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Blake

Shovel and Probe

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Searching the archives only turned up a bit of info, so i'm wondering what i should keep in mind when looking for a probe and shovel for backcountry skiing. All I've heard is that metal shovels are what you want, not the plastic/PC ones.

 

What's your favorite? what one should I avoid? How does this Voile 'all-in-one' package look?

 

thanks all!

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I have never used the all in one. i thought about getting it but the probe didn't seem stiff enough, it is like a tent pole. i ended up with a Volie alpine shovel (a bit smaller than the all in one) and a BD Alpine light probe. Been happy with both. Fortunately never had to use the probe. Definatley get a metal shovel. think it is pretty hard to go wrong.

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The plastic and polycarbonate shovels will work too, but are often smaller than the metal ones so they don't move as much snow. They are nice, however, if you have limited room in a pack. A nice large scoop makes it easier to build a camp with a megamid, etc.

 

As for probes, most models out there are good enough. I like having alternating colored sections or measurement gradations on the probe so I can see how far I'm sinking the probe in relative to previous probes. This can help you identify what you are probing, and it also can be used for doing pit work (though if you get more involved with pit analysis you might want a folding ruler). The carbon probes are nice, but they will get thrashed by a rutschblock cord if you bother to use those things.

 

Be sure you practice setting up your probe quickly and correctly. It seems like almost every probe has a different trick for assembling.

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I have a little metal Voile shovel that I like. It came with a stubby handle though, and the stubby's kinda useless. I ended up buying a longer handle for mine. rolleyes.gif

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Don't get the Voile probe that stores in the shovel. Or the BC access. Get a decent metal shovel, and then a probe. Metal shovel blade of decent proportions, probe somewhere from 260-300cm. I don't use a probe much BC skiing. It sits in a pack so light is good. I haven't found much difference in the assembly of the current probes out there. Pull a cable and lock it off.

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Like the rest said, Metal is the way to go since I broke a plastic one digging out a snow cave once.

I now carry a Black Diamond Bobcat shovel (without the extender), and a BD Carbon Fiber wand for searching out my partners when they slip off an unheeded cornice or something.

I like the CarFib probe because obviously, its light, but if you have ever probed a body or a buried soft tree limb with a metal one, its hard to tell, the CF gives you a better "Feel" of what "It" is, but thats my point of view as a former patroler.

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but if you have ever probed a body or a buried soft tree limb with a metal one, its hard to tell

Bullshit. It's pretty clear even with conduit.

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"Many of the truths which we believe in are highly dependant on our certain point of view."

 

QUOTE: Obi Wan Kenobi

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Invest in a good quality probe, even if you don't use it. Carrying a probe in the shovel (the probe will be thin and flimsey) is like carrying a cathole shovel for avy rescues. It just isn't the right tool for the job. You will either have to remove spring pins to get to the probe, or remove the handle of the shovel. Either one of those prospects isn't something to look forward to on snow. It makes a crappy situation of a rescue worse. If you want to keep your shovel and probe together, duct tape the probe bag onto the shovel shaft. It will remain accessable, and you'll have a better quality probe. (I don't do this, but it is an option.)

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"Many of the truths which we believe in are highly dependant on our certain point of view."

Thank you oh Patrol master rolleyes.gif

 

Probes are for fine location at the end of a beacon search. Well, that and probe line corpse recovery. For the former any hit is where you start digging. For the latter get some conduit; whatever else will probably break.

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A metal shovel is better for avy stuff, A plastic shovel is better for digging tent out in storm. on 6 Denali expeditions, I or other members of our group have broken every metal shovel made by black diamond (usually the handel breaks, on a few occasions the blade has snapped with very little prying). On subsequent trips to other places, I have broken 3 out of 3 BCA shovels taken. The only metal shovels that have done a good job of holding up to tons of abuse in our guide service have been Voile shovels. Keep in mind the durability of a shovel when you are racing to dig through tons of avy debris and you are inadvertantly prying because you are desperate. Some of us have also had good results with g3 shovels.

 

Probes: Carbon fiber seems to be less floppy and less prone to snapping than aluminum. Plus, it weighs less so you have no excuse not to be carrying it. It makes avy rescue way more efficient, it can be usefull for pit work, and it is good for finding crevasses below your camp when on glaciers. The probes that come inside shovels suck. In the cascades, it may be more worth getting a 3m pole rather than the standard 2m size.

