Hathersage Mountain Medicine Week 2018

Posted by David Hillebrandt on 16/06/2018
BMC Mountain Medicine Weekend volunteers. Photo: Dr David Hillebrandt
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June 2018 saw 40 doctors, nurses and paramedics converge on Hathersage in the Peak District, for five days of teaching and sharing of cutting edge knowledge about the practice of mountain medicine in the UK and abroad. For a second year Dr Raj Chatha attempted to organise this disparate group, ably helped by Denzil Broadhurst.

What is mountain medicine?

It ranges from treatment of blisters on a hill walk in Snowdonia, advice for people with pre-existing medical conditions on safe ways to enjoy the hills, prevention of musculoskeletal injuries in rock climbers, assessment of a casualty in a remote area, management of altitude illness, to techniques for surviving above 7000m.

BMC Mountain Medicine Weekend

The third BMC Mountain Medicine Weekend (9-10 June 2018) consisted of a team of mountain medics running five daily one hour workshops on a variety of topics for non-medical climbers, hill walkers and mountaineers. An hour gives time to establish the needs of the group members and to tailor the presentation to each group. At any one time groups would be seen scattered round the village pumping up a hyperbaric altitude chamber, learning how to deal with a car accident en route to the crag, practicing expedition dental repairs, assessing fallen climbers or heating pots of water to thaw frostbite.      

Medics kicked back with a beer and BBQ on the Saturday evening, followed by a life and times talk by Dr Jim Duff of not only SW Everest fame, but a lifelong mountain medicine expert who designed an early robust hyperbaric bag. Older members of the audience enjoyed seeing past heroes in flared trousers at Everest Base camp.

Dr Jim Duff gives a hyperbaric bag demonstration. Photo: Dr David Hillebrandt.

Advanced Diploma in Mountain Medicine course

On Sunday evening the audience changed as the lay BMC visitors departed and we switched to two days of intensive mountain medicine for medical professionals. Monday’s emphasis was on children at altitude with presenters ranging from 11 year old Tom Sambridge telling us of his adventures on rock climbs, mountain bikes and on ice routes to those unnamed experts with grey hair who now climb at reduced grades. Tuesday’s theme was limb injuries and presentations challenged conventional cautious medical rehabilitation advice.

British Mountain Medicine Society

Wednesday saw the birth of the British Mountain Medicine Society (BMMS). Although the t-shirts have been available for two years, the gestation for this long needed society has taken three years. Membership is open to all with an interest in the subject and the theme of the launch lecture was 'Surviving in the Death Zone'. The course organisers (Jeremy Windsor, Parminder Chaggar and Andy Tomlinson) had put together a fantastic blend of mountaineering and medical expertise. Several highly experienced 8000m climbers gave presentations, combined with the views of doctors such as Charlie Clarke and input from high altitude expedition companies and equipment manufacturers.

All five days were blessed with good weather with afternoons free to climb, walk, bike or sleep after the lively evening social scene.

When and what next?

There will be another major mountain medicine course in 2020, but keep your eyes peeled for further gatherings run by the BMC and the BMMS in the mean time. 


Training courses with The BMC

Are you looking to learn new skills, coach or take people climbing, mountaineering or hill walking? The BMC host a wide range of courses, lectures and workshops that could suit your needs.

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