Avalanche gear, used during mountaineering and alpine rock climbing, cannot prevent a person from becoming involved in an avalanche; safety education and common sense are a climber’s best defense in this regard. However, this type of outdoor equipment will offer you a much better chance of survival should you end up being involved in an accident, provided you have the skill and the knowledge to use the equipment correctly. Here, we discuss the main pieces that make up an avalanche gear pack.
Essential Safety Gear:
To keep you safer during a climb in avalanche territory, there are three items that are essential. The first is an avalanche transceiver; this is a device that everyone in the climbing group should have. If the worst should happen and a climber becomes buried in an avalanche, their device will send out electronic signals, which are then picked up by the other climber’s devices so that they can locate and dig out the victim. The second item is a snow shovel; this lightweight, compact shovel is crucial for testing out snow conditions, as well as digging people out of snow if necessary. It can also be used to create snow shelters during storms. The third item is a probe, which is an aluminium, collapsible pole that resembles a tent pole and is designed to help pinpoint the search for a victim, when used in conjunction with the avalanche transceiver. If this is not available, mountaineering crew can use ski poles; these can be joined together to form longer poles.
It’s essential for climbers to practice using this outdoor equipment regularly, particularly the avalanche transceiver, as when an accident happens in the mountains and stress levels are high, you don’t want to waste any time trying to work out how the device operates.
Additional Safety Gear:
An ‘Ava-lung’ is a piece of breathing apparatus that is designed to allow those who have fallen victim to an avalanche to pull out any of the available oxygen from snow around them, so that they can breathe for much longer than they would be able to otherwise.
A RECCO detector can also come in handy during mountaineering; this is a passive transponder that some manufacturers embed in their outdoor clothing products such as helmets, boots, trousers and jackets. These are not designed to replace avalanche transceivers, but rather to complement them and are frequently used by search and rescue organisations.
Snow saws may prove to be used for making snow shelters and are important for testing the stability of snow covered areas. Other helpful items include snow crystal cards, which can identify different types of snow crystals and slope meters, which are small devices that can determine a slope’s angle and therefore the probability of an avalanche occurring.