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 Post subject: Re: Beacons
PostPosted: Tue Oct 01, 2013 11:14 pm 
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Why "upgrade"? Is there something not working well with your beacon? It doesn't matter that much what beacon you have, it's how much you practice with what you've got. Yeah, for someone with no experience, some beacons may be easier to search with. But if you are regularly in the backcountry, you should be very comfortable using your beacon, whichever it is. Some may have better range than others, but they don't go bad. And from what I've seen (as of a few years ago) the "easier to use" beacons such as Trackers had less range. Maybe consider sending it back to the manufacturer for a recalibration (should be done every few years), practice your searches, and save some coin.

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 Post subject: Re: Beacons
PostPosted: Tue Oct 01, 2013 11:44 pm 
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fustercluck wrote:
Why "upgrade"? Is there something not working well with your beacon? It doesn't matter that much what beacon you have, it's how much you practice with what you've got.



In general, I'd agree. However, some beacons don't handle multiple burials very well. I have the backcountry access tracker and it doesn't handle multiple burials as well as something like the Mammut Element Barryvox. I did a multiple burial practice scenario with both beacons and I'm confident of finding everyone using mine (the tracker), but I found it quicker in that multiple burial scenario with the Mammut. Basically, the problem with the BCA tracker is that it doesn't consistently remove a found "beacon" from a search using the multiple burial button.

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 Post subject: Re: Beacons
PostPosted: Tue Oct 01, 2013 11:45 pm 
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We're talking about upgrading an Ortovox X1 here. Have you ever used one? It's true that with lots of practice it's perfectly fine, but it's still not an easy beacon to use. It doesn't have direction arrow untill you are very close from what I recall. I think upgrading to a modern 3antenna beacon is really smart here, especially if you friends are using DSP you may feel like you're getting old. :D

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 Post subject: Re: Beacons
PostPosted: Wed Oct 02, 2013 5:42 am 
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ieism wrote:
We're talking about upgrading an Ortovox X1 here. Have you ever used one? It's true that with lots of practice it's perfectly fine, but it's still not an easy beacon to use.


My opinion on beacons is that you need to be ultra-comfortable with what you're using and able to use it as if it were your mobile phone (sorry we don't call them "cellphones" downunder!) even if there's not really any rational reason why you prefer one over another (not that I'm suggesting that's the case with you!). I'm sure I'm overstating the case when I say that when the shit hits the fan and you need to use your beacon "in anger", it's a life-or-death situation and stress has a funny effect. Tasks that are normally easy are suddenly harder than you remember. Things that you can do quickly in the quiet of your "man cave" (my girlfriends words) at home are suddenly a whole lot more difficult on a windy, cold mountainside with your gloves on where your best mate is practically drowning under a pile of debris and rubble and you need to get this not-often-used basically user unfriendly piece of gadgetry that takes you in a non-intuitive curved path to tell you where to probe and then dig and do all this in the minimum time under maximum stress.

Bottom line and more of my :twocents: : Get whatever YOU feel confident with and comfortable enough with it so that you can get yourself in a position where you hear that shrill-like close together beeps and you're seeing .7 (or whatever) flashing rapidly in the MINIMUM time possible.

I think what fustercluck is saying is that every beacon on the market is capable of finding someone buried under the snow, it's up to you to get the requisite knowledge and experience to use that tool to get to that probe point in the minimum time.

Sorry for dribbling on about this!


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 Post subject: Re: Beacons
PostPosted: Wed Oct 02, 2013 10:50 am 
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fustercluck wrote:
Why "upgrade"? Is there something not working well with your beacon? It doesn't matter that much what beacon you have, it's how much you practice with what you've got. Yeah, for someone with no experience, some beacons may be easier to search with. But if you are regularly in the backcountry, you should be very comfortable using your beacon, whichever it is. Some may have better range than others, but they don't go bad. And from what I've seen (as of a few years ago) the "easier to use" beacons such as Trackers had less range. Maybe consider sending it back to the manufacturer for a recalibration (should be done every few years), practice your searches, and save some coin.


first and foremost we discovered that the X1 is not compatible with the DSP. before my buddies upgraded it wasn't a problem. Now that they have multiple burial beacons when we did beacon checks at the top of the run their DSP's would not consistently and accurately tell them how many beacons were out there.
ex. 4 guys including me. One guy turns on his DSP and it says there's 2 beacons (not good, someones missing). That guy turns off his DSP and another guys turns his on and it says there's 4 beacons (not good, there's an extra beacon). When I turned off my beacon the DSPs all reported the correct number of beacons.
This didn't happen all the time but enough that it wasn't a fluke.

