Weekend First Aid Course

Caves can be dangerous places, and our expedition will be far from help. It's important to be able to deal with any medical problems that arise quickly, before they become more serious. The Exploration Board at Imperial College required every expedition member to take a first aid course. They kindly agreed to fund a caving specific course for us, where we could practice our skills in a cave. Fortunately, the company Imperial College uses for much of its first aid training, Marlin Training has an instructor with considerable caving experience, Stuart Marshall, so it was easy to organise a weekend in the Mendips full of caving and first aid.


On Saturday, we got up early-sih (for a caving trip) and after a hearty breakfast we got into our caving kit to go to Goatchurch, just down the road from the Mendip Caving Group hut we were staying in. There were real wild goats watching us from the clifftops as we approached the cave entrance. Inside were the remains of the cast iron railings installed by Victorians who used Goatchurch as a show cave. Deeper in, we encountered both a hen party and a stag party, with tasteful tutus. Both groups seemed as perplexed to see us practising first aid as we were to see them in a cave.

Stuart quickly got us working on managing bleeding in the main cavern of Goatchurch, so we pulled out trauma dressings and tourniquets and practiced pressing on pressure points until we could reliable make each other yelp. The big take away from this exercise for me was how difficult it was to expose the site of the bleeding when the victim was in an overused and furry! Undressing an 'unconscious' patient was extremely difficult, especially when they're giggling at you.

We briefly pushed down to the bottom of Goatchurch (TOTALLY WORTH IT) then practiced some rolls, and putting people in the recovery position before heading out to the entrance to practice some carries. Back at the caving cottage we spent more time looking at slides and reviewing more material - it was a long and tiring day. For unfathomable reasons, Tanguy, Alex and Cecilia decided to go caving, mostly for a photoshoot, so Rhys, Oli and I stayed at the cottage to cook the world's best curry. A member of the Mendip Caving Group dropped by and gave us a bottle of his home made damson wine, which was incredibly generous and delicious.


The next day we started early with a lot more powerpoint slides and material. Propped up by cups of tea and kept attentive by Stuart's excellent lecturing, we covered illness, hypothermia, allergies and much more in short order. We did some practice for tractioning fractures and spine-stable rolls, as well as a lot of splinting practice.

In the afternoon we went to GB cavern, lured by promises of lots of pretty cave formations. The cave definitely delivered, and I'd love to go back to explore further as we were quite limited in time by our desire to get back to London. It was a really excellent weekend - I learned a lot, and it brought us together a group.

Jack Hare