By John Kerkhofs (22 November 2021)

I remember a while back in the Christchurch Tramping Club (CTC) committee meeting when a committee member raised the issue of first aid.

Should we carry first aid kits on our tramping expeditions? (Maybe.)

Does the club have kits that the trip leader can carry? (Another maybe.)

But do we know how to use them? (Sounds like another maybe.)

My solution is to take a personal nurse along on my trips, but that won’t cover all of them. Besides, I strongly suspected that there was more to first aid than opening up the kit, selecting the right size of band-aid and dispensing some painkillers or antihistamines. But wait, Federated Mountain Clubs will provide some funding to get proper training, so that seems like a good idea. Mary took care of the admin, which is her role as the training officer, and the Red Cross agreed to provide a three-hour first aid course for trip leaders and prospective trip leaders.

As I’m not leading terribly much these days, I didn’t pay a lot of attention until Mary asked me if I’d signed up. “Well, no,” was the answer, as I thought I’d leave it for the more active leaders. “There is still room,” she said, “so fine if you’re keen to join.” I’m locked in now . . . “But wait,” says Mary, “we need a report and some photos of the course for FMC and you do all those wonderful trip reports. Would you mind?” Flattery will get you everywhere, and there seemed to be little option at this point, so I agreed.

Then the requirements document arrived – between 400 and 800 words and four photos. Aargh! How am I going to write that much about a first aid course? And it didn’t strike me as a particularly photographic event either. I’m more geared up for photos of massive outdoor scenery and writing about how bad the weather was, or how somebody forgot their sleeping mat. However, it turned out to be not so bad. I mean, look at where I am in the story, I’m over 300 words in and have barely mentioned the course.

OK, time to focus on the task at hand. All tramping trips get a weather report.

Weather – There was weather of some kind, but it wasn’t relevant because the course was held indoors.

Scenery – Yep, the inside of the club rooms was the same as usual.

Participants – Didn’t get names, but I remember all thirteen of them and could probably pick them out of a line-up.



Trip leader – Barry from the Red Cross, assisted by a vast number of CPR mannequins.

I’ve never done a first aid course, so it wasn’t hard to forget all the stuff that Barry told us didn’t apply any more. Still, it was surprising how much I knew that I had to forget. For instance, don’t check for a pulse. Really? That’s right, it doesn’t matter. Check if the victim is breathing.



If they are breathing, they have a pulse. Not breathing, there won’t be a pulse, so start CPR.

Always check the breathing before sending or going for help – the first question will be, “Is the victim breathing?”



What’s the first thing to do? Nothing! That’s right, nothing. Stay where you are. Check the area for danger first. Protect yourself, as it’s no good having two victims and potentially no rescuer.

I knew about ABC – but I didn’t know about DR’S ABC. I’ve mentioned the danger already. Here’s the list:

  • D – Danger. Is the area safe? Look after yourself.
  • R – Response. Is the victim responsive to voice or pain? Don’t punch them, a sharp tap on the collarbone will do.
  • S – Send for help. Don’t go, unless you are alone. Check the breathing first.
  • A – Airways. Check for obstruction and unblock if necessary.
  • B – Breathing. Check for up to 10 seconds.
  • C – Circulation. Check for bleeding. Pack major bleeds with anything you have handy. Don’t worry about sterility, the hospital can deal with that later.

Epipens were a surprise. Several others, including myself, thought they were the lifesaver for bee and wasp stings. They are, but only for ten minutes, and then they wear off and you need another. Basically, you use the pen and hope that help arrives within ten minutes. Good luck getting a chopper that quickly if you push the PLB button.

Recovery position – Injured side down, pregnant women on their left, because the fetus will compress the Vena Cava on the right and stop blood return to the heart. That’s not a huge problem on tramping trips, but worth knowing anyway.



Don’t elevate bleeding limbs, it increases the blood pressure and the heart rate.

CPR – That has changed. It’s now 30 compressions at 2 per second, then two breaths. So much for Stayin’ Alive with the Bee Gees.



Hypothermia – We learnt about “The Umbles”. There are five identifiable stages worth remembering. They seem to be reasonably self-explanatory.

  • Grumble
  • Mumble
  • Fumble
  • Stumble
  • Tumble

We learnt about fugging.




a warm, stuffy or smoky atmosphere in a room.

Don’t put a hypothermic person by a heater – their blood will rush to the warm area and cause a cardiac arrest. Fugging is making a warm environment and putting the victim in it, such as hut mattresses and warm bodies with survival blankets over the top to retain the heat. A bothy bag will also do the job. We’re looking for warm and stuffy here, smoke would probably just make the situation worse.

Broken bones – Just push the PLB button. Somebody with a broken bone doesn’t want you touching them, much less trying to put a splint on them. Barry says so, and I can confirm from experience. Push the bloody button and give me painkillers. Lots!

There was more, but there’s only so much of a three-hour course that I can cram into a five-minute read, and I’ve exceeded my 800-word maximum by a surprising amount. It’s surprising how much can be learnt in three hours, and I’m keen to learn more.

This was a really worthwhile course. I’m so glad Mary organised it and the Christchurch Tramping Club is grateful for the funding from Federated Mountain Clubs that enabled it. I hope I never have to use any of the skills that I learned.

The Christchurch Tramping Club (CTC) was awarded a FMC Training Grant: a cash grant to support the club to access this professional training. To learn more about the Training Grant, or to apply, please visit the FMC website.