The formula for determining the lecture date for the Basic Mountaineering Course has changed. In the past it was held on the weekend before Thanksgiving. The new formula is to hold it on the weekend directly following the second Friday of November. Hence this year it will be held November 12 and 13. Please spread the word and mark your calendars. More details concerning signups will be distributed via email and online out as we get closer.
SAR members representing West Valley SAR, Cave and Technical Rescue Team, San Gorgonio SAR, SB Mountain SAR, Morongo Basin SAR, and Wrightwood SAR completed the 2016 Rope Rescue Operators Course. Congratulations to the 14 rescuers as they continue to expand their responsibilities and continue to serve the citizens of San Bernardino County and the state.
After many months of waiting, I was finally able to get my hands on a pair of GoTenna devices to field test. These devices are VHF radio transceivers that pair via Bluetooth that enable two phones to pass text messages without requiring any cell service. The required phone app allows for text messages, pinging connectivity between devices, and the swapping of location using the phone's onboard GPS to fix position. There are also downloadable base maps to display position data.
The pairing process was quick and easy with the Android phones used in the test, and the software and hardware performed without any difficulty. The interface is similar to most of the available messaging apps. Although, only text can be sent, so there is no photo sharing or other file sending available.
While testing one person attached the device to his pack according to the suggestion of the manufacturer, and the other person placed it in his pocket and started off on his mountain bike. We communicated via 5 W VHF radios with rubber duck antennas to compare the coverage. Obviously, as long as the GoTenna was in the bike rider's pocket, the connection was severly compromised. Periodically the rider would stop, remove the device, and attempt to communicate. This was done until we could no longer maintain a reliable connection. As expected, the most reliable communication came with optimized antenna location. If both ends of the communication held their devices high, and vertically polarized, the likelihood of a reliable connection increased.
In the environment tested (shown on the map to the right) the furthest that we could maintain a connection was approximately 0.6 mi. This was challenging RF terrain, however. The blue shading on the map is a line of site layer, so we were able to maintain some modicum of communication outside of this region. By comparison, the 5W VHF radio allowed reliable communication greater than 1 mile in this same terrain.
We were operating in the MURS band with the voice radios. A bit of testing shows that the GoTenna may be operating on MURS channel 1 (151.82 MHz), so we avoided this channel, and used MURS channel 5 (154.60). We noticed that if you were transmitting with the 5W radio on channel 5, it would interfere with the GoTenna messages. This may be something to consider since much of our SAR work is in the neighborhood of this portion of the spectrum.
Given the additional overhead of having to pair a smartphone to the device, and the limited range, the GoTenna doesn't seem to provide any significant communications advantage over, or in addition to, the typical portable radio. Still, this is the first generation of such a device, and for those of us who are attracted to all things RF, it is most intriguing.
Check out this link to see if any of your gear is on the list.
Due to lack of snow, the Basic Mountaineering Course field date for January 9 and 10 has been changed to January 30 and 31. Please sign up for the event by emailing Sonny Lawrence at his sbsar account.
The field session for the Basic Mountaineering Course (BMC) will be held on January 30 and 31, 2016. The location is Snow Valley Mountain Resort. This is located 6 miles east of Running Springs on highway 18. GPS is WGS 84; 34.223375°,-117.037423°. All vehicles should carry tire chains. Four wheel drive preferred. Enter into the main parking lot. Explain to the attendant you are participating in the sheriff’s BMC. Proceed to the far west end of the parking lot, near the exit. Wise participants will arrive Friday night and sleep in the car or off into the bushes in order to acclimatize. We begin at 0700 sharp Saturday morning. Be ready to hike at that time with pack fully loaded. The course will end late Sunday afternoon. Please be sensitive to the location we will be operating in. Bring your own WAG BAG for human waste disposal. Only individuals who have pre-registered with Sonny Lawrence are allowed to attend.