May The Force be with you!
It’s Day 3, cold and snowing heavily. Visibility is very poor and just making out the contours of the snow slope is at very best ‘sketchy’. In the flat light Pete, our instructor, is asking us to close our eyes and ski ‘blind’ down the slope, trusting solely on the feedback from our feet following verbal instructions from a friend. We have already had a few hours of these de-constructed skiing lessons, which all seem to be aimed at trying to reduce skiing to an absolute minimalist approach. That afternoon Pete leaves us to our own devices and we head off-piste again to ski in perfect powder snow. The only drawback is the negligible visibility. Pete’s words ‘May The Force be with you’ echo through our minds as we drop silently through the trees, and then whoop with delight through the powder fields, knee deep in an horizonless champagne paradise.
The 2015 DiMM Advanced Course
Sixteen delegates assembled in Meribel for the 2015 DiMM Advanced Course, based at the luxurious Chouette Chalet. We were looked after in this culinary paradise by Lou, Stu, Chris and Kirsty of Delicious Mountain. Andy Clark and Kate Wilson had taken on the onerous task of herding the cats to the Alps, as well as getting College approval for the all important CPD points. A fallen rock closed the access road to Meribel, causing travel chaos for the later arrivals. However everyone eventually made it to the chalet but with some only getting a couple of hours sleep before breakfast and the start of a full-on week of mountain medicine and off-piste skiing.
Each day took on a similar format. A hearty (and for some a healthy) breakfast, was followed by four hours of ski lessons aimed at developing off-piste skills. After a quick lunch there were a couple of hours of ‘free skiing’ before a field based alpine scenario (for example, avalanche burials with transceiver practice) completed the afternoon on the slopes. It was then back to the chalet for tea and scrumptious cake. A pre-supper medical talk (with canapés and drinks) was followed by a superb four course meal that rivalled any restaurant dining. A final lecture and unwinding in front of the crackling log fire completed the hectic daily schedule.
The academic component of the course consisted of three hours per day of formal mountain medicine teaching, and covered a wide selection of alpine/altitude medical (and surgical) topics in both theoretical and practical settings. Enthusiastic participation by all was guaranteed, as the lectures and scenarios were supervised or delivered by the delegates themselves. Everyone contributed and learned. Pete Barry’s lecture on early flights over Everest and Tash Burley’s insights into working in New Zealand were my personal highlights from a selection of very high standard talks. The field avalanche scenario, with five buried bodies, took place in a snowstorm adding a real danger to the simulated challenges of dealing with multiple causalities in an austere setting.
The expertly-run scenarios offered an opportunity to revise systems for dealing with casualties on a mountain, as well as the specifics of skiing injuries and rescue techniques.
Scenarios involved trauma, packaging of casualties and medical problems encountered in the mountains. The Avalanche Scenario, locating victims and treating until definitive care, was conducted in strong winds with wet kit. So, in addition to revising search techniques and casualty protocols we had the opportunity to develop teamwork and leadership in a more personally challenging situation.
New Generation Ski Instructors gradually improved our technique in (occasionally difficult) skiing conditions, developing our skills in coping with a wide range of snow and terrain. My highlight was the whole group supporting each other on epic off-piste journeys.
In conclusion a great week’s alpine medical instruction set in a stunning chalet, looked after fantastically and with enthusiastic and talented delegates enjoying great snow and off-piste conditions.
(In no particular order) Andy Clark, David Hillebrandt, Evegny Mashkovkiy and Batima , Ian Evans, Pete Barry, John and Sue Higgie, Chris Imray, Mike Purkiss, Paul Richards, Tash Burley, Piotr Szawarski, Rhi Thomas, Alex Durran, and Lucy Coulter.
Special thanks to the superb care, attention, company, cuisine and general bonhomie from Delicious Mountain courtesy of Lou, Stu, Chris and Kirsty.
Sign up for the next course
Any Diploma in Mountain Medicine graduates interested in taking part in this or a similar course in 2016 should register their interest with Caroline Clay (firstname.lastname@example.org) in the first instance.