and prior training.

  • Two pisteurs were caught by a powder avalanche while working. Their colleagues didn't get a response by radio and went to their aid. They found them very quickly (between 5 and 10 minutes) using a transceiver. But the depth of burial, 1m20 and 1m50 respectively, added an extra delay of 10 minutes and was fatal to one of the men who was dug out after 20 minutes beneath the snow.
  • A guide and two of his three clients were caught by a slab avalanche close to the Heidelbergerh├╝tte. The third client, inexperienced and on a beginners ski touring course, preferred to go to the refuge to ask for help. A colleague of the guide and two other people climbed to the avalanche site and rapidly located and dug out the victims (within 5 to 10 minutes). All three died (having been buried for 25 to 30 minutes).
  • A group of skiers were surprised by a mini snow storm climbing up to the Forno refuge. Their route passed too high above the cliffs and was traversed by a small slide. The person making tracks was swept some dozens of meters and found himself buried up to his knees. The followers, little by little, emerged from the storm and helped him to free himself. If seemed like it would be a good tale to tell back home until they realized that one of their number is missing. Despite finding him with a transceiver very quickly (20 minutes burial) the person was dead.
  • A guide and his client were buried. The second client, untouched, managed to dig out the guide very quickly because a ski shoe was poking out of the snow. In 10 minutes the guide helped his client find and dig out the second victim who died later. The delay to dig out the guide was fatal to his client (20 minutes burial time).
  • Three young ski tourers, during a late return, were avalanched on the north of the Egghornl├╝cke. Two skiers were partially covered, one managed to free himself after 15 minutes and began to look for his missing friend with his transceiver. It took him 10 minutes and digging him out took a further 10-15 minutes. He was unable to resuscitate him.

This is a very sad list and shows us that any delay in the search and rescue of an avalanche victim is in most cases fatal. At the same time there are some happy endings in the other events reported but they didn't come with enough detail to be useful either because there was not a police inquiry or the information was too short or incomplete.

Once again we have to make the point that you have to train regularly with an avalanche transceiver and must organise the search effort immediately after the avalanche has stopped moving. The rescue effort was in many cases delayed as there were insufficient snow shovels available.

Categories: Snow Safety