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Vertical Aid: Essential Wilderness Medicine for Climbers, Trekkers, and Mountaineers


Author: Seth C. Hawkins MD and R. Bryan Simon RN

Publisher: Countryman Press


Publish Date: April 18, 2017

ISBN-10: 1581574444

Pages: 384

File Type: PDF

Language: English

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Book Preface

Climbing is a rapidly growing sport with many specializations. Climbing activities range from the cutting-edge athleticism of sport climbing (which in 2020 will become an Olympic event) to the ancient pursuit of climbing mountains, one of the most traditional of human activities.

This text discusses the medical concepts relevant to all the various climbing activities available to enthusiasts today. These range from urban climbing centers to remote alpine peaks, and from long-distance trekking alpinists for whom a single vertical endeavor may last months to sport climbers for whom it may last minutes. Common among all these concepts is a need for quality education and information about prevention and treatment of common climbing illnesses and injuries.

Our perspective is that this quality is best delivered through the tools of evidence-based medicine. We believe the best medical science available, and the most up-to-date and authoritative consensus guidelines, should drive the training and practices of climbers engaging in medical care, whether it be first aid or formal healthcare delivery in the field. When appropriate, we share the recommendation grade of formal consensus recommendations from professional societies to convey the strength of a recommendation (Figure I-1).

In addition, we include references to source material and studies more often than many other texts of this sort. In this way, we encourage you to access the primary material when it interests you, or when the position we are taking challenges other teachings you have read or received. We, the authors of this text, are all healthcare providers ourselves as well as avid climbers, and this is exactly the approach we take when analyzing conflicting medical information. Furthermore, we each have a different niche in the healthcare profession, as well as different backgrounds in terms of climbing that we bring to bear in writing this text. Together, we strive to make this text your single most important and useful guide for navigating medical issues during your climbing adventures.




1. Assessment of the Patient

2. Life-Threatening Emergencies

3. Injury Prevention


4. Orthopedics

5. Spinal Injuries

6. Head Injuries

7. Abdominal and Gastrointestinal Issues

8. Chest and Respiratory Issues

9. Wounds and Burns

10. Skin Injuries and Care


11. Altitude Illness

12. Cold Injuries

13. Heat Injuries

14. Solar-Related Injuries

15. Lightning

16. Weather Identification

17. Avalanche Awareness


18. Extrication Decisions and Spinal Motion Restriction

19. Carries and Litters

20. Rescue Communication


A. First Aid Kit Contents for Mountain Travel

B. How to Communicate with Helicopters,
and Preparations for Helicopter Evacuation

C. Conversion Tables

D. Frostbite and Windchill Table

E. Water Purification Methods

F. Recommended Medications for Mountain Travel

G. Improvised Shelters

H. Vertical Medicine Resources Assessment Sheet


References and Additional Resources


Author Biographies

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