I just finished a ten-day Wilderness First Responder (WFR) course here in Moab, UT and I am glad to say that I passed with flying colors. I actually feel prepared to deal with most any emergency I might face in the backcountry and I can't believe I went so long without getting WFR certified. If you spend a lot of time in a wilderness setting and haven't taken a WFR course you should drop everything and sign up for the next available class. Trust me. Not only will you gain the knowledge to keep you and your partners safe, but you'll feel confident to help anyone in need in the wilderness. Plus most people who take these courses are awesome and I just made a whole new string of great friends stretching from Alaska to Arizona.
One quick funny story from the class: Near the end of the course we conducted a night-time emergency scenario in the desert outside Moab. I was a mock patient in the exercise and was supposed to be suffering from an open fracture of my right tibia and fibula (lower leg). The instructors outfitted me with some fake blood and an actual piece of bone attached to my shin, and told me that I was to take a fall when they gave the signal.
When it came time to fall I looked around me, saw a promising rock slope leading into a sandy wash, and tumbled down it with a howl of pain. I rolled and rolled and just when I was starting to worry that the slope was much larger than expected I came to a sudden stop. I screamed louder, releasing a stream of expletives as I realized that the sandy wash I had rolled into was in fact a large stand of cacti. I quickly rolled out of the cactus that I was lying on and looked down to see at least 30-40 long thorns sticking out of my left side. Before I could remove any of them my rescue party showed up on the scene and I had to pretend that the pain in my "broken" leg hurt more than the scores of cactus barbs in my body. Awesome. We all knew that we had to keep the scenario as realistic as possible, so even when they asked about the thorns I kept screaming about my leg. In the end it took about 45 minutes before I could take them out and I'm pretty sure that there's still a few lurking in the coat I wore that night.
Anyways, now that the class is over I am headed down to Indian Creek, the crack climbing mecca of the world. I'll be down there until the end of November trying to learn the dark arts of finger stacks, ring locks, fist jams and off-widths. It's gonna be an ass-kickin good time.