A potential issue has been identified with the switches on Black Diamond/PIEPS DSP Pro and DSP Sport models of avalanche transceivers.
Owners and users of these devices are encouraged to follow the manufacturers guidance and check that they are operating correctly.
During filming for this season’s TGR Film, pro skier Nick McNutt was caught in a snow avalanche right in front of the film crew and fellow skiers. As they rushed to search for him, they were quickly hit by the realization that they couldn’t get a signal from his avalanche transceiver. Fortunately for Nick, with a film crew and a bunch of experienced skiers on hand, a probe line was formed and he was found alive, though battered, broken and bruised. On digging him out it was found that his transceiver switch was in the OFF position. He was wearing his transceiver in the chest harness as indicated by the manufacturer.
Unfortunately, the offending transceiver was lost in the post whilst attempting to return it to Black Diamond for testing.
In publicizing this event on social media, and within the North American guiding community, other anecdotes have surfaced involving issues with the switches, and various videos have been posted showing the switches being overridden. Black Diamond/PIEPS state that their testing has shown no change in switch resistance with heavy use, but they noted that switches with visibly damaged lock/switch mechanisms showed a decrease in switch resistance of 50-100%. They also stated there have been only two recorded incidents in which the switch allegedly failed. In the other incident the transceiver was not worn in its harness and the police investigation reported that the victim’s avalanche transceiver was working properly.
Please ensure you check your own transceiver to ensure the switch is free from cracks and is working correctly. Should you be unsure, please contact PIEPS/Black Diamond on firstname.lastname@example.org
And if you’re wearing a transceiver, make sure you’re well practiced in using it and that you’re carrying the means of finding and digging someone out, which means carrying a probe and shovel.
British Mountaineering Council, December 4, 2020