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When to use a PLB

This article was written for Argus - the member's magazine of the Victorian Climbing Club

Before I get into the details, I have to clean up a couple of fairy tales:
Magical Phones If you see the "No Service" or similar on your phone, that's pretty much it. Your phone is as useless as your coffee cup or a brick. NO! Neither of them will magically turn into a satellite communication device. I see that proposed in hiking forums all the time but it's a myth.

All SatCom devices work - NOT All PLBs/EPIRBs* have very limited function - "I need help! I'm here" - but they do it very well. They are cheap and very reliable. You can't go wrong with any model. However if you need a bit more function, you got a couple of options for off-grid (emergency) communication Satellite Phone >> Not so cheap but great functionalityGarmin inReach  >>  two-way satellite messenger and tracker Iridium Go >> Mobile data thingymebobOld fashioned radio >>…
Recent posts

Denali's Raven

Some time ago Anna and I met a lovely couple from Talkeetna - if you're a mountaineer reading the name of this place alone should give you a warm and fussy feeling. Anyway. Tucker is a lead-mountaineer with NPS and Leighan is not only a pilot but also a gifted artist. Recently I found her instagram account and there are some nice gems among it:

Memories of moonlit nights at Ama basecamp exactly one year ago. Pen/pencil on paper 11.5 by 7" A post shared by Leighan Falley (@leighanfalley) on Nov 8, 2017 at 10:17am PST
"Half Asleep at High Camp," acrylic on canvas 24 by 30 inches. I'm a terrible sleeper at sea level, and during my Denali days I was pretty much a perpetual insomniac at high camp (17,500 feet). A climber sits in her harness, ropeless and partner-less, on the start of the summit ridge in the blackness of winter. It is an image that haunted my imagination in those days. As winter takes hold in my world, this painting feels important again. #blackfeathe…

The Nosedive

Here we go again. Some time ago I wrote a two blog posts about statistics and numbers of geocachers:
• It's going downhill - Is geocaching declining?
• Quo Vadis Horreum Terrae? - Why is geocaching declining?

Since then a year has passed - oh man time flies when you're having fun - and I thought it would be worth revisiting these numbers. Actually I was tracking them for a while now and it's fair to say the game took a nosedive. However lets look at total numbers of 2015 and 2016 first since these years are truly gone by and whoever wanted to log a find would have done that by now.

Active Players = 1 find or more that year / Very Active Players = 100 finds or more that year
Remarkably in both years the very active players make up 4.7% of the active players. This roughly 5% seems to be a reoccurring number as shown in previous posts. However there's a clear decline of 7% from 2015 to 2016 which was only 1% from 2014 to 2015.

Let's move on to some year to date (YTD) da…

A Magic Place in France

Have you ever heard of the Chartreuse Mountains? Yeah me neither. Although you really should have! It is literally one of those hidden gems on the planet. If you're into hiking, it's honestly rather difficult to have a bad time in the French Prealps or Alps. Seriously: Everything looks unbelievable cute, people are super-friendly and then of course there's that thing about french pastry, croissants, pain au chocolat, wine, cheese, ... It's fucking civilised!  
Did I mention that the landscape is also fairly stunning? Ooops sorry but you probably already looked at the picture. This is an arch called "La Tour Percée" and with 32m it's the biggest natural arch in the European Alps. If that's not enough, the sucker is also a double arch. I know it's a bit over the top but this is how it rolls. Why haven't I heard about this?!?Good question! Because you can't see that thing neither from the village below nor from the ridge-line above. It is obs…

Seven Mountaineering Lies

I recently stumbled upon this funny piece and I don't want to withhold it from you. Lucky for you, I can read Bavarian so here's the English translation.

Translated from the Bavarian original "Sieben Berglügen" written by Stefan Frühbeis
1 "Almost there" If you hear the following sentence from the mouth of your local climber: "Almost there!" - then you should be very suspicious. "Almost there!" actually means that you are not exactly there, and it will take at least an hour and a half or 650m difference in altitude. And it also means that you should please finally stop nagging about the route of the tour. "Almost there!" is the most used and most important mountaineering lie.
2 "No need for gaiters - for sure!"Noobs should know that seasoned mountaineers carry so-called gaiters in their backpack during at times, which they use as needed, for example to cross old snowfields while remaining dry feet. Whether they are nee…

Mum's Necklace

Last year Anna and I climbed a mountain and I started writing a post only to put it into the proverbial freeze-drawer of every blog: The draft folder. Now before this post gets serious freezer burn, it's time to thaw it up, add some spice and dish it up. Here we go:

Ama Dablam (6812m) is known as one of the most impressive mountains in the world, not for it's altitude, but for it's beauty, aesthetics and the pure exposure encountered high on it's flanks. The mountain has gained in popularity over the past years with post-monsoon 2016 being the busiest season hosting over 400 registered climbers. It's common to encounter high altitude Everest veterans having problems with the technical difficulties encountered on the crux pitches of this climb.

Summit - clear skies -32 °C - afternoon of 16th November 2016:
Let's get off this mountain. It's four o'clock, we got about an hour of daylight left and we got a lot of abseiling to do.
Five minutes later I dropped …

Natural Snow Depths

How much snow can I expect? Recently I wrote up another description for an upcoming VCC trip and I was wondering how much snow can be expected. Since this is an existential question for all back country adventurers, I gathered some data and put it into the two graphs below. 
The green line shows you how much snow you can expect on average.The blue and orange lines are the max and min extremes - there is quite a wide range!And the red line shows you the percentage of bone dry seasons on that day. The Buller graph gives you an idea for The Bluff, Westridge and the Howitt area while the Hotham graph is obviously for Bogong and Feathertop. E.g. my chance of running on grass around The Bluff on the 23rd September is 25% while if I'm lucky enough to find snow it might be around the 30cm mark.
You're welcome 😁 Philipp
P.S.: Also keep in mind climate change is real and happening which means the red line goes up and the green line goes down. I know. It's sucks.

Mt Buller Natural Sn…