– my personal views on all walks of outdoor life

Monthly highlights of November

Monthly highlights” is a series of post concentrating on a 10-month wilderness guide course I am taking this year at Niittylahden opisto near Joensuu in Eastern Finland. These posts try to summarize the best parts of each month and are naturally published at the end of each month (or in the beginning of the following month as it seems to be now). Hopefully you enjoy it!

Highlights of November: Advanced First Aid and Safety Management Courses!

Enjoying the sunset at Niittylahti instead of sitting in the class listening entrepreneurship lectures.

My November started with an additional week-off from the school that was spent packing stuff in my apartment and moving it to my parent’s place where I’ll be crashing for a while. During the week I missed some lectures about multi-culturalism and customer service but I don’t think those were especially crucial for my future professional skills. The second week of November was one of the best weeks of all the autumn period: Wildmed’s Wilderness Advanced First Aid course. The third week was filled with lectures and exercises about entrepreneurship which were quite familiar to me already. And the fourth week we spent in the woods on safety management & leading course.

Year's last morning swim in Niittylahti for me in snowfall at November 16th. It was cold.

The Wilderness Advanced First Aid (WAFA) was possibly the best course we’ve had in the school during the autumn period. It was a very intensive no-nonsense four-day first aid course specializing in wilderness context and held in English by Wildmed. There are two WAFA courses held in Finland annually in November. These are open to anyone interested and in addition to our guide student class there were four other people participating on the same course. In addition there is also an annual Bridge course to upgrade a WAFA certification into Wilderness First Responder certification, something I’m intending to do in the future. I won’t go too much into details about the course content as it is well presented on the Wildmed’s course description but I’ll write a few words about my personal experiences about the course.

Learning to inject epinephrine to treat anaphylaxis.

The course was very intensive: the days were filled with lectures and exercises from  08:30 until 18:00 or so and for the evenings we had 50-60 pages of reading to do. I believe that the intensity actually helped learning and enabled learning a huge amount of useful information and skills. Both the lectures and the hands-on exercices were good and in my opinion it all culminated to the often asked question “Makes sense, right?” And it made sense. Wildmed teaches a simple and effective assessment system for wilderness first aid and medicine that really makes sense, benefits learning and probably works very well also in real life situations. The teachers, Brad and Eric, were both experienced EMTs with outdoors, ski patrolling and SAR background meaning that they knew what they were teaching but in addition they were also good teachers and great dudes.

H cleaning a wound (on a chicken breast).

According to the teachers in USA the WAFA is seen as a good first aid skills level for someone doing trips to remote areas and I do agree. But for people taking customer groups to remote areas the Wilderness First Responder level is recommended and it sounds about right to me. Comparing this course to the first aid courses by Red Cross is somewhat pointless as in my opinion the WAFA is way superior. Mostly because it really makes sense. If you have the four days and about 400 euros to spare, go and do this course next year. You won’t regret it!


Yours truly assessing a patient with a TBI in a multi-patient exercise.

The safety management & leading (i.e. “Turvallisuusjohtaminen” in Finnish) was a lot discussed, rumored and anticipated course. There were some wild rumors concerning the six-day course but in the end it was a lot easier and more relaxed than I anticipated. I won’t be telling too much about the course so that the next years students can enjoy the uncertainty and intentional lack of information but in a nut shell: We spent six days in the woods with the Lumo11 course (a two-year vocational school program somewhat similar to our wilderness guide course) doing different tasks and exercises related to basic wilderness skills, first aid skills, leading and safety management.

Spending two minutes in the lake to get wet and cold...

We slept under tarps, we made a lot of fires. Sometimes we were cold, often we were wet. We didn’t get a full nights sleep every night, we didn’t always know where we were, neither did we always know what would happen next. Sometimes we walked longish distances, sometimes we didn’t. Sometimes someone got lost, lost motivation or got sick. Sometimes we had big multi-patient first aid cases. (Where the WAFA skills came very handy!) It was quite a good exercise though I see also a lot of room for improvement. For me it was relatively easy and in the beginning I was occasionally bored. But one gets what one wants. For example after deciding to make all the fires (We made a lot of them!) with a fire steel and without any special tinder instead of using matches and tinder carried with me, making fires started to be an interesting challenge. The weather was quite challenging as the course started with snow and temperatures below -5C but in the halfway the temperatures rose above freezing and occasionally it rained heavily. My kit worked out pretty well though it wasn’t the optimal kit for the conditions and tasks: over 2kg weighting serious winter down bag, Inov8 Rocklite 390s without gaiters, a traditional puukko (I want a big full tang blade now!) and so on.  But I wanted to use my typical hiking kit to see how it manages and a lot of my kit worked really well like the Haglöfs Flexable softshell, PHD Minimus down vest, Fenix Hp10 headlamp, Evernew Pasta Pot (Btw. it’s also great for coffee as the holes in the lid act as a filter!) and so on. It was an interesting experience to camp and tarp almost a week in such conditions. Occasionally a bit miserable but mostly very enjoyable.

In a summary it was a nice exercise though it could have been even better if it would have been more challenging and better planned regarding the first aid cases. It was a nice experience and I learned some new things, honed some old skills and it was very interesting to learn to know the Lumo people a bit better.

... before, once again, making a fire.

As I wrote earlier the autumn period in the school is now done from my part and I’ll be having few weeks of before starting my internship period in Husky Center Kolmiloukko. Because of this there might not be a post about the highlights of December but a summary post about the whole internship period later in January. And when school starts again, I’ll start again with the monthly posts at  the end of January.

At the moment temperatures are well above freezing and it’s been occasionally raining quite heavily. Seems like a depressing start for December with no sign of snow. I hope that the winter would set in soon so I could start skiing. Meanwhile, I might take my packraft and drysuit for a final paddle before the lakes freeze…


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