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  1. #1
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    Forecasts, radios, b/c and a couple slides

    This post is kind of a mess, bear with me.

    Yesterday was an interesting one. Four of us set out to ski one of two peaks in a basin near the Climax mine. We were gonna arrive and scope out what looked best, then give 'er. As we were standing at the base of our eventual selection (the other peak didn't go) we had our sweet line scoped and all, were gearing up to continue and then witnessed a natural that ran right across our ascent path. Doh. Well, they teach you not to ignore "obvious signs", so we heavily discussed further, then opted to go literally to plan C, a much shorter line that we were going to tack on to the end on our way out to the car. Way, way less vert but at least something for our effort. Bummer, but felt good turning around. You know how it feels though, constant second guessing and disappointment balanced with "we did the right thing".

    Ironically, the CAIC forecast yesterday was overall favorable, but it was a good lesson in that it's a large, large average of every terrain in a zone. The wind was moving pretty quick though, and it certainly felt much more winter-like than spring.

    As we entered the next basin over towards our consolation line we could see two skiers across the basin, ascending to a largely cornice-guarded ridge (there were a couple breaks). We couldn't figure out what their line would be, but they were too far away to talk to...much less report what we had seen. Now, the skies had also clouded up considerably. We were glad we didn't get up on the summit now, on top of the now howling wind up there, so we in essence thanked the slide we saw for that and felt even better about our decision.

    As we got close, we changed over to spikes and started booting up. The skiers we saw did the same and got up their side of the basin, on the high ridge and disappeared from view. While we were changing over to ski, we started discussing that we should start carrying radios, why don't we, etc. Anyway, we skied out a short chute in some pretty nice mid-April powder honestly, followed by a long, low angle slog to the cars. Only a couple short minutes after we arrived the other two skiers arrived, and we walked over to see how their day was. They ended up skiing a steep chute off the summit of the same peak, and unfortunately one skier broke off a slab and slid quite a ways. He was fine....phew. Only lost his poles. Could have been way worse. They seemed shaken up a bit, but very open to discuss. Very nice guys, and "owning up" (we saw this morning that they reported their incident). They mentioned that when they saw us they were wondering the same, "Where are they going?" and "Why...do they know something we don't?", as we were coming from an odd approach direction considering our line. We said goodbye, and then last second the skier who slid ran over to ask me if we skied with radios. I told him we didn't, but had just been discussing that. He said they wondered, and mentioned that most come set to a common frequency. We would have loved to tell them what we saw, and it felt like he was saying they wished they could have got the beta we had about the slide that turned us back.

    So now I'm gonna up my game and dig my radios out. It feels like the b/c radio game is slowly getting more popular. Hopefully it really catches on and becomes standard enough practice that common channels are understood and utilized.

    Anyway, although we didn't ski anything big in retrospect it was one of the best b/c days I can think of for a lot of other reasons. Finally, glad that other party wasn't hurt. Lots to process here; avy forecasts, decisions, radio/gear and all that. One of the better tasting beers I've had at the car after all said and done though.


    Anyone have any radio contact stories in situations like this they can share? What should be protocol (other than don't be a jackass, LOL)? Channels used?

  2. #2
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    Glad you guys made the call you did, and everyone got home safe. I never traveled with a radio before a few weeks ago, when a touring partner brought them along. We skied a line I've skied a number of times and felt pretty comfortable with, I know the spots to stop partway down to maintain visual contact, etc. but I was still surprised how immediately useful the radios were. In wind/weather it's tough to convey more than "yes come down" or "no don't come down" by shouting, but with the radios I could let the other two coming down know that I had triggered some sluffs, and that they should be careful on the way down.

    I'm planning picking some before next season for sure. Standard channels would be great for communicating with other parties; does everyone pretty much use the BCA radios?

  3. #3
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  4. #4
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    To expand further: In Crested Butte, the "common channel" is supposed to be 7-0 if you want to communicate with other parties. I'm not sure how many areas have common channels like that other than Tride. Seems like a good idea though.

    As far as carrying radios, it was summed up well in the Slide podcast: radios are the only piece of gear that you can buy that can prevent an avalanche. My personal evidence of that would be a large slide several years ago. I skied first, and when I got to the bottom I knew full well that I had just played Russian roulette and there was a bullet in the chamber when I pulled the trigger. Luckily the gun jammed on me. If we had radios that day I would have told my partners not to descend, which would have prevented this slide on the third skier. He walked away minus some gear and plenty of bumps and bruises.

  5. #5
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    I am an old guy and am somewhat reluctant to change. I have never used radios and somewhat laughed at the inexperienced bc skiers I see with air bags and radios. My one big issue in the BC is knowing where everyone is all the time. I just did a trip with my son. It was pretty clear from our first peak that I could not keep up and would be holding him up. I kind of ruined his trip by setting turnaround times. If we would of had radios I would of felt comfortable just letting him go for it. I will be getting radios for next season.
    radio story: after this event https://www.tetongravity.com/forums/...dova+avalanche I went back to retrieve the left gear. Everyone was a bit freaked out so we had a bunch of people head up with me. We had radios. I went down the slope to get the gear and everyone else stayed on the ridge. One of the others is in my fishing group. Some fisherman love to talk on the radio. Anyway my fishing partner was babbling away on the radio. Our conversation was bleeding over onto PNH channel. So Kevin came on and said if we would switch channels he would come over with heli and pick up the gear. We did and he came over got the gear and I did not have to carry two splitboard set ups up a 45* slope. Radios work.
    off your knees Louie

  6. #6
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    I was a quite the luddite with respect to this until listening to Krause rant about radios on Slide.

