Do you know these small, sewn-in plates in your winter equipment? If not, take a closer look, you will most likely find a small bump somewhere on your jacket or pants, labeled "Recco". Behind it is a small reflector - we'll show you what it's all about.
A contribution by Fabian Reichle - Bächli Bergsport
It all starts with a tragic story: The Swede Magnus Grandheld loses one in 1973 avalanche a friend. Dogs and probing are taking too long, he aims to develop a faster search method. The idea of Recco technology is born.
Grandheld's idea is as simple as it is ingenious. Mountaineers should wear a reflector, and seekers can use a detector to locate people buried in avalanches and missing people.
Complement instead of competition
The idea of tracking down avalanche victims with electronic aids was not a new one back then. Mammut's Barryvox was the first avalanche transceiver to hit the market as early as 1974. This is where an important point comes into play.
The Recco system is opposite one LVS primitive and the detectors are exclusively owned by official mountain rescuers. Why should technology that was already obsolete at the time and which can only be used by professionals offer security? One hears the question again and again, compared to prophecies of doom Recco are not uncommon. Wrong, because the system has its advantages.
First of all, it must be understood that Recco was never developed as a replacement or even a competitor to the LVS. The vision behind this has always been to offer a complementary technology that, together with the common avalanche equipment, brings with it an additional safety factor. But Recco does not only focus on the quasi-attachment to the standard equipment. There are some good reasons to take those small reflectors with you.
Simple - summer and winter
One advantage is the simplicity of Recco. The reflector is no bigger than a plaster, weighs only a few grams and does not need batteries. So it does not have to be switched on, never loses signal strength and does not require any maintenance.
Since it is also firmly integrated in your personal equipment, it is impossible to forget and the chance of losing it in an accident is negligible. The reflectors are also available separately and can be attached to a backpack, helmet or belt. So if you have clothes without an integrated reflector, can upgrade accordingly.
High search radius
Another factor is the search radius. Modern Recco detectors are mounted on helicopters, among other things. This allows an immense search cone that can be flown quickly. This is an advantage, especially in alpine regions that are difficult to access on foot. Which brings us to the actual reason for the mission: the accident itself.
An avalanche transceiver can save lives. But what if those who were buried or who were searching do not wear an avalanche transceiver? We are not talking about conscious tourers, but about victims who otherwise get caught in avalanches. This can even happen on groomed slopes, as has unfortunately happened several times in recent years. In such cases, Recco is the only tool to be trackable.
Most accidents take place in summer
Other seasons are also dangerous. Most accidents in the mountains happen in the summer months - here, too, it can be crucial to be found quickly in difficult terrain.
Unfortunately, there are many dangerous situations: a bad weather front when mountaineering with dangerous hypothermia as a result, an injury in rough terrain without mobile phone reception. In such situations every mountaineer is happy to be rescued quickly.
The Recco reflector itself is technically extremely simple - and therefore so ingenious. It therefore makes sense to pay attention to the small plate when buying mountain sports equipment or to add to your equipment, because it can save lives.
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About Bächli mountain sports
Bächli mountain sports is the leading Swiss specialist shop for climbing, mountaineering, expeditions, hiking, ski touring and snowshoeing. At currently 13 locations in Switzerland, Bächli Bergsport offers its customers expert advice and high-quality service. Published on LACRUX Bächli mountain sports periodically exciting contributions to the topics climbing, bouldering and mountaineering.
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Credits: picture and text Bächli Bergsport