Wilderness Medicine Training

I first took the Wilderness First Responder course from Stonehearth Open Learning Opportunities, or SOLO, back in April of 2001 when I first started thinking about becoming a professional mountain guide. Today, along with 7 other Mountain Rescue Service fellow team members, a fellow guide, and a local ski-patroller, I concluded my 4th WFR re-certification.

Bill Aughton explains how gathering vitals over time can help alarm us to a deteriorating patient

Bill Aughton explains how gathering vitals over time can help alarm us to a deteriorating patient

Before any re-cert I’ve always had a little apprehension regarding whether this would be time well spent (outside of it being a job requirement to stay current).  This year, just like 3 years ago, and 3 years before that, I leave amazed at how valuable these two days were. Unlike Wilderness Emergency Medical Technician’s (WEMT’s), who constantly use the skills they learned in their course while working for ambulance crews, or volunteer ski patrols in Tuckerman Ravine who get to practice splinting and laceration management on the bravest of Spring skiers, climbing guides don’t get to practice these skills often. That’s a good thing, as hurt clients are rarely repeat clients😉 But we do come across injured recreational climbers and get called out on rescues from time to time, so it is a bit obvious why we need to stay current.

Practicing the "Back-Country Decrumble"

Practicing the “Back-Country Decrumble”

EMS Guide Joan V. was a very cooperative patient

EMS Guide Joan V. was a very cooperative patient

Bill describes proper ways of building a traction splint for a broken femur

Bill describes proper ways of building a traction splint for a broken femur

But what about you? Should you take a Wilderness First Aid course? I can help you answer that quite easily. Just answer this one question:

Do you (or do you want to) spend time in the woods/mountains?

If you answered yes, then the answer to the first question is a big YES!

Even in an urban environment a little bit of knowledge can go a long way while waiting for an ambulance to arrive. In many cases it may make the difference between needing an ambulance (not cheap) or realizing the injury is stable and we can drive the person to the hospital ourselves. If you’ve ever witnessed an injury you may have stood by watching helplessly… what should we do? It can be a very long 10 minutes for the ambulance to get there… if you are in the mountains it’s even worse, help is hours away!

Simply put, 2 days + $160 tuition could save a life. Or save a leg. Or prevent an infection. Or eliminate the need for an outside rescue. Or make someone way more comfortable while waiting for outside help.

The benefits are huge, the drawbacks are nil.

If you can make it to the SOLO Campus in Conway, NH I recommend it as the learning environment and culture there adds something to the course but don’t let locality prevent you from taking a course. They are offered all over the US and with 111 courses scheduled from now to the end of the year you should be able to find one you can make it to! Use this link and then sort by state to see if there is one near you. It’s definitely a well spent two days!

About David Lottmann

David grew up skiing in the Whites and started climbing at a summer camp just north of Mt. Washington when he was 16. Those first couple of years solidified climbing as a lifetime passion. From 1996-2000 he served in the USMC, and spent the better part of those years traveling the globe (18 countries). After returning to civilian life he moved to North Conway to focus on climbing and was hired in 2004 as a Rock and Ice Instructor. Since then Dave has taken numerous AMGA courses, most recently attaining a Single Pitch Instructor. He has completed a Level 3 AIARE avalanche course, is a Level 2 Course Leader, holds a valid Wilderness First Responder and is a member of Mountain Rescue Service. When David isn't out guiding he enjoys mountain biking, kayaking, hiking, backcountry skiing, trying to cook something new once a week and sampling new micro-brews. He lives in Conway, NH with his wife Michelle, son Alex, and daughter Madalena.
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