|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 also
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
organized group 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
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 have a difficult time penetrating dense avalanche debris.
Your dedicated sectional probe should have an assembled length
of at least 200cm to 250cm (although make sure that the stowed length fits
in your favorite pack). Shorter probes will require that you bend over each time you
insert the probe. Longer probes will probably be 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
for 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. 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 it