It is no secret that our two favorite avalanche safety beacons here at WildSnow.com are the BCA Tracker and Mammut Barryvox. We like the Tracker because its indicator lights and form factor seem to work better for beginners and those who don’t practice much, while we like the Barryvox for its smaller size and fairly extensive personal settings. To our continued delight, these digital marvels are a far cry from the dark ages, when all we had was essentially an antenna lashed to a battery — but there is still room for improvement.
As I’ve mentioned in previous blog posts, can’t we have a beacon that you just turn on and point to do a search (rather than learning three different search modes?) And can’t we have some features built into these bulky plastic boxes that would make them day-to-day useful, like an MP3 player or GPS?
While not exactly a feature you’d use for day-to-day chores, the new Barryvox Pulse due out at the end of this winter (we have not used one yet) has a wild tweak that amazed and amused me when I got wind of it: the thing measures your pulse and breathing while you’re buried, and transmits your medical telemetry to the searching beacon! Remember the sick but truthful joke about beacons being “dead body finders?” Laugh no more.
According to the tech guy at Mammut, since a significant percentage of avalanche victims die from trauma, during a multiple burial the pulse feature tells you who’s still living so you can devote your rescue resources to them, rather then someone who’s already dead, e.g., avalanche rescue triage. A grim prospect to be sure, but it makes sense. Let’s just hope that when people learn about this morbid beacon feature, it’ll make them all the more motivated to travel one-at-a-time when exposed to avalanche danger.
|Pre-production drawing of Barryvox Pulse avalanche rescue transceiver “beacon.”
The new Barryvox Pulse is said to be about the same width and length as the current Barryvox model, while slightly thicker. It will have better protected antennas (they’re somewhat fragile in all present day beacons), and a host of other features best reported when we can verify them in an actual production unit. The pulse feature only works when your body is still, so don’t get your hopes up about using it as a heartrate monitor for your workouts. Let’s hope that along with gimics for multiple burial searching, the Pulse is also easier to use for a classic one-victim search — in my opinion that would save more lives than any other beacon feature. According to Mammut the Pulse will indeed search easier because it’ll have a triple antenna — if so, that is progress.
Blog comments, following refers to previous post about avalanche education (please do your blog comments using the comments link at the bottom of the blog posts, rather than through email):
I completely agree with your suggestion about a dummy on video. I believe that this topic never gets enough gory details of the outcomes of avalanches. Here in California I had to take a class to get my drivers license at 16 and during that class they showed some pretty gory videos to demonstrate that driving a car can have some fatal outcomes. Maybe those parts don’t get shown because of respect for the dead, and I do understand that. But as long as there is a mental disconnect people will not believe the fact that an avalanche WILL kill them if they make poor decisions on the snow.
WildSnow.com publisher emeritus and founder Lou (Louis Dawson) has a 50+ years career in climbing, backcountry skiing and ski mountaineering. He was the first person in history to ski down all 54 Colorado 14,000-foot peaks, has authored numerous books about about backcountry skiing, and has skied from the summit of Denali in Alaska, North America’s highest mountain.