The Aron Ralston Story
As Aron was climbing alone in a remote canyon in southeastern Utah in spring 2003, a huge 800-pound boulder shifted and pinned his right arm against the canyon wall. For five days, Aron tried to move the boulder to release his hand, but to no avail. Sleep deprivation, starvation, dehydration and hyperthermia were taking a toll on his body as well as his psyche. Breaking his own cardinal rule by telling no-one of his whereabouts, self-amputation was the only way to freedom…and to his family.
Between a Rock and a Hard Place
“I had to make a decision to go forward, not knowing what was going to come. And that was important, that I took action in that moment, overcoming fear.”
For one agonizing hour, Aron’s only focus was freeing himself from the huge rock. He radically bent his arm down in order to snap the radius and ulna bones just above his wrist. “I bent my arm farther and farther, and then finally, this cracking, splintering sound, kind of like a cap gun, then, POW! It echoed up and down the canyon. I knew that I had broken my bone. And yes, it hurt. It hurt a lot,” he told CNN in a 2004 interview.
Using the insulation from the reservoir tubing of his CamelBak (a hydration system backpack used by hikers) as a tourniquet Aron began painstakingly cutting through tendons, nerves, muscle and arteries in order to free himself from his stone prison. But, the amputation was only the beginning of his escape, he still needed to rappel down a 60-foot cliff and walk nearly five miles before he would see other hikers who could help him.
Between a Rock and a Hard Place is written by Aron Ralston and is the personal account of his journey to Colorado, his obsession with the outdoors and his love of the mountains. Aron reflects on his past and recounts his solo climbing trip to Blue John Canyon in the Utah desert. In graphic detail, Ralson describes the 127 hours he spent with his right arm trapped under a boulder, his decision to self amputate his arm with a dull multitool and his hike out of the canyon. Aron’s story is one of a true survivalist and a man whose passion for the outdoors continues to make him pioneer.
"A Hand and a Forearm are not a Life"
This quote from Aron's book epitomizes his philosophy on life. After being fitted by Hanger with a below-the-elbow prosthesis, Aron is back outside. His custom prosthesis can accommodate several hand units, for example, an ice ax attachment, that Ralston can use for mountaineering and ice climbing. In 2005 he became the first person to climb all of Colorado's "fourteeners" in winter. On his return to climbing, Aron explains that his prosthetic is the key.
“In the beginning, I unconsciously accepted self imposed limitations. Seeing my friends doing what I wanted to do is what inspired me. I was able to shed those limitations and now, in several ways, I climb more expertly than when I had two arms.”
Living in Colorado, Aron is a true outdoorsman in every sense of the word. Since the 2003 accident, he has become the first person to solo climb during the winter, all 59 of Colorado’s 14,000-foot peaks. Also, he recently reached the summit of 23,000-foot Mount Aconcagua in Argentina, South America’s highest mountain.
In 2008, Aron's Ojos del Salado and Monte Pissis in Argentina, solo climbed Denali (pictured below) and skiied from the 20,320 summit.
In 2009, he led an expedition with friends on the Colorado River through the Grand Canyon and climbed Mt. Kilimanjaro in Tanzania.
When Aron’s not climbing mountains, he travels the country as an inspirational speaker, sharing his incredible survival story and message.
“My advice to fellow Hanger patients is to believe and imagine. If you are truly motivated to experience your goal, whatever it is, you must first seek your inspiration. Perhaps it comes from your imagination, from seeing someone else living, or even in hearing or reading a story. Then you must believe in it and apply yourself. To believe and to imagine, they evolve together.”
Aron is a graduate of Carnegie Mellon University where he studied mechanical engineering and French. Originally from Indiana, Aron's love of the mountains drew him to Colorado and he lives there today to be close to his family. Aron was married in 2009, he and wife, Jessica, welcomed their first child, Leo, to the family in February 2010.