|Probing for a Victim
After completing the transceiver
fine search, it is time
to begin probing for the victim. The probing stage of the search
is sometimes referred to as the "pinpoint" search.
Pushing a stick into the snow might seem archaic, but it is extremely
reliable. Although you may mistakenly think you hit the victim when
you haven't (a false positive), your probe will never
pass through the victim (a false negative).
Once you start probing, trust your probe and avoid the temptation
to return to your transceiver. The time you "waste" probing
a larger area is usually small compared to the time you will waste
returning to a beacon search.
the probe firmly with both hands (don't hold onto your
transceiver with one hand—you are probing now). Insert the
probe at 90° relative to the snow, not relative to gravity. This
is because your transceiver will take you to the closest location
relative to the transmitting beacon, which is not necessarily directly
above the victim.
The exception to probing at 90° to the snow is when an
of rescuers is doing a probe-line that is not based on a transceiver
search. In that case, the probes should be inserted vertically.
first probe should be at the location where your avalanche transceiver
reported the strongest signal (i.e., the shortest distance). Subsequent
probes should be in circles (or a spiral as proposed by Manuel Genswein
in 2002) from this center point at no more than 25 cm (10 inch)
intervals. This small distance ensures that you will not miss the
victim. It is better to "waste" a little time probing
tightly than to miss and have to repeat the probing.
Even if you encountered a spike and
your first probe is not over the victim, continuing to probe every
25 cm (10 inches) will eventually locate your victim. For
most people, this approach is faster than trying to interpret the
spikes (my rough time estimate
is that probing a one-meter radius will take up to five minutes).
When you hit the victim with your probe, leave the probe in place
and begin shoveling.
Selecting a Probe
When purchasing an avalanche probe, only consider
a dedicated sectional probe. Convertible ski pole probes are okay
as a backup, but they are too short, too difficult to assemble,
and are lousy at penetrating dense avalanche debris.
Your dedicated sectional probe should have
an assembled length of at least 220 cm (although make sure
that the stowed probe fits in your favorite pack). Shorter probes
will require that you bend over each time you insert the probe.
Longer probes are necessary only when probing an unsurvivably deep
burial (and are more appropriate for patrollers and search and rescue
teams). Etched depth indicators and contrasting segments are helpful
for determining burial depth and measuring snow pits.
Look for a simple assembly mechanism that locks
by pulling on a handle or cable and that does not require any additional
locking. Avoid probes that require you to position a knot in a tiny
groove and don't buy any probe where the tubs can accidentally
come off the string. And make sure you can reliably deploy the probe with
your typical winter handwear.
(The Pieps iProbe is a unique solution to probing. Learn about