Joined: 07 Dec 2004 Posts: 3528 Location: Golden CO
Posted: Sun Jul 09, 2006 3:21 am Post subject: First and Ten Beacon Practice.......
I wrote this article while I was working for the CAIC. It appered in the CAIC's Beacon newsletter and in The Avalanche Review. I hope you find it interesting and something you'll try.
First and Ten Beacon Practice….
By: Halsted Morris
I’m never surprised at the unusual situations that come up while teaching avalanche safety courses. While teaching avalanche safety courses for the Colorado Avalanche Information Center (CAIC), one of the many things I always emphasize is that folks need to practice a lot with their avalanche rescue transceivers. Some recent studies have shown that folks don’t practice enough with their transceivers. And thus don’t know how to use their transceiver well enough, to do a timely rescue of their buried companions. Checking on the Internet, you’ll see on many forums that the general public’s attitude is that if they’re using a digital transceiver that they don’t need to practice as much. This is a trend that the professional avalanche community needs to address. The truth is practice builds skills, and no practice means no skills in a clutch situation.
Its happened to me many times as I’m standing there telling folks how they can do their transceiver practice during my presentations. There’s always someone that raises his or her hand. Usually they’re in the back of the class sitting alone, looking like a candidate for an on-line dating website. Their question is usual phrased, “What do you do if you don’t have someone to practice with?” Who knows, maybe this is an obtuse sympathy pick-up method. Maybe I’m just missing something. But, obviously doing solo transceiver practice isn’t very realistic, if you’re the one doing both the hiding and finding.
Backcountry Access (BCA) has set up 30 “Beacon Basins,” around the country. These Beacon Basins, are great learning tools that allow folks to run multiple transceiver practice searches. But, sometimes access to a Beacon Basin might not be as easy, as a student might want. Also, there have been stories of folk’s lining up to use a Beacon Basins around the country on busy weekends. They’re over popularity has been their only limiting drawback. So, coming up with a convenient transceiver practice solution for my solo student has been kicking around in the back of my brain for awhile.
Ideally, it would be great to simply throw a transmitting transceiver over one’s shoulder, in order to hide the “victim” for solo transceiver practice. But, as tough as most transceivers are, its not recommended to be throwing them around. A number of folks still have their older duel frequency transceivers (Ortovox F2, Arva 4000 and Ramer Avalert Duel) or older 457hz analog transceivers (Pieps 457 Ortovox F1) in the back of their equipment closets. The CAIC does not recommend using these older duel frequency transceivers in the field, but they can still be put to good use for transceiver practice. Also, there are a number of used older transceivers for sale out there that student’s can picked up at minimal cost.
But, repeated “hucking” of even these older transceivers, will eventually take a toll on them. I got to thinking that there must be a way to pad a transceiver, in order to take the punishment of “hucking.” The solution to this problem arrived to me one day while shopping at Target. Target and King Soopers sell a small nine-inch Nerf football, for less then $10 in their toys sections. A Nerfball is made of soft foam, suitable for indoor play. The nine-inch Nerf football is ideal for padding an avalanche transceiver. I cut the football in half lengthwise, and then I could easily rip-out enough of the foam from the inside to make a form-fitting pocket for the transceiver to sit in. Then all I needed to do was place the transmitting transceiver inside the pocket and then tape the two half’s back together with cheap first aid tape (several large rubberbands also work). But remember, make sure the transceiver is on transmit and working, before you secure the two half’s back together. Otherwise, you’re in for a long protracted search, for a non-transmitting transceiver.
Lacking a John Elway strength arm for throwing the Nerfball very far, I have found that throwing the Nerfball over my shoulder down a steep hill helps the ball travel further away. I have also found that doing transceiver practice on a forested slope with plenty of undergrowth makes for better (i.e., more complicated) practice. Once you’ve thrown the Nerfball over your shoulder allow it a minute to “pinball” down the slope off trees, roots and rocks, and to finally come to rest. So far, my old Pipes 457 transceiver has survived 50+ “huckings” inside the Nerfball.
Essentially with the Nerfball transmitter you’re doing a transceiver search without the victim’s last seen area. This is usually the most difficult sort of transceiver search for most folks, other then a multiple burial type situation. My thinking is that practicing the most difficult type of searches should improve one’s transceiver skills the most.
Just like an on snow search, you need to first acquire the victim’s transmitting transceivers signal. Since you don’t know the slidepath boundaries in doing a dry land solo transceiver practice, figure your slidepath to be150 feet wide (75 feet to either side of the spot you where standing when you threw the Nerfball). Once you have picked up the victim’s signal, you can then start to use your preferred search method, of either the fluxline/tangent method or the grid method. Once you’re closing in on the victim, you may actual see the Nerfball. This is maybe the only drawback to the Nerfball practice method I see. In that you don’t have an actual burial, to pinpoint on. But, you can complete your search and practice your pinpoint search just above the Nerfball transmitter, while it is visible and sitting on the ground. A camouflage pattern stuff sack might be one way to make the Nerfball less obvious, until you’re almost on top of it.
I have also used the Nerfball transmitter during on snow avalanche courses. Tossing the Nerfball down an untracked snow covered slope the Nerfball tends to sink into the snow. Without the usual foot tracks, it means there’s no "cheating or faking it" in covering the entire search area. Placing the Nerfball in a white plastic trash bag can add to the camouflaging of the hidden transmitter.
