The definitive wilderness course in medical training, leadership, and critical thinking for outdoor, low-resource, and remote professionals and leaders. The Wilderness First Responder program is the ideal medical training for leaders in remote areas including outdoor educators, guides, military, professional search and rescue teams, researchers, and those involved in disaster relief. The Wilderness First Responder curriculum is written in-house by a team of remote medical rescue researchers and professionals. The General Principles of Wilderness and Rescue Medicine with an emphasis on the prevention and identification of medical emergencies, appropriate technology, and risk management. Patient assessment and emergency care including CPR, basic Life support, and the emergency treatment of anaphylaxis and asthma.
Environmental Medicine including altitude illness, hypothermia and heat illness, frostbite and cold injury, lightning, submersion, and environmental toxins. Musculoskeletal Problems including unstable and stable injuries overuse syndromes, and dislocations. Practical skills including splinting, bandaging, litter packaging and medical kit preparation. WMA International Wilderness Protocols including wound cleaning and exploration, spine injury assessment, dislocation reduction, CPR in the remote setting, and anaphylaxis and asthma. As part of Wilderness Medical Associates International’s commitment to your medical rescue training, our instructors and management will consult your group’s needs and teach according to your group’s backgrounds, environments, and experience.
This course is traditionally scheduled for eight days of instructional and practice time, though some hosts offer a seven-day or five-day format.
Successful completion with certification is based on 100% attendance, satisfactory performance on homework assignments and written quizzes, demonstrated proficiency with practical skills and a successful grade on a final written exam. Runners head to the trails to get away from life’s problems and to escape from the responsibilities of modern life. As the saying goes, “an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure.” The most common things that happen to trail runners are getting lost, getting stuck out in bad weather, and not having enough food and water.
Just recently, a friend of mine who was crewing at Western States set out for what she thought was an easy eight-mile run on some unfamiliar trails at Squaw Valley, California without any food or water. Earlier this spring, I went for a run with some friends in nearby McDonald Forest, a place where we all knew the trails well. Despite the best preparations, things can still go wrong–usually in the form of an injury. The truth is, while I’ve run and worked in the mountains and other wild places, I’ve spent the majority of the last 10 years running trails in San Antonio, Texas. I decided to circle my neighborhood until I came up with a good angle–or a story that might drive home an important point, or at least something amusing. And it will happen somewhere along a trail where help won’t be quick in coming–somewhere you won’t be able to just walk into your house, call it a day, and lie on the couch with a bag of frozen peas on your ankle watching this season’s Salomon Running TV videos.
The runner you’re pacing runs into a low-hanging tree branch, gets knocked down, and sees black for a few eye blinks. Snake bites, allergic reactions, blisters, hyponatremia, immersion foot… It’s wonderful to have skills and knowledge that allow you to help other people–especially other people who are runners. Three of the most widely recognized organizations in the United States that offer wilderness medicine training are: The Wilderness Medicine Institute (WMI), Wilderness Medical Associates (WMA), and Stonehearth Open Learning Opportunities (SOLO).
The most unsafe I’ve probably ever been on a trail run was coming off Mount Elbert in Colorado in a lightning storm. I sat in my car afterward, relieved my family wouldn’t have to apologize for my stupidity to a search-and-rescue team.
The whole thing was such a tired example of letting a plan or an important goal or time pressure supersede thoughtful hazard evaluation and decision making. What is your ‘close-call’ story, where you took a tumble, came across an accident on the trail, got stuck out in storms, or temporarily lost your way? More importantly, can you articulate the lessons you learned from your close call and what you regularly do differently now to prevent something similar from happening again in the future? Trail Sisters is a group of three women, each with unique opinions, ideas, and attitudes toward all things trail and ultrarunning. After reading a blog post from a local runner who broke his pelvis on a fairly routine trail I frequent I got a satellite GPS messenger. A couple years back it started snowing at the Continental divide during the San Juan Solstice 50 miler end of June. I took the Wilderness First Aid course this spring and agree that it’s a fantastic way to spend a weekend if you spend time outdoors.


