(This and the next article are extracted from the 'Summit' magazine with the kind permission of its editor.)


LET me not waste time. This report has one purpose only— to other. To save life. So before you read on, look at the graph. This is the essence and here I will dwell and let you ponder. If you could find and dig out instantly a man buried in an avalanche, his chance of survival would be 80%, the remain¬ing 20% are already dead due to blast or impact. Should you trace and free a man within 30 minutes, 60% will survive. After 2 ½ hours the chances have dwindled to 15%. Eighty-five people out of a hundred will have lost their lives after 2 ½ hours under the snow. Expressed differently—a victim's chance of survival is halved with every passing hour. Now look at the Survival Graph once more and continue to read, your mind charged with truth : SPEED ALONE WILL SAVE LIVES.

Classic Search Methods

These are divided into search techniques applicable to victims who carry aids to speed their location and those without. The only conventional aid is an avalanche cord (Lawinenchnur). Prior to entry into a danger zone, a 25 m. nylon cord is fixed to the body and trailed.

Rescue by Party Members : Self Help

The most likely action to rescue a man in time is immediate search by the remaining members of the party. Immediately after the avalanche has settled the search can begin. The members were present during the fall and some will have seen the point where their friend disappeared. Should they be able to free him within half an hour, his survival chance is 60%; after one hour his chance is only 40%.

Organised Rescue

Here the time factor is even more significant. The accident must be reported at once with precision. On the assumption that the Rescue Team is ready and sets off without delay, they may arrive at the scene within one to two hours. Let us assume the victim used an avalanche cord. To trace and free him will take at least 30 minutes. Add to this two hours for arrival of the Team and his chance of being alive is 15%,. If he carried no search aid and an avalanche dog worked with the Rescue Team, 30 minutes may be sufficient; survival chance is again 15%. It is clear that the time needed to bring a Rescue Team to the scene reduces survival chance to a small percentage.

Avalanche Search

Avalanche Search

Modern Avalanche Search Systems

Radio Transmitter-Receiver Systems Designed for Parties of Mountaineers : Self Help

Radio transmitter-receiver systems are designed specifically for Self Help. Every member of a mountaineering party carries a transceiver (with one exception all practical systems embody transmitter and receiver in one unit). Every member of the party carries a set. Before departure the sets are tested and then switched to transmit. Should any member be buried in an avalanche, the remaining ones immediately switch their sets to receive. When the avalanche has come to a halt the search can start at once.


The survival chance of avalanche victims is increased signi¬ficantly if every member of a party carried a transceiver system designed specifically for self help (referred to as a Bleep hereafter).

Current choice of a suitable system coupled with thorough training prior to departure can achieve a survival chance of above 70% compared with an average of 30%.

Every party member must carry a Bleep.

Case histories of avalanche accidents show that the burial of an entire party is so rare as to be statistically insignificant. They show further that professional guides and experienced leaders have the same chance of being buried as other members. This underlines the importance of conclusion 3 : every member must carry a Bleep.

Based on the above field tests, the subjective evaluation of the four radio transmitter-receiver systems now available are as follows : The Autophon received 75% more points in desirable characteristics than the Skilok, 50% more than the Pieps and 25% more than the Skadi system. It was particularly better in simpli¬city of operation, range and usability in adverse conditions.


I am convinced that the judicious use of a Bleep will reduce avalanche deaths dramatically. Within a few years, no mount¬aineering party will set out without Bleeps in the same way as sailors wear life jackets, motorcyclists or riders don helmets and flyers use seat belts. Every leader will insist on Bleeps for ail participants.

A considerable number of manufacturers will compete for this growth market; price and quality will vary widely. Performance will range from death trap to utmost suitability for purpose.

Manufacturer of the Autophon is Autophon, A. G. Ziegelmatt- strasse 1-15, CH-4500 Soleure, West Germany. The Skadi is manufactured by Lawtronics, 328 Walton Drive, Buffalo, New York 14226.


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