The objective here is to get you out and doing a lot of transceiver searches. And if you have a big enough slope, they can get four or five practice searches in before hiking back up the hill to start all over again. So, there’s no reason to forgo doing transceiver practice just because you don’t have a partner or Beacon Basin area handy. The Nerfball transmitter practice method is easy, simple, cheap and a fun way to get in some good transceiver practice. And with two Nerfball transmitters you can quickly become skilled at multiple transceiver searches.
It doesn’t matter what brand of avalanche rescue transceiver you own. But, its more important that you’re super confidant and know how to use your transceiver when the chips are down. In other words, it doesn’t matter what you own, but rather do you really know how to use it. So, get out there and work on your skills this summer. The Nerfball transmitter is one way to improve your skills. I hope you’ll try it out. _________________ "Its all fun and games until someone gets hurt, then its a sport."
Joined: 06 Dec 2004 Posts: 13225 Location: People's Republic
Posted: Mon Jul 10, 2006 3:03 pm Post subject:
A Nerfball is made of soft foam, suitable for indoor play.
I don't think my parents would have agreed and the crystal chandelier on the floor provided ample evidence of the destructive power of nerf.
But be that as it may, I think this is a great way to practice. Just make sure you use a retired beacon inside the nerfball. Don't huck your good beacon and then give it to a partner to use in life and death situations. _________________ that sounds like a sure-fire way to get bitch-slapped by devil's club -- dschane
great idea, hacksaw. i haven't thought of that one. for solo practice, i usually go in a semi-open area and place a beacon on the ground. i then try to daze off and walk away. once i get about 60-80m i stop and check my beacon for a signal. if i have a weak enough one, i put on a blindfold and basically follow the audio signals. i try to repeat the same or similar path by watching the digital. the best way i've found to interperet the digital is by walking anround the known sending unit and seeing what my display does based on where i am and how i've placed the beacon. they're a simple unit that has a myriad of intricacies. the more i mess with it, the more i pick up.
Joined: 21 Dec 2004 Posts: 1652 Location: BRECK CO
Posted: Tue Nov 21, 2006 1:57 am Post subject:
Summit, SPThompson and I ran into Hacksaw at Loveland the other day and we invited ourselves to do a little football beacon practice on the slopes. Hacksaw had his footballs with him and I was thrilled to have some one-on-one instruction from Hack himself.
The football and THE MAN!
He placed the football beacons in some handmade white bags and pitched them down the slope behind us. We set our beacons to SEARCH and off we went.
Although you could see the bags by eye if you looked for them, I just put my blinders on and focused on the beacon and the ski line.
I had always done practice from the bottom up, and this was the first time I tried skiing a pattern down a hill, searching for a flux line. We traversed back and forth across the slope till the beacon picked up a reading and then the hunt was on. We found the beacons pretty quickly, thankfully.
Summit in search mode:
We were able to do multiple burials with two footballs several times in two runs on Loveland's exhileration slope. This was a really neat way to get in a lot of practice in a shorter amount of time.
Hacksaw gave us some great tips, and I know shaved minutes off my time in a multiple burial scenario. His knowledge of the different beacons is impressive and I would encourage everyone to take some time to study with this guy. Thank you Hacksaw for allowing us this opportunity!
Going over the fine tune search:
The football beacon search is a great way to practice summer or winter!! Try it out with some friends today!!
Joined: 07 Dec 2004 Posts: 3528 Location: Golden CO
Posted: Mon Oct 24, 2011 6:13 pm Post subject:
You should also try out Nerf ball at ski areas.
If you find a ski run that has lots of bumps (i.e., at Loveland "Excelleration" is an example) you can have the Nerf ball in a white plastic trashbag. It will travel/slide a long ways.
When it's really bumpy, doing your zig-zags to accuire the signal is like skiing over avalanche debris while using your transceiver. This just makes your training/practices more realistic. You'll be surprised at how hard it is to ski over these bumps while working your transceiver at the same time.
I often see folks make their zig-zags to large, and thus "miss" the signal when they have short range reception transceivers (i.e., older Tracker DTS types). If this happens you have to hike back up to find the signal.
It is really easy to get in 5 - 8 transceiver search practices in an hour of skiing at a ski area. But, try not of throw the ball on busy/crowed days. _________________ "Its all fun and games until someone gets hurt, then its a sport."
We're having a pray for snow party and want to have some beacon challenges. Any ideas for logistics? We were thinking about scattering hay in the backyard to hide multiple beacons, and then timing the searchers.
Joined: 12 Dec 2004 Posts: 3140 Location: A Brit on the Columbia
Posted: Sat Oct 29, 2011 12:29 pm Post subject:
One trick for no snow practice is put a beacon up a tree. Good practice for localizing a deeply buried beacon and interesting to watch a searcher puzzle over how they can't get within a meter! _________________ Nick (AT)
We are not an endangered species ourselves yet, but this is not for lack of trying. (Douglas Adams)
One trick for no snow practice is put a beacon up a tree. Good practice for localizing a deeply buried beacon and interesting to watch a searcher puzzle over how they can't get within a meter!
In my level one the instructor did this and later told a story about a beacon-wearing victim who was found having been blown by the advance wind blast up into a tree. Don't know if it was a true story or not but it sure left an impression on me.
You cannot post new topics in this forum You cannot reply to topics in this forum You cannot edit your posts in this forum You cannot delete your posts in this forum You cannot vote in polls in this forum
All of the comments above are owned by the
poster, telemarktips.com is not responsible in any way for the
content. The views expressed by the posters are not necessarily
those of Tt.com, its management or owners. Ski safe, be happy,
rip it up, smile on your brother and sister!