However, that was pretty much as far as it ever got – thinking about it.
With all the time I spent climbing (sometimes in remote places with just my climbing partner for company), or heading out into the hills for a walk (often on my own), or speeding downhill on some technical mountain biking terrain, I knew that having some kind of first aid knowledge would be a sensible move.
Like many people partaking in outdoor activities which the non-active person perceives as dangerous (incidentally, don’t even get me started on being told that I’m taking risks by people who do little more than watch tv or visit the pub), the thought of an accident or injury occurring was in my general awareness but always parked in the back of my brain. I suspect it’s often the way we keep doing the activities we love so much – if we thought too hard about all the dangers, we’d probably struggle to make it out from underneath the duvet in the morning.
When I went over the handle bars of my mountain bike earlier this year, using my face as the landing pad, my whole perspective of accidents and adventures altered. I was on my own when it happened, but thankfully had amazing support and care from strangers, first aiders, ambulance crew, doctors and A&E staff.
The experience led me to change my thinking about accidents in the outdoors. I decided to become involved with the supporters group for my local mountain rescue organisation and finally booked onto a 2 day outdoor first aid training course with Peak Mountaineering.
The others course participants were there to gain the first aid certification required when working in the outdoor industry and most had undergone some form of first aid training in the past. Conversely, I had no need for certification and, with no prior training, plenty of catching up to do. However, the structure of the course meant that my lack of experience had no bearing on my ability to participate in the practical exercises right from the start.
The first day was spent indoors and began with the basics. Through a process of repetition, we built up to putting people into the safe airway (recovery) position and performing CPR. Importantly, we were reminded throughout the day of the differing situations pertinent to an outdoor environment.
By the end of the day, my head was spinning with the amount of information learned – maybe it was because everything was so new to me. There was so much to take on board that I wondered whether I would actually remember anything. However, the repetition throughout the day meant that we were continually practising things learned right at the start.
The next morning, we were in the classroom again and learning such things as splinting broken legs – whoever knew that a walking pole and some rope could be used to put a leg in traction! During the afternoon, we headed outside and the trainers gave us various emergency situations requiring a first aid response.
I’ll be honest and say that the heat of the moment floored me on a couple of occasions – like working out the most efficient way to wrap a person in a plastic sheet to keep them warm in cold weather (for some reason, my brain struggled to visualise where to put the sheet before rolling my casualty, leading to some interesting improvisation). It was reassuring to see that others were having similar brain freezes during the various scenarios!
Thankfully, the assessment for certification was observation throughout the weekend, which meant the pressure to perform was less intense than being put into an exam situation at the end of the training.
The course was packed full of relevant information for anyone who spends lots of time in the outdoors and I now feel more comfortable should I find myself in an emergency situation (although equally I hope to never be in that position).
Apparently I chose a good course – I heard it said that more had been learned on the weekend than during previous 4-day first aid at work courses.
From my point of view, I found the trainers full of knowledge, with the ability to deliver the training in a fun, informative and structured format. I also found the continual reference to an outdoor setting and ideas for improvisation in the hills incredibly useful.
The bonus was when I received my certificate. It was never my reason for going on the training, but I have to admit to a smile of pride when it arrived in the post.
Click here to see a picture of the course participants on the Peak Mountaineer Facebook page.