Saturday night was a bit of a restless night. We had some serious snoring going on and the sounds of a black bear nearby. Day 1 of Killington Mountain Guides’ Backcountry First Aid & Evacuation Course had gone really well and I thought for sure that I would sleep like a baby. It wasn’t meant to be, and I was up before the sun. After breaking down my camp and repacking my Thule Capstone 40L pack it was time to head down the mountain. Breakfast was served and there was a fire in the fire pit where we gathered for our morning session.
Our morning started with another debriefing of the rescue from Day 1. We talked about what was done right, what could have been done differently, and what we would have done had things been worse. This quickly transitioned into splinting joints. It’s fairly common to hear of someone spraining their ankle or twisting their wrist in a fall. Most of our trails in the northeast are covered in rocks and roots after all. We dug into our packs to see what we had to help splint. Jackets, webbing, camping mattresses, and sticks from the woods were all used.
While we were working on splints Bob, our head instructor, was out setting a scenario up. Once everything was set up he came over and acted as if he was a bystander who witnessed an accident in the backwoods by a climbing area. We geared up and got ready to head out on a rescue mission. I volunteered to be the leader for the mission and got a few other volunteers for other key jobs like radio and recording patient conditions. Bob led us to the area where we saw climbing ropes set up from above. Upon closer inspection we saw our “victim” unconscious at the bottom of the climb. We all moved safely down to our “victim” and practiced all of the steps we had been learning about.
Our mission ended when we successfully carried out our “victim” in the Stokes Litter to the trailhead. Over lunch we debriefed with Bob, Chris, and Dave who was acting as our victim. It was interesting to hear Dave’s point of view of how it felt when we got the camping mattress under him and what it was like to be in the litter.
The day wouldn’t be complete without a hike up to our camping area again. Saturday night we were scheduled to have a lesson on making primitive shelters and then get a chance to make them ourselves. Since we were called out for the real rescue we didn’t have a chance to do this. Before we were called out Chris had set up two shelters which he now showed us. Chris has a huge wealth of knowledge about trees and was able to even give us tips about the best types of trees to use for what.
With Chris having us otherwise occupied, Bob was able to set up our second scenario. This time we were on a search and rescue. We didn’t have a witness. All we knew was that there was a hunter that was last seen at a location and was past due to be home. We were given some other information including his name, the type of quad he was driving, and his age. First up was locating our missing hunter. This turned out to be very challenging with ten of us spread out trying to walk through the woods. We only had one radio so we had to remain in sight and sound of the person next to us. When we located our missing hunter we jumped right in to administering first aid and checking him for injuries. It was established that our hunter had a leg injury so we splinted his leg and got him on an improvised litter to carry out.
As the day winded down we split into two groups. One group needed to get their CPR certification and the other group worked with Chris on map and compass skills. My map skills are pretty good, but my compass skills were a bit lacking. It was helpful to get a refresher and some tips for using the compass. I also know this is something I need to work more on.
The weekend was a great success for me. I was able to learn and experience many things that will allow me to be a better hike leader, even if it’s just me and dad out hiking. The skills that we learned are helpful for anyone who spends time in the backcountry be it hiking, mountain biking, ultra running, or adventure racing. I highly recommend this course and I look forward to seeing what other courses Killington Mountain Guides will offer in the future.