Monday, 8 February 2016

Airbag Refill System

I have x 2 brand new BCA Float Airbag Cylinders for sale at £100 each. Also I am selling a Float Cylinder Refill system. This includes a certificated and tested dive tank and the refill adapter to connect to the above cylinders and refill them. The tank is full. I would be looking at £200 for this. I am too out the way for doing the refills. My last customer drove over from Aberdeen as I am the only place doing it and he said next time it would be eaiser just bying a new cylinder! Maybe an opportunity for someone more central.

Thursday, 28 January 2016

In the Shadow of Ben Nevis

I can't wait until I can order a copy of this book. My second pair of boots came from  "Nevisport" with it's big husky on the roof in about 1972 when I was 15/16. A proper climbers shop. My first boots (bought for me by Hamish from George Fishers for acting as a runner on rescues) were taken from the front porch at Kingshouse after coming off Ravens Gully and getting drunk. They also sent a duvet jacket I had ordered by letter with postal order over with Dave Knowles on the Ballachulish ferry one Friday, and the next night was spent out with Euan Grant below and right of Ossians cave and it saved my life. Without doubt the best climbers shop ever as started and run by mountain men.

Ian will be speaking at this years FW Mountain Film Festival.  Don't miss it.

Tuesday, 26 January 2016

Footsteps of Giants

 Glencoe Mountain ski area.  World famous and frequented by the stars who pop by occasionally.
Daniel Craig on location in Glencoe
007 may have an Aston Martin DB6 but Hamish has a 944.  Hamish's co-pilot for today's mission was Phillip Rankin WW2 Mosquito Reconnaissance pilot and veteran of being shot down and surviving a dunk in the channel. They do not make them like that anymore!
Phillip Rankin and Hamish MacInnes.  Hamish took Philip up in his Porche 944
Lovely afternoon up at Glencoe Mountain hosted by Andy Meldrum and Glencoe Mountain to celebrate 60 years since the idea of a ski area was floated by Phillip Rankin, and 56 years since the first lifts went in.
Andy Meldrum has Phillip unveil his picture portrait which was taken by Jennifer Wilcox
It was so nice to catch up with the folks who made all this possible, and to see Phillip honoured in this way. He may be 95 years old but he's as sharp as anything and gave a truly great and very humorous speech in which he acknowledged the pivotal part played by the first ski patroller's, and their ingenuity in acquiring parts of Clyde shipping to make Glencoe run.  
Jack Williamson (facing the camera) the original Glencoe ski patroller and mountain man.  Another legendary character
All in a great afternoon and nice to meet up with folks who new me as a spotty youth skiing way too fast. It was lovely that this was a small private affair and a privilege to have been invited along. What shines through is that this is a ski area held in great esteem and much loved, and will always be unique as Scotland's premier ski area for true mountain loving people.
Reflected view from the old ticket office looking up the current chairlift

Thursday, 21 January 2016

A Few Avalanche Transceiver Findings

Some findings and observations from using these popular avalanche beacons on the last 2 of 6 avalanche training courses in both shallow (< 1m) and deep (2m) to very deep (3m+ >) burials. They are all adequate with the exception of the original tracker which although it might work is old. The newer version of the Tracker DTS/Tracker 1 is a bit better and still on sale. The T1 is a 2 antenna beacon and suffers from null points/signal spike unlike the excellent Tracker 2 (not being reviewed here) which is super fast. These 3 antenna beacons are all good purchases, but like all technology when used for scenarios that are not simple then their effectiveness is challenged and quirks come out. Only realistic practise with the beacon you own will make you the user aware of what these are, and work arounds.  What this means is practise and realistic scenarios to challenge you the searcher.  That's what Beacon training parks are there to help you with. I have attempted to be non biased but declare a conflict of interest as I am a BCA and Ortovox retailer.

These beacons were used at the Glencoe BCA beacon training park and on scenarios created on ski 's and off piste in the ski area while searching for an analog Ortovox F1, analog SOSF1ND (re boxed F1) and old Tracker 1's and a Tracker 3. All students were taught the primary basic search patterns of searching in series, in parallel and micro grid, and only after practise was marking shown, used, and then only in the context of relying on a basic reliable search method should marking fail. All the three antenna beacons looked at here that show multiple burial icons, did at varying times show multiple victims when only one was present.  After group auto revert and radio/phone checks this still occurred when only one beacon was transmitting. This could be the long pulse cycle of the old F1's getting the processor confused, but it also occurred in the deep burials and I wondered if each side of the deep beacon flux line was seen as a separate signal. 
Ortovox 3+
The marking function on the 3+ was reliable but of course like all these beacons marking gets problematic beyond marking 2 beacons.  The 3+ on deep burials suffered from null points and a signal was often only re-acquired after switching back to transmit briefly, then back into search. Students liked its speed, simplicity and clear display. Default auto revert is ON.  This would be my beacon of choice as value for money for most folk with the right balance of speed, ease of use and simple but reliable features including smart antenna orientation helping a victim be found more easilly and the built in Recco strip so the victim is more searchable from a longer distance by the Recco system.  Gets 5* from me!

