Written By Justin Ibarra
Operations Manager & Lead Guide at Colorado Adventure Guides
Phantom Team Rider
It was a beautiful February morning in the Rockies. The skies were clear and the winds calm, and, more importantly, a storm had just dropped over a foot of snow the previous day. Prime conditions for an amazing day of backcountry splitboarding and so you and your main touring partner plan to head out to take advantage. Utilizing your previous experience and avalanche training, together you decide on a familiar zone to ski. With the plan to stick closer to the trailhead, completely avoid avalanche terrain and ski some mellow glades and tree shots you all meet that morning at the trailhead.
Pleasantly surprised you arrive to see an empty trailhead. The stoke is rising! A quick transition and reconfirming of the plan for the day, along with a departure check and your off. Breaking trail in well over a foot of new snow and you're both grinning from ear to ear the entire time. About an hour later you arrive at your spot and transition. Looking down at over 1k ft of pure bliss below with perfectly spaced trees and a consistent pitch near 28 degrees, it’s going to be a good one. With hollers of joy you both drop, leapfrogging down the run as clouds of cold smoke and faces plastered with snow disappear with every turn. This is what it's all about!
Then all of a sudden you hear a loud snap followed by a wretched scream from your buddy. Looking down you see your friend bent around a tree. As you ski down you know something is not right. A few seconds later you get to your buddy and he is screaming about his leg, pointing to his thigh. You do your best to get his leg exposed to check and upon examination you notice a disfiguration to his thigh and a swelling happening fast. What do you do now?
This could be a life or death scenario, and one that could happen to any of us. This is also something that you are not going to learn in an avalanche education course. I recently just recertified my Wilderness First Responder Course last weekend with Desert Mountain Medicine in Leadville. This is a training that I have held for 15 years, but one that requires a recertification every 3. Every time that I recertify, I am supremely happy that this is the case. These are perishable skills and hopefully ones that unless we are in the medical field, are not using very often. Wilderness medicine is also one that is ever evolving and there are many standards and protocols that have changed even in the past 5-10 years. While avalanche education has become a staple for backcountry education, I hope that people also understand the importance to the other “facets” of traveling into the backcountry such as medical training. Coupled with basic CPR training, there are a few different types of first aid courses that you can look for. (Wilderness Course Descriptions from DMM)
Antibacterial ointment (coconut oil)
Tincture of Benzoin (bandage adhesive)
Assorted adhesive bandages (band-aids)
Butterfly bandages / adhesive wound-closure strips
Non stick Gauze pads (4x4)
Hemostatic (blood-stopping) gauze
Ace or Coban Wrap
Transparent film dressing
Benadryl or Clariton
Sunburn relief gel or spray
Glucose or other sugar
Ibuprofen / other pain-relief medication
Insect sting / anti-itch treatment
Extra facial covering
Medical / surgical gloves (avoid latex)
Small notepad with waterproof pencil or pen
Medical waste bag (plus box for sharp items)
First-aid manual or information cards
While most pre-made first aid kits can be a great start, you will usually need to add or subtract certain items from the kit.
Well thanks for reading and hopefully this little write-up helps to solidify the importance of first aid training , or at least was a good refresher on the importance of remembering to check your kit. Again, visit Desert Mountain Medicine for all of your wilderness medical needs. And better yet, take an avalanche course with us to receive a discount on your medical training! Have a safe and fun season out there!