The Life You Save May Be Your Own

Students practice wilderness first aid at North Country Community College.

One of the great draws of being outdoors is the serendipity of events, like glimpsing an eagle perched in a tree as you round the bend of a river or finding a clump of yellow lady’s slippers in deep woods. One other aspect of the human/nature interface is how simple, random events can become life-threatening, as the rescues described last week show.

This spring several workshops teach how to deal with backcountry accidents and ailments, from asthma attacks to spinal-cord trauma. For group leaders and those who want to be better prepared for tripping in every season there are sessions in Lake Placid, Lake George, Paul Smiths and Saranac Lake, all led by experts. Expect hands-on practice in the woods, demonstrations and discussions in the classroom, and plenty of insight on what can go wrong and how to handle a tricky situation when you’re far from conventional help.

On March 24–25, at Adirondak Loj, Wilderness Medical Associates (WildMed) will teach how to deal with emergencies in Wilderness First Aid (WFA). The class costs $235, and a package including two nights’ lodging and meals at the Adirondack Mountain Club’s High Peaks base camp is $320. To register email or call (518) 523-3441.

Among the scores of WFA courses taught worldwide this year by SOLO will be one held April 14–15 at Lake George’s Camp Chingachgook: This course details the anatomy of a wilderness emergency as well as anatomy of the human body, covering hypothermia to heat exhaustion, sprains and strains to lacerations, risk assessment to evacuation plans. The course costs $185 for commuters or $225 for one overnight and four meals. To register, email or call (518) 656-9462. These courses in Kattskill Bay are very popular, so if April won’t work for you or the session is filled, try for the same program on May 19–20.

This SOLO WFA course will also be offered April 14–15 at Paul Smith’s College. Contact or call (518) 327-6389. At post time there is a waiting list, but check on future WFA offerings on campus.

For people who have completed CPR and basic backcountry first-aid certification, Paul Smith’s College is sponsoring a 55-hour Wilderness First Responder (WFR) course May 6–12. The cost is $450, which does not include lodging or meals. Contact Kristen Domas at the email and phone above.

The 70-hour WFR course at North Country Community College, in Saranac Lake, provides much greater depth than WFA training and is a tremendous asset to search-and-rescue personnel, researchers, outdoor educators, licensed guides and trip leaders. From May 13–20 WildMed’s experts present difficult scenarios that require rapid critical thinking as well as emergency medical techniques. If you need to learn CPR and basic first aid as well as wilderness leadership skills, this is the gold standard for learning how to master disasters in remote areas. To learn more contact Sarah Maroun at or call (518) 891-2915 x243. This workshop costs $725 and does not include meals and lodging.