    Part of the resistance came from my rock climbing experience with how well rope signal protocol can work (albeit not perfect).

    Call me convinced.

    ... Thom
    Galibier Design
    crafting technology in service of music

  7. #7
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    I've been running radios for the last couple of years. I have mixed feelings about common frequencies for geographic areas - part of what makes the radio so useful to me is being able to communicate within your own group much, much easier, and being on a separate channel is the only way that works. If everyone on Berthoud Pass used the same channel, nobody could actually use the radios to talk to their partners, there'd be way too much chatter. A common channel used only for emergencies is only helpful if someone is monitoring it.

    There's no question that radios have made my touring groups safer by enabling better communication though.
    Quote Originally Posted by Norseman View Post
    All ye punterz! Leave thine stupid heavy skis in the past, or at least in the resort category, for the age of lightweight pussy sticks is upon us! Behold! Keep up with the randocommandos on their carbon blades of shortness! Break thine tibias into spiral splinters with pintech extravagance!

  8. #8
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    Quote Originally Posted by adrenalated View Post
    A common channel used only for emergencies is only helpful if someone is monitoring it.
    Most radios have a scan feature that will alert you when there is traffic on one of your scanned channels. This works well until you have an inexperienced user use your emergency or hailing frequency as a chit-chat channel. A common problem with multiple user radio groups. Education and peer pressure helps to control this problem, but it is still difficult to fix stupid.

    I have spoken with our local avalanche advisory group about designating an emergency channel on their advisory page, and linking to a page designed to educate users about proper radio protocol. So far this has not happened.

    I have been skiing the same area for many years with a radio. Over these years many faces have become familiar, and if I see they are carrying radios I give them our groups radio channel, and discuss using their channel in case of an emergency. So far these radio privileges have never been abused. Den

  9. #9
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    Quote Originally Posted by dewam View Post
    Most radios have a scan feature that will alert you when there is traffic on one of your scanned channels.
    I don't think the BCA radios have this feature, anyone know for sure?
    Quote Originally Posted by Norseman View Post
    All ye punterz! Leave thine stupid heavy skis in the past, or at least in the resort category, for the age of lightweight pussy sticks is upon us! Behold! Keep up with the randocommandos on their carbon blades of shortness! Break thine tibias into spiral splinters with pintech extravagance!

  10. #10
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    This is region-specific to BC.

    My touring party uses a specific VHF radio channel reserved by a mutual friend's construction company in the high-frequency band used by SAR and first responders. If some third party joins us and doesn't have a field-programmable radio we may use a marine frequency or a rural road frequency allocated for northern BC use for inter-party communications. I have a spare radio I lend to someone who joins us who doesn't have a radio

    If I go to a new area and I know there's a commercial outfit there I may (but not always) ask for permission to use their repeater or their simplex frequencies for emergency-only communications. If I don't have permission I don't use the repeater but may monitor the simplex just so I know not to get in the way. They have always given permission when asked and are more often than not surprised that I ask. I have used that relationship also to ask for weather updates and to show gratitude; drop off beer. I've used this courtesy once in 20 years to report an incident involving guided clients where I helped a lost client get back to their guides.

    I do the same thing in a new area to ask what SAR frequencies are used and also monitor the ACMG channel. In Whistler I've used that feature twice in 20 years to call in incidents. One involved myself. One involved a third party where we helped in a rescue.

    As the OP mentioned we use radios all the time for interparty communications for safety; for group splitting etc.

  11. #11
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    I started using radios after hearing the Slide episode that discussed them in some detail, and I've found them super helpful. I've largely converted my touring group into a group of believers too. They really came in handy a couple weeks ago where we were skiing a ridge with some big cornices, but also some nice openings between them. Problem was that it all looked the same from the ridge top. But we were able to access the basin through a mellower line, and then those in the basin could sight those on the ridge into the safe zones via radio.

    On marine band radios it's customary to use a common channel as a hailing channel, and then once you connect with people there, you'll agree to jump to a different channel to have your conversation. It's a little different with touring partners though, since I certainly am more focused on talking to my group, rather than potentially hailing another group. A scan feature potentially solves this issue, but my (cheapo blister pack) radios don't have one that's easy to use. I do think it makes sense to chat with other groups in the zone at the trailhead (if possible) to see if they have radios and to see what channel they're using.

  12. #12
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    Does anyone know what episode of the slide discusses radios as mentioned above?