Also even though multiple burials are rare if you follow good protocol it can still happen and it seems irresponsible to not have a beacon that can do that. Also going to a 3 antenna beacon seems like a no brainier.

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 Post subject: Re: Beacons
PostPosted: Wed Oct 02, 2013 11:40 am 
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Pieps DSP Pro or Tour,
or Mammut Pulse or Element.

All four of them are best in class in terms of range (even with bad coupling, which is where most Ortovox beacons (except S1) are terrible), easy and reliable to use.

Haven't tested Arva models and newer BCA models than the normal Tracker though.


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 Post subject: Re: Beacons
PostPosted: Wed Oct 02, 2013 5:40 pm 
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peacefrog wrote:

first and foremost we discovered that the X1 is not compatible with the DSP. before my buddies upgraded it wasn't a problem. Now that they have multiple burial beacons when we did beacon checks at the top of the run their DSP's would not consistently and accurately tell them how many beacons were out there.
ex. 4 guys including me. One guy turns on his DSP and it says there's 2 beacons (not good, someones missing). That guy turns off his DSP and another guys turns his on and it says there's 4 beacons (not good, there's an extra beacon). When I turned off my beacon the DSPs all reported the correct number of beacons.
This didn't happen all the time but enough that it wasn't a fluke.

Also even though multiple burials are rare if you follow good protocol it can still happen and it seems irresponsible to not have a beacon that can do that. Also going to a 3 antenna beacon seems like a no brainier.

Sounds like the problem is THEIR beacons, not yours. Seriously. Anyone transmitting on 457 should be able to send and receive a signal. But if that's the crew you normally ride with, that might be the easy solution to an odd problem.

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 Post subject: Re: Beacons
PostPosted: Wed Oct 02, 2013 7:12 pm 
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A couple thoughts...

It's not so simple as "everything transmits at 457 so they can communicate with each other." It should be that simple but it's just not.

Older beacons experience signal drift and some might not actually be transmitting at 457 anymore. When you drill down into the specs it's also 457 +/- so many hertz and that amount +/- has been reduced so that much older beacons might have been sold at a rate that wouldn't meet the standard today. So that even if an older beacon hasn't drifted it might not be picked up by a modern beacon even though both are working as they were intended when sold.

I see this multiple times a winter teaching avy courses.
Lot's of people are touring with beacons that don't search at all but since they don't practice search and their simplistic trailhead "are you beeping" check doesn't evaluate if each person is searching properly they don't even know it.
More folks are touring with someone who's beacon won't find their beacon.

Additionally analog beacons are notorious for not playing nice with the multiple burial "marking" function on modern beacons (what Peacefrog described).

These issues seem to have contributed to a buried person being unlocatable by his companions and miraculously surviving a 3 hour burial in CO last year.

From CAIC
https://avalanche.state.co.us/acc/acc_r ... iew=public

relevant excerpt

"Both rescue groups reported difficulty in isolating the two different beacon signals. Although both victims were buried in the same portion of the debris, they were more than 10 meters apart (rough definition of close proximity for a multiple beacon search). The two victims were both wearing older, single-antenna beacons and the searchers were using newer, two and three antenna beacons. The difference in pulse rate of the two transmitting beacons may have contributed to the difficulty of the search."

For more geeky info about older beacons:
https://avalanche.state.co.us/acc/acc_r ... iew=public

Personally, I try not to tour with partners using anything older than a Tracker and even the oldest ones of those make me nervous.


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 Post subject: Re: Beacons
PostPosted: Wed Oct 02, 2013 10:40 pm 
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I just remembereed something, if your friends are all using DSP's get one of those. Beacons send a beep or signal at regular intervals. This is slightly different for ech beacon so they dont overlap or "beep at the same time." Kinda like how when you blinker are on, and the car in front of you is blinking at the exact same time, but ove time is shifts slightly and they don't blink at the same time anymore. If your beacon is blinking at the same time, it's harder to find it.
(also old analogue beacons have a much longer beep, so they hide other beeps a lot longer)
The DsP and Tour have a funtion that listens to others and shifts the beep to unsync. Only Pieps uses this and it's hard for other beacons to comprehend. Their own beacons seem to have a lot less trouble with this, makes sense.

The DSp has the scan function, the Tour doens't. I would get the DSP in your case.

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 Post subject: Re: Beacons
PostPosted: Wed Oct 02, 2013 11:27 pm 
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Indeed, this...
ieism wrote:
The DSp has the scan function, the Tour doens't. I would get the DSP in your case.

