So much to learn about safety on the mountain. I know this is a broad topic, but I am sharing as much as possible that I am learning from the Washington Alpine Club’s Basic Climbing Class. The outings are getting longer and more detailed, so I am providing a summary of the classes I have attended and have not covered.
To move forward in the class, instructors want to make sure everyone can tie proper knots and know when the knots are used. Since the Mount Si outing, I have been practicing a variety of knots. It helped having the two knots lectures. Since I felt guilty about missing Snow 1, I decided to set up my practice rope while on the couch sick and tie knots. Fortunately, I figured out how to tie some of the ones I struggled with in the past and used the method that worked best for me–I was taught many ways to tie certain knots, which confused me until I figured out the best way for me.
After the Knots Test, a WAC member and Emergency Room doctor went over First Aid Kit Basics, The Big Three, Wounds & Bleeding, and Bones & Joints. Everyone’s first aid kits will vary depending on medical conditions, but we were given a list and reasons why medicines and items should be included in every kit.
A little knowledge for neck/spinal cord injuries, hypothermia, and lightning strikes can go a long way. Each were talked about in depth to ensure safety for the injured party and the rest of the group. The instructor asked for students to participate in demonstrations of correctly rolling and stabilizing the injured person. Since the class travels in snow and cold weather, hypothermia signs and solutions were covered. Lightening strikes may be rare in Washington, but I learned to always try CPR even if the person looks dead.
I participated in the bleeding scenario and failed miserably with the lack of materials given for the demo. After the demo, the instructor covered how to properly clean a wound. It is important to protect yourself, and I am glad I carry rubber gloves!
Lastly, bone and joints were covered with steps on determining how severe the injury. Check for asymmetry in the injured area and reduce any pressure or strain if possible. I learned how to fix a dislocated shoulder and how to splint using the L.A.C.E. acronym–Light, Adjustable, Comfortable, and Easy to make. For more knowledge, it is important to take a specific first aid or Wilderness Remote First Aid (WRFA) class.
Lastly, the instructor covered how to identify altitude illness and how to prevent and reduce symptoms.
Mountain Safety – Compounding Decisions
Making decisions as a group and personally can save your life. A guest instructor spoke of an incident from 2005 of fatalities in the North Cascades. After many interviews with the surviving climbers and examining the data, the instructor walked us through all the decision points of the disastrous climb. The goal of the lecture was not to cover the details of the accident but to show that every decision can compound to better or worsen your chances of surviving on a mountain. I learned it is important to know who you are climbing with and what their experience and comfort levels are. Also, everyone in the group should be comfortable to speak their concerns of safety and comfort.
Being a climber in Washington, I am happy to have Northwest Avalanche Center (NWAC). The NWAC reports the avalanche risks in the northwest and can be very informational when trip planning. Avalanches take lives every year, and the more I live in Washington, the more I understand the risk of avalanche dangers. In addition to talking about the forecast reports, the NWAC instructor talked about avalanches and highly recommended taking an AIARE Level 1 course for more information. The instructor tried his best to explain how different snowfall on other levels of snow can cause weak layers. He also talked about the different kind of avalanches and what tools are used to carry if in avalanche risk.
I can’t wait to share more lectures and outings with you. Be sure to follow along for live updates on Instagram!
What are some mountain safety tips to follow?
More in this series:
- Mountaineering – Is it for me?
- Mountaineering School – Gear and Navigation
- Mountaineering School – Knots, Knots, and Spire Rock
- Mountaineering School – Anchors and Climbing Mt. Erie
- Mountaineering School – Winter Camping, Ice Axe, and Snow I