BCA Tracker 3
The Tracker 3 is small, and can easily be carried in an inside pocket.  Easily the smallest beacon on the market at present.  Its very fast processor is good, but the advertised range which is 40m is a little optimistic and I would say in most cases its only 30/35m necessitating a narrower search strip and a little more work from last seen point to signal pickup. The T2 is still faster IMHO and has a slightly longer range.  The T3 doesn't mark a victim but will "suppress" one beacon in close proximity for 1 minute allowing the searcher to get away and lock onto another victim. I didn't find this reliable. However, it's "big picture" mode was very useful in showing directions and distance to other beacons and did what it says, give a big picture. Auto revert is default OFF.  Worth upgrading to Firmware 3.3 if you have one as it definately improves the beacon.  You can do this yourself or if you have bought it from me bring it round and I will do it for you at no cost. Gets 5* from me!
Mammut/Barryvox Element
The Element and its more expensive brother the Pulse are very popular beacons from Mammut with the internals from Barryvox a company with a long pedigree in avalanche beacons.  The one used had the latest software and had a very good range. The analog in the Pulse version is superb for an experienced searcher as the search distance increases to 60m ( I got a signal at 67m on one). The Pulse in analog is also good acoustically as you can hear the pulse tones of different beacons.  The Element is purely digital and does not have the rescue send or unmark features of the Pulse. The Element like it's big brother suffered a lot from the "STOP" icon, requiring the user to stop and wait while the processor updated. On a couple of scenarios this got too long (ridiculous!) and only by switching from search back to transmit quickly and back to search was the signal eventually reacquired. Of the ones used here it seemed slower than previous models with the older software. Maybe the upgrade was a downgrade?  Auto Revert Default ON
The original digital beacon, the Tracker DTS. These should be retired due to age IMHO 
Tracker DTS 2nd edition
The ubiquitous Tracker 1. Still on sale and probably the most common beacon carried.  It still works and is fast even if it only has two antenna's.  I want to slag it off as we recommend that everyone these days has the more accurate 3 antenna beacons. However, the damn thing still works fast and in fact is faster than some 3 antenna models. The additional training requirement of teaching how to overcome signal spikes is no big deal most of the time. But when it is it's time consuming. It is a lot less effective in deep burial scenarios and students must be taught to spiral probe, or probe in a grid to locate a deep victim, which takes a lot more time. Like its superior big brother the Tracker 2 the T1 has "SP" or spotlight mode which I have always liked in complex multiple burial scenarios as it narrows the search angle directionally and spotlights the next victim so you can then get away from the found victim, move to the next signal and allow it to lock onto it as it becomes the closest. Sometimes it's possible to jump from continuing with a micro grid search having used the SP mode and get a lock on the next victim. I tell my students get an upgrade 3 antennas is better.  But, the T1 is still ok (only just - get an upgrade!) and it shows how far ahead of its time is was. Auto revert default OFF

Auto revert or random transmit from rubber-neckers is the curse of the avalanche search. Be aware of it.  These are just some thoughts from trying every beacon on the market. There are no bad ones and they all have quirks, so get out and find them and practise  Your money would be well spent on any of the ones listed apart from an old T1 from a mate or off eBay!

Saturday, 19 December 2015

The Long Road Home

Angus "Angie" Gunn my Father
My father as well as many local men from North Argyll and Oban fought with the Argylls and the Norfolks at the rear guard action of St Valery which sacrificed thousands of men so that Dunkirk was a success. This sacrifice was not acknowledged until 50 years later. Possibly because it was contentious and an embarrassment to Churchill. The privations of "the long walk" both to the salt mines and logging camps in Silesia, then escaping the Russians back west at the wars end cost many Highlanders lives.

Audio Interview With the Three Escapee's

The three men in this story showed remarkable initiative and this story is worthy of any Hollywood movie.  As a wee boy I remember "the blood" telling the tale at a Glencoe Village Hall Celeidh and also my Dad and "Ginger" talking about the war up at the Elliots where we would go at New Year. From what I gathered in conversation I don't think it was as easy as this understated interview leads you to suspect, and I am not sure that there wasn't a few who were less helpful, or  enemy who didnt walk away.