RECCO Avalanche Rescue System on Himalayan expeditions
On July 11, the Swiss-French climber Sophie Lavaud summited Broad Peak in Pakistan, her sixth peak above 8,000 meters. In September she will make an attempt to climb Manaslu in Nepal, the eight highest mountain in the world. To increase safety Sophie Lavaud has equipped her expeditions with the RECCO Avalanche Rescue System.
Sophie Lavaud’s dream to climb peaks above 8,000 meter started in 2012 when she successfully summited Shishapangma and Cho Oyu, making her one of only a dozen women worldwide who have successfully climbed two peaks over 8,000 meters in one season. This earned her the nickname “The 16,000 Lady”. Since then she has climbed four more, one of which is Mount Everest.
The upcoming September expedition is aiming for the eight highest peak in the world: Manaslu, 8,163 meter high in Nepal and first summited 1955 by a Japanese expedition led by Maki Aritsune.
For this climbing season Sophie Lavaud decided to bring RECCO Avalanche Rescue Technology to add avalanche safety to her expeditions. This was partly initiated through her cooperation with Millet who integrates RECCO reflectors in their climbing line “Capsule”
“The motivation to make expedition members searchable came after last year’s expedition on Himlung Himal, Nepal, where one Sherpa died in a avalanche, leaving wife and five children behind,” explains Sophie Lavaud. “On this season’s expeditions at the Kanchenjunga in April and at the Broad Peak in July, I have equipped and trained at the base camp both climbers and Sherpas.”
Sophie Lavaud demonstrates the RECCO search device at Kanchenjunga Base Camp last April.
RECCO reflectors are placed on each person’s harness and helmet. “Our idea is to carry the RECCO detector (the RECCO system’s search device) on high camps rather than leaving it in a base camp, to make the system more accessible in case of an avalanche accident”.
What strength do you see with the RECCO system in Himalaya?
“At this stage we are experimenting. Most important is that the Sherpas consider this useful for them and then to be able to spread the word inside the Sherpa community. If this experience is positive, the idea is to approach the agencies and convince them to equip their teams – Sherpas and climbers,” says Sophie Lavaud. “Trainings have also to be organized and this can be done through associations and foundations like the Sherpa Foundation.”
She can’t enough emphasize the importance of being searchable in case of an avalanche. ”As we sadly experienced recently with the avalanche accident at Nanga Parbat, where I got in touch with the rescue team while climbing the Broad Peak nearby, most climbers have no locating device and cannot be rescued nor found in case of such accident"
By bringing the RECCO system on her expeditions Sophie Lavaud adds to last year’s introduction of the RECCO system in Nepal, when two local guide and rescue organizations were equipped with RECCO search equipment – detectors.
It’s partly the Nepal Mountaineering Instructor Association, NMIA, having one RECCO detector at the Everest Base Camp and one in Kathmandu for use by the helicopter companies in the area. Renowned French mountain guide Anselme Baud has trained the NMIA guides in search with the RECCO system. In addition Bruno Jelk, long time head of rescue in Zermatt, has trained Nepalese rescue specialists along with the helicopter company Simrik Air in Kathmandu in mountain search and rescue techniques in which the RECCO rescue system was part of the training. One RECCO detector is used at Simrik Air in Kathmandu. A second detector is placed at Simrik Air's helicopter base in Pokhara, in the Annapurna area.
RECCO® advanced rescue technology makes outdoor enthusiasts searchable to rescuers in case of an avalanche accident or when lost in the outdoors. The technology builds on a two-part radar system. Rescuers carry RECCO® detectors that send out search signals which are echoed by RECCO® reflectors, carried by the user. RECCO® detectors are used worldwide at more than 900 ski resorts and mountain rescue organizations in 28 countries. RECCO® reflectors are integrated into select apparel, helmets, protection gear and boots manufactured by more than 150 leading outdoor brands. RECCO AB was founded in 1983 in Sweden and is owned by its founder Magnus Granhed and the publicly traded investment company Traction AB (listed on OMX Nordic Exchange Stockholm). More info at recco.com