Monday, 6 February 2012

K2 Backside Rescue Shovel- Brief review

I don't tend to write much about snow rescue gear, or snowholing bits and bobs, mainly because I don't live in a place where I get a chance to use it, and also because I don't normally carry anything that weight when I'm running. In the past few days though, I've got out to play on Bleaklow making snow shelters, and on the drive, making igloos. Not quite your hand and gnarly off piste adventures, but the best I can do in the circumstances.

Putting it together
In the past I've come across a number of types of rescue shovel each of which have a variety of nifty features, and not so nifty short cuts that enable them to be lighter than another model- useful if you are a weight conscious skier or walker.
Some of the BCA shovels have probes within the handle- nice, though you can get lighter, longer probes which are less of a faff to get to in an emergency situation.
Some of the Black Diamond ones have a curved handle so that the handle and shovel sit together, nestling away in your bag, and then when needed, you don't need to wonder where the handle went as it is already attached.

In confined space
However, a couple of people who have used these in anger have pointed to the fact they are sloped on the top part of the blade- for aesthetic, and weight cutting considerations. This does mean that if you really want to get some oomph into the cut, you cannot put your foot on top of it and get it through the snow crust. Not so important in some situations, but critical in others.

The K2 rescue shovel weighs in at 695g and has an extendable handle. (The handle comes out for storage rather than nesting inside). One of the exciting things about it though, is that the handle can be turned around and be used as a snow hoe as well- again either with a shortened or lengthed handle.When building snow holes etc, space can often be cramped, especially as you get further in, and this modification is fantastic, allowing you to use the shovel with relative ease where others would just snarl up and get in the way.
I grant you that generally when you come across something that is a bit of a transformer, the response is a bit guarded- Jack of all trades and master of none- is generally the saying which comes to mind. This particular shovel though, is quite a revalation. It does what it is meant to do with considerable gusto.

...Moves a lot of snow
The top of the blade is flat, so enable you to stick a foot on the top when digging, giving extra power, and like pretty much every shovel you can buy these days, its made of 6061 T1 treated alu. As we know, speed is of the essence when digging people out of avalanches. It clicks together easily, and if you need to, it extends with another click. Simple, easy and powerful.

The blade is smooth and straight, the shaft is 28cm when collapsed, and a mighty 64cm when extended. Great for extended reach into a snow hole to hoe out the chopped up snow which you have just carved out of the interior, and it moves a lot of snow very quickly. It has a swift and efficient action, though I'm sure other versions from other companies do too- however, I can vouch for this one in particular.
If you get the Rescue shovel plus, apparently it contains other bits and pieces that you can use to connect skis and rucksac together in order to create a rescue sled, though I haven't seen that.
Beginning size
In Hoe version
Extended Hoe

All in all, it seems like a great and very solid rescue shovel, and if you're snow holing, it has some definite advantages over a number of other models you may come across.
A small but homely snow hole

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