Walk With Purpose


– All photos of course content credit to Lena Conlan –


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Whats the best thing about Switzerland?….well the flag is a big plus! 

A jovial tone was set amidst 19 other outdoorsy people whom I had joined for a ten day wilderness first responder course (WFR) as Oscar’s flag joke landed to laughter. Over the next 80h we all hoped to grow our competency in remote first aid and better ourselves as outdoor passionals and professionals.

The intensive course was being run for NOLS by Crossing Latitudes and was taught by Lena Conlan and Elias Sjöberg, who both from Sweden shared nationality with ten of our twenty strong group. Ranging in age from 17 to 55, we were an international bunch, the rest of us coming from the Netherlands, Norway, Scotland, USA, Italy, Switzerland and Austria but in that we all shared an interest in wild places and people.


It was a pretty intense ten days and whilst I felt glad to have re-done my BASP first aid ticket earlier this year which gave a great head-start, the course could be achieved by anyone dedicated to do so. When it comes to first aid we are and always will be students and the more we can learn from both classrooms and experience, the more tools we can gain for unexpected realities. The NOLS Wilderness first responder was packed with excellently tailored scenarios ranging from small wounds to mass casualty rescues by night, most with comically cinematic makeup. Some scenarios refreshed the topics we had just covered, others were designed to push a comfort zone into subjects we weren’t yet familiar. Throughout we were taught to think on our feet, improvise where needed and predict outcomes from a structured system.

Lena and Elias’s expert coaching gave a superbly relaxed feel to what was an otherwise intense course. The pace and style was a great learning environment, and as much as the technical knowledge, we were taught and re-enforced a standard system to work with throughout.

Briefly summed the system fitted into these neat little idioms –

Initial Scene Size Up- Five steps-

  • ‘One, Im number one’ – Look for dangers 
  • ‘Two, what happened to you’ – estimate MOI (method of Injury) 
  • ‘Three, No germs on me’ – Body substance isolation (gloves/mask for CPR) 
  • ‘Four, are there any more?’ – Assess number of casualties 
  • ‘Five, dead or alive’ – Casualty condition. 

Then came the ABCDE casualty assessment

  • A- Airway – Check airway for obstruction
  • B- Breathing – Check breathing
  • C- Circulation – Check Circulation
  • D- Determine Method of Injury (MOI) and chief complaint (c/c), search for bleeding.
  • E- Expose injury

Then we were taught to do a full head to toe body exam, take vital signs, SAMPLE history and beyond this make a plan and act upon it, including a focused spinal assessment if needed and basic first aid. Finally giving a verbal and written SOAP (symptoms, onset, assessment, plan) report.


With each day came a new challenge, more options to decipher and more scenarios to explore. By the end we were all counting the steps over breakfast, dinner and sleep and performing practice spinal assessment on furniture. Immersion in the course had firmly taken place. Whenever approaching a patient, Elias would often call Walk With Purpose prompting us not to rush and arrive slowly to think and plan, it reminded me of the military survival idiom S.T.O.P – Stop, Think, Organise, Plan.


After our ten days, we departed as friends, each and every one of us had passed and left as fresh new Wilderness First Responders. With a little time in the afternoon after examination, Prokop (a glacier guide from Iceland) and I decided to venture to Lake Oeshinensee for a celebratory sunset view.


While most of us left, I was fortunate to have a few days to linger, more excitingly Jen was arriving to join me to explore a little part of Switzerland. There is no greater pleasure than exploring a new place with a person you care about, and despite the weather, Jen and I found plenty of places to venture to and explore. Our first journey took us through a scenic woodland trail toward a sapphire blue lake known as Blausee. Blissfully lost in the forest trails, we found ourselves arriving from the wrong side of a ‘HALT, Do not enter’ sign- a classic ‘Copestake’ walk. Filled with trout, the scenic, if a little touristy destination, was a great rainy day option and to our delight we arrived just in time to enjoy it before the sun set. There is a definite value to gentle adventure, nothing too bold nor rushed, simply enjoying the day and seizing the little moments as a team together. A celebratory beer heralded our return before hiding from the next snowstorm in the tent with a hot tea and supper on the stove.

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Despite a forecast of sunshine, we woke to thick mist and more snow-showers. Hopes of a view like Prokop and I enjoyed at lake Oeshininen were faded, but we had promised each other to go anyway. Wandering up toward the Lake we soon climbed into the freezing zone, the conifer trees now sugared with snow like icing dusted on a cake.

Spotting a waterfall cascading from a nearby cliff we decided to set our goals to walk behind it. As we arrived to find a large overhang peppered with sport bolts for ice-climbers, we quickly dared each other to run beneath the cascade. Thankfully our trust in our waterproofs was well founded and with a few screams emerged victorious on the far side wet on the outside and dry beneath.

Two days seemed far too short to spend time together, but Jen and I packed loads into the few days we had together in Switzerland, especially as we won’t see each other until May next year, but fond memories bridge time well especially with the existence of skype these days. Shall we do another adventure?

Jen’s reply- ‘what rhymes with swiss cheese?….                                             yes please’. 


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One Comment on “Walk With Purpose

  1. Enjoyed that Will. Looks like a challenging course! So glad you managed a quick holiday afterwards too with Jen for some well deserved relaxation. xxx

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