Mountain First Aid – Part 2 and a few comments?

This the second part of a few thoughts on early Mountain Rescue First Aid /Emergency Care. I spoke about the efforts of the early pioneers like Donald Duff, I Jones and others. It is fantastic to see how far things have moved on and now the Mountain Rescue has its own Bespoke Courses at all levels and there are so many great providers out there a far cry from the early years. Your comments are welcome.

Over the years there has been Massive training /medical equipment/ improvements  in medical kit. This ranged from training, bespoke stretchers, lightweight oxygen bottles,  casualty bags and gear that has made things a lot better over the year. The use of helicopters the incredible skills of the winch men and crews have moved things to another level.


Hamish MacInnes designed his first folding stretcher in the early 1960’s. Made from aluminium alloy, some of those early stretchers are still in use. The design has been continuously improved over the years and they have been used on five Everest expeditions. The MK6 splits in two and is carried to an accident scene on special pack frames and is extremely rugged. The latest MK7 model, made from space age materials, has amazing strength and resistance to abrasion or low temperatures. This one piece stretcher meets the requirements for disasters, military operations, dedicated helicopter work and mountain rescue. Nowadays there are many stretchers all designed for the unique use in the mountains, a far cry from the early days

In the RAF we tried to keep up with the changes and I  felt for a time we were getting in my mind to complicated in the Para medic training. As a Team Leader it became so hard to keep those in date and proficient with training!  These were mainly part – time volunteers who found it difficult to get time off to attend training in local hospitals that was essential to stay current. Some RAF Team members got frustrated and in my view there were a few mistakes made in these early days . I had a few problems on big incidents when I had to call a halt on the medical side due to the danger of avalanches or time constraints and get the patient and the team out of the danger area. At times the troops got so involved in the medical side they forgot that our job was to get casualty to medical help as quick as possible after we had done what we could to assist. These problems took time to sort out but I feel that things got better over the years.

In the RAF MR we were sent on advanced course IEC at Halton and worked with the Oxford Ambulance service at the end of the course gaining experience.  It was great when we got a few RAF helicopter winchmen as instructors like, the late Mick Anderson and Ian Bonthrone. A few troops have now become NHS para medics after they left the service. We also trained with the USAF, Para Rescue in many training exercises and a few went to the USA to complete the course.

What can we do in wild conditions? At times the best is to get casualty of the hill as quickly and safely as possible.

In the end we now have a better balance of Mountain medical care and what we can do to in and it is always improving.Nowadays Mountain Rescue has its own Bespoke Courses but over the years great works has been done by many so medical providers with all teams running annual courses and many now have para medics in each team as standard. This is a long way from these early days and we must never forget those pioneers who pushed the standards.


A few comments from yesterday’s Blog:

Three P’s principal got lost at times? Comments welcome … v true bt I’d use ‘KISS (Keep it Simple Stupid); there’s only so much you can do on the hill-side without a hospital. It’s easy to get ‘sucked in’ to focus on the casualty’s medical problem whilst the big picture is saying to get out ASAP. I think most casualties in mountain accidents are either dead before the MRT arrive (‘cos usually it takes so long to assemble team & get there) or get killed by the environment (cold, wet, distance / time to hospital). Helicopters often get there quicker, so get the casualties that are ‘nearly dead’.

I always recall Mick Anderson’s brief explanation to me in training (my IEC at Halton & again on Mt Kenya) – identify the injured part of casualty & strap it to their head. Of course, you can’t actually do that but it has all the key messages for me:

1) Don’t fart about trying to get a ‘perfect’ medical fix, you can’t

2) Imobilise head+neck – they may not thank you @ time but its a lifestyle saver

3) imobilise injured parts so they don’t get worse

4) elevate the same injured bits to reduce bleeding / swelling.

5) With your now secure cas, get off the hill & to hospital ASAP where they have the clever gear & environment to do the medical bit.

6) Life saving is possible with minimal kit.

From M Gibson


G Mac – Always mind the slide show showing different injuries and wounds, with some preceded by a warning in a welsh accent – “This is a particularly gory slide…” Followed a short while latter by the sound of someone in the room passing out and hitting the floor! This was Oh years back it was down at Ullswater when I did my Ieuan Jones – it was a requirement for MIA at the time!

Chalky White –  It was difficult to differentiate between the “slightly gory slide” and the “particularly gory slide”. Great courses and loads of fun injecting each other!! The late Tony Jones ran ours at RAF Kinloss 79/80.

Mick Taylor –  Spent time in Bangor A&E working with Ieuan in preparation for USAF, Para Rescue 7th level (EMT) medical training at Kirtland AFB, Albuquerque, New Mexico, USA. Still have photos etc as does (possibly) Pete Weatherill

Woody – I think Ieuan ,changed everything ,prior to his input ,I think our general philosophy had been ,get to the casualty ,get them off the hill asap ,often before they died ! .

Frank Mac – I re member Ieuan well through my times at Stafford & later at Kinloss. A great man who shared many of his experiences with us all

Kev Mitchell – If you ever have the pleasure of meeting Graham Percival ( trauma nurse specialist on helimed ) from our team his slides should carry a health warning – does the job though!! The general level of casualty care has increased massively over the last few years which is all good.

I think it is time I did a refresher, have you ?


Comments welcome.

About heavywhalley.MBE

After dinner speaker Lecturer and Mountain Rescue Specialist. Environmentalist. Spent 36 years with RAF Mountain Rescue and 4 years with a civilian Team . Still an active Mountaineer and loves the wild places.
This entry was posted in Enviroment, Equipment, medical, Views Mountaineering, Weather. Bookmark the permalink.

One Response to Mountain First Aid – Part 2 and a few comments?

  1. Mo Richards says:

    It was Ieuan Jones who realised back in the sixties that it was moving severely hypothermic casualties that was killing them, so try to stabilise them first.
    As a Langdale Team member I did a cannulation course in Middlesborough with Graham Percival, late 80’s I think. Great guy.


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