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2021 Rock Climbing, Dan Bottomley and Harry Lewis, Outdoor First Aid Course

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First Aid in a time of Covid

Itโ€™s currently quite difficult to imagine why in December, the start of another period of nationwide interminable boredom, we choose to book a climbing trip to Malawi for June under the assumption that It would go ahead. But we did and weโ€™re still hoping that the border situation might change in time for us to go.

Weโ€™re both experienced climbers living in Sheffield. Our plan is to go and establish a new route in the Mulanje Massif in Malawi, home to some of Africaโ€™s biggest walls. The main attraction is the Chambe wall, 1800m of granite slabs, some of which we are hoping will be devoid of enough grass tufts to produce good, honest, hard climbing. Between us weโ€™ve got experience climbing all across the UK, Europe and further afield on sea cliffs, mountain crags and everything in between. This trip however, will be the first time either of us have attempted anything that could come close to being described as an expedition.

With that came a desire to remove some of the mist around first aid. Between us weโ€™ve come across a few accidents at the crags, ground falls, head injuries, broken bones excetra. Sometimes the casualty was us, other times climbing partners. Throughout weโ€™ve always muddled through, and got to the point where we can cart someone off to A&E. Unfortunately, thatโ€™s not going to be an option this time around. Getting a casualty to the ground on this trip will be a multi hour affair with numerous abseils, followed by a long walk out to arrive at a small town with a basic field hospital. Pragmatically we decided that knowing a few tricks for stabilising a casualty might be a useful set off skills to hold.

At the start of March we both attended a two day accredited outdoor first aid course. We were looking to get some ideas on how to stabilise any broken bones, deal with massive blood loss and head trauma. In short the likely injuries from a climber fall or rock fall, ones that need to be dealt with urgently. Over the two days we spent time dealing with various scenarios. Whilst our newfound ability to roll a placid casualty into the recovery position may not come in much use whilst in suspension on a big wall, we were given plenty of opportunity to practice splinting broken bones and dress major wounds using a very limited amount of equipment. The classroom sessions also covered diagnosis of shock and dealing with environmental conditions. Our instructor was patient enough to allow us to attempt to derail his delivery and offered plenty of advice that was well outside the scope of the course.

Our original intent was to complete a three-day first aid course, that is still the plan, but that final day is hard to come by at the moment. Hopefully when the restrictions ease, we will be able to book our final day and if we canโ€™t before we leave?ย  We will still be heading out to Africa with a much stronger knowledge of what to do when the sky falls on our head.

Our thanks to the Jack Bloor Race Fund for providing us both with financial support to cover some of the cost of the course.