...can solve this issue:
dishwasher-dave wrote:
Older beacons experience signal drift and some might not actually be transmitting at 457 anymore...

...as the DSP (pro) will broaden its scanning range when using the Scan-Button.
However I'd rather suggest to simply get rid of old, outdated beacons, just as Dishwasher-Dave said.


ieism wrote:
The DsP and Tour have a funtion that listens to others and shifts the beep to unsync. Only Pieps uses this and it's hard for other beacons to comprehend.

True for the "listening and shifting the interval a bit", not to send simultaneously. However after the shift it will send its signal in the standard-conforming manner. Never experienced any issues, searching DSPs (also in multiburial situations) with other beacons. (mainly searching Tracker 1 and Barryvox Pulse)


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 Post subject: Re: Beacons
PostPosted: Thu Oct 03, 2013 12:54 am 
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Thanks for clearing that up FlolmSchnee, I should have explained it different.

The DSP shifting its signal does confuse some beacons, think about it and it will make sense. You mark a victim, and then that signal moves. Your beacon will have a hard time understanding/calculating this, at best it will have to recalculate. At worst it might unmark a victim and see it as a new victim. It will never totally lose a signal but it may confuse you or cost time. I wouldn't bring it up if it was a theoretical issue, it happens. The more beacons the bigger the chance, although I think most of us won't ever be in a situation were we have to look for more than one or two victims.

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 Post subject: Re: Beacons
PostPosted: Thu Oct 03, 2013 2:25 pm 
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Interesting, Dave, didn't know that. I used to be pretty up to speed, but haven't played with any new beacons for the past five or so years. Now I'm wondering how my M2 will fare with newer beacons.

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 Post subject: Re: Beacons
PostPosted: Thu Oct 03, 2013 11:03 pm 
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These issues with beacons all highlight how important a comprehensive beacon check at the trailhead is.

More of my boring :twocents: ...

And by this, I mean that EVERYONE has to make sure their beacon is working on TRANSMIT AND RECEIVE before you head out.

From my experience most people tend to get one person to check everyone else's beacon is transmitting and then another person checks the first person to make sure they are all transmitting. This is great, as it checks that everyone is transmitting. For my money, this is not good enough. I like to be sure that everyones beacon can receive/track adequately too, because if I'm buried and someone has beacon issues, then it's my fat ass suffocating under the snow whilst people fiddle quizzically wondering why they can't pick up a signal precious metres above me.

This is my minimum, non-negotiable beacon check and here's how I do it. (FWIW someone way more experienced and smarter than me :wink: showed me this)

Group standing around looking stupid, freezing your balls off. At this stage everyone should check their battery level and then turn their beacon on receive (or off).

Leader (aka sucker breaking trail :roll: ) heads up 50 or so metres (just outside beacon range). 1 by 1 (never close behind) each person turns their beacon on transmit, skins past the leader, as they go past they go to receive (next person can now head up once passer is in receive mode) and head up another 50 or so metres (again just outside reception range). Once everyone's filed past the leader, they are 50 (or whatever) metres past him/her and in receive and then the leader skins up past them.

The leader is checking:

(a) That everyone's beacon is working (duh!); &
(b) Importantly, what range he/she picks them up at.

The rest of the group checks that the leaders beacon is working at and what range they pick the leader up at. I find it particularly useful to show people during the beacon check roughly how far, by eye, you have to be to pick up a beacon by pointing out a tree, say, and imagining a circle centred around themselves with that "visual" radius where an avalanche victim could be.

It's NOW that any issues get resolved, in the calm light of the relative serenity of the beginning of the trailhead.

If that means one person is out or the whole group heads home - even if the weather is total bluebird, there's bottomless powder, low avalanche danger and mellowish (but still avalanche) terrain - THEN SO BE IT. Cue standard quote about "I'd rather be at home wishing I was in the mountains than vice versa".

It's no good discovering one persons beacon has issues AFTER an avalanche.

Usually when I do this, it generates a healthy discussion which is a great revision for the whole group. I use that discussion to assess everyones experience levels (if I don't know them that well) and if there's someone in the group who's possibly less experienced I also use this time to maybe play a bit of find the beacon (I practise this relatively regularly anyway), and if this involves getting out a probe and shovel too, then more power to us! All the while you can talk about what you're going to do in an avalanche scenario. It's not an "I know everything and you're dumb" thing, it just helps reinforce everyones actions and safety procedures if something goes pear.

Just as importantly, by this stage everyone in the group has confidence that all the avalanche gear they've got is working and they've kicked their brains into gear thinking about it.


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