Tuesday, March 3, 2009

Backcountry Access Carbon 260 Avalanche Probe Pole

OK, the BCA Profile 240 was recently reviewed here, but when I come across a great piece of gear, I want to sing its praises. So, please bear with another avalanche probe review.

Without exaggeration, the BCA Carbon 260 is the best probe pole I have owned in the 20+ years I have played and worked in the backcountry. Like the Profile 240, the Carbon 260 utilizes the super user-friendly “quickie” tensioning system. At this point these probes go their separate ways. As the name implies, the Carbon 260 is made of spun carbon fiber. Carbon fiber is noticeably lighter than aluminum and, more importantly, considerably stiffer. The advantage of a stiffer probe becomes apparent when probing for a victim in a deeper burial. In deep, dense avalanche debris, most aluminum probes will “deflect”; literally be forced to bend by the hard snow. This tends not to be the case with Carbon 260. I tested this by burying a small pack five feet in a snowdrift of week old plowed snow. Of the 5 probes that I tested, the Carbon 260 was the only one to consistently hit the target. Yes, there are other probes capable of this kind of accuracy, but they are specialized, heavy models often used by SAR Teams during organized rescue or recovery efforts.

There are other carbon fiber probe poles on the market, but what sets the Carbon 260 apart is that the silk screened depth markers are protected by a clear, protective coating. I am confident that after years of use these centimeter marks will continue to be easy to read. This is a big plus whether you are trying to determine burial depth or using your probe in a profile pit. Most other probes I have owned begin to lose these markings after a couple of years.

The $80 price tag may cause some sticker shock. However, in my opinion, it is easy to justify paying a little more for the best. This is a top shelf product for any serious backcountry enthusiast or snow safety professional.

Ed Crothers
Guide and Climbing Instructor
Colorado Mountain School
AMGA Certified Rock Instructor
AIARE Level 1 Instructor
2829 Mapleton Avenue, Boulder, CO 80301

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