Stupid question alert!!!

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Stupid question alert!!!

Postby ridelinkride » Fri Oct 04, 2013 7:23 pm

So after reading about the landslide accident near Princeton It kinda got me thinking.
Being new to mountaineering but owning a beacon:

Could an avalanche beacon be used in a landslide to find people as it is in an avalanche?

Honestly, I feel silly asking this. Knowing obviously that snow and mud are completely different kinds
of materials that a signal would have to go though. AND the fact that it would be nearly impossible to
dig for someone in a landslide versus an avalanche.
I know we probably won't be seeing everyone on the mountain wearing an avi beacon any time soon.
But with what CO has been going through with fires, rain, and the recent dusting of snow I can only imagine
that we will be seeing the earth move a lot more as this year still goes on.

PS. Please don't poke fun too much!! I did say it was a stupid question.
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Re: Stupid question alert!!!

Postby pioletski » Fri Oct 04, 2013 8:16 pm

The simple, if cynical, answer would be yes - but it would probably be a body recovery rather than a rescue.
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Re: Stupid question alert!!!

Postby Derby Ale » Fri Oct 04, 2013 9:48 pm

I would probably differ on this one. I think the density and light permeability of soil/rock is too minimal to be of use. But I don't know enough about them to be sure. Will they work through a brick wall?
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Re: Stupid question alert!!!

Postby MonGoose » Fri Oct 04, 2013 10:10 pm

In theory, yes, assuming:
1) the beacon was not damaged in the rock slide and
2) the rock pile was porous enough for the signal to be transmitted through.

Would it be a practical approach to finding hikers? No.

For example, if a skier initially survives an avalanche but is buried by snow, asphyxiation becomes the primary concern. If a partner can find the buried skier in a reasonable amount of time (<15 minutes) and dig them out, chances for survival are good. In a rock slide, if a person is significantly buried they are most likely terminally injured and even if they somehow survived, one person can only lift a small amount of rocks at a time. The closest thing to an avalanche beacon for hikers would probably be a Spot Tracker but the bottom line is that if someone gets taken about by a landslide, there's not really anything that can save them.
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Re: Stupid question alert!!!

Postby midwestcoast » Fri Oct 04, 2013 10:58 pm

pioletski wrote:The simple, if cynical, answer would be yes - but it would probably be a body recovery rather than a rescue.

Agreed. Depending on the situation, it's possible you could be located. If you were really, really lucky, maybe even saved. As others have mentioned though, it seems unlikely.

People easily die under a few inches of snow after a slide. Sliding mud, rocks, dirt, water...even if you survived the sliding you'd be buried in such a compacted mess it would be nearly impossible for anybody to dig you out of it before you suffocated.
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Re: Stupid question alert!!!

Postby CO Native » Sat Oct 05, 2013 9:42 am

Yes an avalanche beacon could help you be found in a rock slide. I've practiced with beacons on the second floor of a building while the "buried" beacon was on the second and it transmitted through the concrete floor fine. (Helps demonstrate how deep burials and orientation of the beacon affects performance.) The material will limit the signal distance though. My beacon can pick up a signal 40 to 50 meters away in snow. I wouldn't be surprised if it dropped much lower in rock, but it would still help.

The question really is, would it be worth it? Survival rates in snow avalanches where the person is completely buried are low if not dug out in the first 15 minutes. The physical trauma from being buried in a rockslide alone would make survival rates extremely low. If you did manage to survive that it's very unlikely you'd be able to breathe, and even if you could you'd have to survive a very long time before rescue could dig you out. Their efforts to dig you out would run a high risk of shifting the rock in a deadly way.

When it comes to rockslide, not getting caught is really the only reasonable solution. Pay attention and avoid common rockslide areas, move through them quickly and at the safest times of the day, travel one at a time through those sections, and wear a helmet. Really though the Agnes Vaille Falls incident was a freak accident. That area is extremely prone to rock slide. There used to be a sign warning of it, but ironically a rock slide buried it. Yet accidents have been quite rare even though that is a very popular hike.

While the accident was extremely tragic, they weren't being stupid. They were just in the wrong place at the wrong time. Driving their car to the trailhead was probably a much more statistically risky activity than hiking to the falls. You can avoid stupid risks, but some risks you just have to be willing to accept as part of life.
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Re: Stupid question alert!!!

Postby colorado yooper » Sat Oct 05, 2013 11:14 am

I cut and pasted some info I wrote up for Teller County SAR's next meeting. It's brief and has not been proofed by anyone so if you have things to add feel free.

Rockfall is a natural part of erosion and life in the mountains. It’s caused by freeze/thaw cycles, rain, gravity, wind, and human/animal causes. Ways to mitigate danger from rockfall include-
• Recognizing rockfall hazard
o Visibly or audibly detected rockfall
o Signs of recent rockfall-sharp rocks, rocks over trails and roads, unstable talus, tracks or debris in snow
o Areas prone to rockfall- roadcuts (Ute Pass), couloirs, under unstable cliffs
• Techniques to minimize danger
o Wear helmet
o Avoid rockfall areas after sunhit/warming/rains
o Don’t hike directly below other hikers or wildlife
o Be situation aware
o Hike ridges instead if weather permits
o In hazardous areas send one person thru danger area at a time stopping only in safe zones
o Minimizing time spent in rockfall prone areas
• If caught under a rockfall
o Duck for cover behind a big rock
o Get as close to the cliff face as possible
• If you cause a rockfall- shout, “ROCK!” as loudly as possible to warn those below
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