  13. #13
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    Quote Originally Posted by adrenalated View Post
    I have mixed feelings about common frequencies for geographic areas - part of what makes the radio so useful to me is being able to communicate within your own group much, much easier, and being on a separate channel is the only way that works. If everyone on Berthoud Pass used the same channel, nobody could actually use the radios to talk to their partners, there'd be way too much chatter. A common channel used only for emergencies is only helpful if someone is monitoring it.
    There is no reason you have to stay on the common channel the whole time, though. Bear Creek (article I linked above) seems like an especially good place to have a common channel, given the way so many lines/ slide paths all threaten the exit below, where there may be other parties. So you can call out your intentions on the common channel while you're stripping skins and gearing up, thereby warning other parties that could be below. Then you can switch to a private channel while your group descends. When you're done, switch back to the common channel for your own exit.

  14. #14
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    For FRS/GMRS:

    As cool as 9-11 sounds as a channel (actually ch 9 with ctcss code 11) I would use channel 1 through 7 or 15 through 22.

    Channels 8 through 14 are power limited to 1/2 watt, so your range is shorter.
    Quote Originally Posted by blurred
    skiing is hiking all day so that you can ski on shitty gear for 5 minutes.

  15. #15
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    Quote Originally Posted by goldenboy View Post
    There is no reason you have to stay on the common channel the whole time, though. Bear Creek (article I linked above) seems like an especially good place to have a common channel, given the way so many lines/ slide paths all threaten the exit below, where there may be other parties. So you can call out your intentions on the common channel while you're stripping skins and gearing up, thereby warning other parties that could be below. Then you can switch to a private channel while your group descends. When you're done, switch back to the common channel for your own exit.
    So how would the group that's already in the line be able to hear you call out your intentions if they're on a private channel for their descent?
    Quote Originally Posted by Norseman View Post
    All ye punterz! Leave thine stupid heavy skis in the past, or at least in the resort category, for the age of lightweight pussy sticks is upon us! Behold! Keep up with the randocommandos on their carbon blades of shortness! Break thine tibias into spiral splinters with pintech extravagance!

  16. #16
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    Quote Originally Posted by adrenalated View Post
    So how would the group that's already in the line be able to hear you call out your intentions if they're on a private channel for their descent?
    Yeah, tradeoffs I guess. I'd leave it on common channel and deal with the extra chatter most places that I go. An extremely popular area like Berthoud might be too much, however.

  17. #17
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    Awesome discussion; thanks to everyone who has chimed in so far.

  18. #18
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    Been using them for ten years or so and luv the ease of communication with the group Iím with. In more technical situations itís helpful to hear or provide info and on low consequence itís nice to have all people accounted for when spread across the bottom of a tree run. IMO a known common channel sounds good, we happen to use 3-21 for group conversation and rarely hear other chatter


    Sent from my iPhone using TGR Forums
    Like I told my last wife, I never drive faster than I can see, besides it's all in the reflexes.

  19. #19
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    Well fuckn' a, podcasting works. I'm gonna do an anti-traversing rant.

    The only real answer to radio channel congestion is radio discipline. That's a problem even in most professional organizations. Another way to address that problem is by using a radio that monitors two frequencies simultaneously. One freq for emergencies and hailing, and another for group comms.

    I have about 9 radios. Some Motorolas, some Midlands, and some Baofengs. People denigrate the build quality and reliability of these, perhaps rightfully so. You get what you pay for.

    That being said, the Baofengs have superior functionality and are radically cheaper than most popular FRS radios. FWIW, I've not had a problem with any of mine over the last two years, others have, but I've not heard any recent tales. Total reliance on any single piece of gear is a recipe for failure anyhow. I'll upgrade eventually, probably to a Yaesu or a Wouxun. Probably after I have a critical failure at an inopportune time.

    The biggest problem with using a programmable VHF radio is the lack of easy translation between FRS channels and the frequencies they represent. For example, if someone tells me they are on FRS 3.1, I can't just switch to 3.1 unless I already have it programmed into my radio. I could punch in the freq if I knew it, but...

    So, migrating to a programmable VHF sets up a potential challenge for communicating with folk on standard FRS radios. There is also a learning curve, and surely someone will chime in on the legal issues. None of these are particularly significant obstacles - unless you are profoundly lazy or a stubborn dolt.

    Get a radio, learn how to use it, then don't.

    PS: Here's the key for FRS channels and the frequencies they represent

  20. #20
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    Quote Originally Posted by adrenalated View Post
    So how would the group that's already in the line be able to hear you call out your intentions if they're on a private channel for their descent?
    The following addresses the inverse, where it's your party that's in the line. Obviously setting radios to scan the common is best, but in case you have a group with simple radios that can't do that, here's a technique:

    Assuming at least 3 in your party and traveling one at a time, meeting at safe zones, you will have two people together most of the time so one of them can leave their radio on the common channel and the rest go to the private channel during the group's descent. So if you have 3 people and don't need to talk during the descent itself, your second person (or 2nd to last in larger groups) can just leave the radio on the common frequency, or if you expect to need to talk during the descent he/she can switch to private before dropping in and back to common at the safe zone.

  21. #21
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    Today was a great day to use radios to locate the only cornice weakness on a long ridge from the summit. No need to walk out on one of those monsters right now.

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