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Avalanche Probes Information
While avalanche probes are sometimes a little overlooked, they are a crucial part of the avalanche rescue kit consisting of shovel, probe and transceiver. Tests show that searches performed without a probe ie with just a transceiver and shovel, are considerably slower.
The probe is used to mark the exact location of the body. When your transceiver leads you to the spot where there is the least distance between you and the victim, then you begin to probe the area. The best technique is to probe the area in ever increasing circles, making each probe around half a metre apart. When the victim is located, the probe should be left in the snow as a marker. The depth of the victim needs to be taken into account as this will determine where you should start digging and let you know how far to dig down. Remember to probe at 90 degrees to the slope.
When it comes to buying a probe there are a few main criteria to look for - the material, the weight, the length, and the assembly function. Most modern probes assemble very quickly and easily - you simply toss the probe up and pull a cord that tightens and locks the probe in place. The pfa system on many of the Ortovox probes is especially fast and simple.
The length is an important feature. Generally a probe over 200cm is sufficient for non-professionals. However burials beyond this depth do happen, although the survival chances are slimmer.
The material is important. Both the carbon and aluminium probes are strong and unbreakable. The carbon models are, however, significantly lighter. Steel probes are the most durable and are often favoured by avalanche professionals who use them frequently, but they are heavy.
Take a look at our comparison table for more information on our extensive range of Ortovox, Black Diamond and BCA probes:
Avalanche Probes — frequently asked questions
What are they used for?
Avalanche probes are used in conjunction with your transceiver to pinpoint the exact position of a person buried under the snow by probing the area the transceiver leads you to until you make contact with the body. Probes can then be left in the snow as a marker once the body has been found.
How do they work?
All our probes are quick assembly — simply shake and throw out the folded segments, while pulling the cord at the top of the probe in order to fix in place. After this, stick the probe into the snow in ever increasing circles, roughly half a metre apart each time. Probe the ground at 90 degree angles to the slope until you make contact with the buried victim. Once you have, leave the probe in the ground to pinpoint the location and start digging.
It is important to practise probing techniques regularly and make frequent checks on assembly mechanism in case of accidental damage.
What are they made of?
Probes can either be made of carbon, aluminium or steel. Carbon is a non metal, light weight, extremely strong and durable material. Aluminium and carbon probes are both durable and built to withstand the freezing conditions without breaking or bending, giving you an accurate reading. While steel is the most durable, carbon probes are the lightest and easiest to carry. Steel probes, although relatively heavy, tend to be favoured by professionals.
What is the ideal length and why are the lengths different?
For non-professional use, a 200cm probe should be sufficient. The average depth of a burial is a metre. People can be buried at deeper levels than this, necessitating a longer probe. Longer probes may be required by professionals, therefore. The survival rates drop if a person gets buried at greater depths. Some of the different lengths of probes available are 220 cm, 240 cm, 260 cm, 265 cm and 300 cm.
How do you carry them in your backpack?
The probes can be disassembled and folded up and will then fit in your backpack easily in a pocket. Most backpacks will have a specific pocket to hold the probe, which will be kept alongside the shovel. BCA make a shovel which can store a probe in its handle, while Black Diamond make a Probe Pole
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