For those of us who have been running for a long time — and running long — there are probably too many close calls to count!
But what were pretty good conditions at the parking lot turned into knee deep post-holing thru spring snowpack as I ascended. As the sun started to set, I came across a large, ice-choked stream and drew on some very basic backwoods knowledge and followed it downstream. Ongoing evidence based research and review contributes to a unique and innovative approach to patient care in backcountry and austere settings.
Upon successful completion, students will receive a Wilderness First Responder certification and certification of CPR taught to an equivalent health care provider level. Wilderness Medical Associates International is committed to making reasonable accommodation to any student with special needs. But trail running can present some problems of its own, particularly if one gets a little too carefree when heading out into nature.
She ran into deep snow at high elevations and had to retrace her steps, turning her eight-mile run into 12. Even if you don’t get lost, trail conditions can make things a lot slower than you expect, natural water sources can be unreliable, or the weather conditions can make you need more than usual.
Fortunately, we have Liza on our team, an instructor for the Wilderness Medicine Institute and the National Outdoor Leadership School, to help us out here! Pam writes so well, and is always on point, and when she sent me what she’d written this month, I just couldn’t come up with anything to add besides: You all should go take a 16-hour Wilderness First Aid course. Our trails are beautiful and plentiful, but they don’t lend themselves to memorable trail-safety stories. As valuable as the first-aid skills you’ll learn on a these short courses are (taping rolled ankles, supporting twisted knees, wound care, and more), WFA’s also teach a system for gathering information.
A Wilderness First Aid course is 16 hours long and taught over two days–and it’s more fun than any standard first-aid class you’ve ever taken. Map, extra food and water, lightweight rain shell, and a course in wilderness first aid, but the one thing that I would like to add is the simple task of telling a friend or loved one where you plan on running and an approximate time you will return. We decided to wrap his ankle with my Buff to provide it with some support, and then made our way down the scree field and eventually back to the car. I sprinted, eyes on treeline, thinking about how no one would feel sorry for me if I got hit by lightning running off the top of Mount Elbert in a storm. When you are on a trail there are plenty of things to trip you up, both literally and figuratively.
A runner pointed out we weren’t too far from a small trailhead in a residential neighborhood.
Sure no one wants to envision the worst, but the second you start believing your invincible…is the second things go downhill.
I had an experience recently where I met up with a new running group and I followed them into the hills- in 90 degree weather- for a 4 mile run.
It includes the essential principles and skills required to assess and manage medical problems in isolated and extreme environments for days and weeks if necessary. Relevant adult education is incorporated directly into our curriculum to maximize learning of medical theory into practical skills. Many of the problems in trail running stem from poor preparation or safeguards against the most common problems.
And while this may seem like beginner-level advice, I’ve heard countless stories from very experienced runners who have run into trouble by being under-prepared.
When the main connector road was impassable due to logging, we decided to take a spur that none of us had ever done before.
This takes minimal investment on my part, but ensures that I’ll have a reference to double check when I come to a junction. I find I like to eat more than usual when it is cold and I drink more than usual when it is hot. Our snakes are disinterested, and while you can get lost for a while, it’s impossible to stay lost.
And if you’re running or racing in remote wilderness areas, and you don’t have these basic skills…well, I think you should get them. Sure, your plans may change a bit when you are out on the trail, but alerting someone to your proposed route or trailhead can be a life saver. He easily could have become hypothermic, which would have led to larger problems, and even possible death.


While they can be a nice playground if you know what you are doing, they are not a playground.
This is the most current and cutting edge course of any first response medical training (urban or remote) in the world. By the time she was finished, she was severely dehydrated and laid up all afternoon from exhaustion and vomiting.
It turns out the road did NOT go where a few people assumed it did, and we ended up in a valley on the wrong side of the mountain 18 miles into a planned 20-mile run and still at least 12 miles from the car. For most trail systems a simple printout is sufficient, but if you are headed out into more remote areas, it is a good idea to pick up a topographic map of the area and learn how to use a compass.
Certainly heat emergencies are a safety hazard here, but the heat is really the last thing to inspire memorable writing at the end of July in Texas. I turned, sprinted down the road, up my driveway, tripped, twisted my ankle, skinned my knee, and sliced my finger open.
There are also some wonderful resources WMI has online and a great free app you can use to record information.
Gina Lucrezi is a Colorado-based short-distance speedster exploring the realms of ultrarunning.
Three faster runners took off to get to the parking lot (2-3 miles away) and move a car to the nearby trailhead. Two or three hundred extra calories only weighs a couple ounces, but it may prevent that bonk when you are the most desperate! Meanwhile, three of us used jackets to immobilize his arm against his body and to keep him warm.
Fortunately, one person knew someone who lived nearby and we sheepishly knocked on the door and got a ride back to our cars!
Similarly, there are many lightweight jackets and rain shells that weigh only a couple ounces and fit in a small pocket.
Then we helped him walk out with support, reaching the trailhead shortly after the car did.
I have also printed out race course or training run maps with the aid station locations, milage to the next aide, etc., and carried that in a baggie as well.
Weather in the mountains can change quickly, even if it looks like a beautiful bluebird day.
With knots of worry in my stomach, I hopped in my car and drove to the trailhead from which Ted was starting. Flashes of lightning followed me into the trees and kept me moving fast for another 15 minutes–long enough to be sore the following day.
Two of us accompanied him to the emergency room, where his family met him and he was treated. I was running in a panicked state which was scary and it kept my eyes distracted from the dirt trail I was running on. I think once you have been running in the wilderness a while and nothing bad happens to you you might tend to get a little careless. I brought some extra food, water, and an extra rain jacket since it had just stormed (and since they weigh next to nothing). I ran for about five miles following his route and found the area he had planned to bushwhack.
I looked up the scree field and about a quarter of the way down from the top was Ted curled up in a ball, drenched, and shivering.
He severely rolled his ankle and was forced to take cover (the best he could) during the storm. But I feel I learned a valuable lesson about never underestimating the value of being prepared.
By the time the storm passed, his ankle was so swollen that he was practically crawling down the scree field.
I had a tiny uncomfortable experience that taugh me a BIG lesson and I have changed my running preparations since.



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