 

Also consider getting a saw. They make performing stability tests way faster, easier, and more convienent, plus, they really don't weigh too much (wasatch touring makes a tiny folding saw, G3 bone saw also works very well and comes in a case that actually works)and they are good for camp work.

 

suerte

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Get a real shovel and a real probe.

 

How to know what's real? If you wouldn't mine swapping it with your partner for him to probe you and dig you out with, then you have a good one.

 

Also - a probe is not optional, as some people (although less these days it seems) think. It will reduce your search times if used right.

 

Added: Go read this account of a real rescue for some thoughts on probes and shovels.

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Get a metal shovel, or risk being handed someone else's shovel in exchange for your plastic one on a trip. I personnally want *you* to have the metal one to dig me up; if you're fine having me dig you up with a plastic shovel, good. smile.gif

 

I have a pretty big SOS shovel with a snow saw in the handle. Nice idea, but too big for a day trip, and really what I want for a snow saw is an attachement to a probe so I can saw cornices.

 

So my favorite shovel now is the small BCA Ext Traverse: all metal, extensible shaft, one pound. Of course the shovel is smaller than my 800 g SOS.

 

As far as probe, most people will say a 240 cm is long enough, and 3 m is only needed for recovery work. Oh well; the extra ounce won't kill you, and the extra two feet may make a difference. I also have a BCA for that, because they make a 3 m probe with laser etched centimeter markings, great for pit work. I wish they had alternating color sections too.

 

The probe, as snoboy say, is not optional. It is actually essential. Practice digging something buried even just 4 feet down, and see how much work that is. You want the probe to confirm the location of the person before you start digging or you may end up wasting a lot of time digging close, but not at the right spot.

 

drC

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The probe, as snoboy say, is not optional. It is actually essential.

rolleyes.gif

 

Every year another "essential" is added to the list, coinciding better with increases in disposable income than anything else.

 

Yes it's good to have the whole package. The most important part of the package isn't a beacon, probe, first aid kit, or shovel, it's your brain. Knowing how to avoid an avalanche, a well rehearsed rescue response, and the ability to deal with the recovered victim.

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Uh, the probe has nothing to do with disposable income. It has to do with accuracy. And it is part of any well rehearsed rescue response. Now, if you want to recover bodies only, it's fine to dig the whole field out tongue.gif.

 

Probes are comparatively cheap too. Now, we can discuss whether it's worth spending an extra $50 to have a useless thermometer on your beacon, but a probe really is a life saver.

 

drC

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Uh, the probe has nothing to do with disposable income. It has to do with accuracy. And it is part of any well rehearsed rescue response. Now, if you want to recover bodies only, it's fine to dig the whole field out tongue.gif.

It won't make that much fucking difference dude. 30% will be dead from trauma. The rest is what you are fighting over; a decent portion of those are shallow burials where a probe wouldn't make much difference. Spend the money on a book so you can use your brain. Or save it up and buy an avy pack so you don't get caught rolleyes.gif

 

Of course a helmet, worn at all times, is noticably omitted from the "essential" list (I can smell the salivating marketers!). 25% of skiier/boarder fatalities in one study had a signifigant CHI, 61% of avalanche victims had some CHI.

 

Perhaps I'm just cynical because people spend 50 threads asking about the best beacon/probe/shovel and advocating spending top $ on CYA shit, and far fewer asking about good classes (AIARE are decent), good books (Bruce Tremper - Staying alive in Avalanche Terrain; the now dated Snowy Torrent Series), or more topical resources like the Avalanche Review (subscribe at americanavalancheassociation.org), and when they do they go for the cheapest option and stop at the BS level 1 classes from dumbass orgs like NSP or the mountain clubs.

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Avoidance is definitely the key, unless you like to hit the lines by loveland pass, in which case just wait for the dudes you carried up in the back of your truck to finish off the bongload and they will gladly test-out even the sketchiest wind-loaded-slab-over-depth hoar line out for you - no questions asked.

 

Buy the burliest stuff that you'll actually be willing to carry, learn how to use it, and ski in a way that insures that you'll never have to.

 

My default pattern has been to ski steep stuff in-bounds in the winter most of the time, stick to mild stuff otherwise, and wait for spring conditions to ski steeper stuff. Just the way it's worked out, which also keeps the avy risk pretty low. YMMV.

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