127 Hours:
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

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.”

Aron's Climb

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.

Aron Ralston Denali Summit

In 2009, he led an expedition with friends on the Colorado River through the Grand Canyon and climbed Mt. Kilimanjaro in Tanzania.

Hanger group in Ouray, Colorado

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.”

About Aron

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.

 What Happens Next

Aron Climbing Powerline

One of Aron's special mountain climbing prosthetics. Photo courtesty of Brian Payne.

About Aron's Prosthetic Arm

Troy Farnswoth, CP, FAAOP, Vice President of Hanger Prosthetics and Orthotics Upper Extremity Prosthetic Program, worked closely with Aron to create a socket and harness was specifically designed to handle the increased forces of supporting his body weight while hanging and swinging.  His arm is constructed from carbon and Kevlar then reinforced with gel patches to absorb high impact and load. He also wears a gel liner that aides in suspension and comfort. The entire arm is covered with “sticky rubber”, the same material that is on the bottom of climbing shoes, to give his forearm grip with rocks, etc. 

Aron’s terminal device (special adaptive prosthetic) is custom made for him and consists of a combination of an ice tool and adze. 

Initially, Troy and Aron worked with TRS, a specialty prosthetic manufacture that design/builds upper extremity recreational terminal devices, to develop the first prototype. Aron, TRS, mountaineering company finalized the design.

Aron Ralston with Troy Farnsworth

Aron working with Troy in 2004


Aron at the Endeavor Games 2005

Aron speaking at the 2005 Endeavor Games. Aron shares his story as a full time motivational speaker.

 Aron Grand Canyon

Recent white water trip in the Grand Canyon. Photo by Elliott Larson.
Aron said there was a consensus among the outfitters, park service personnel, and long-time guides, river-runners, and river historians that he was the first amputee to row a raft through the Grand Canyon.  Aron maneuvered a 2,000-lb raft through 225 miles adding to his list of personal achievements.

Aron is also part of Team Paradox. Paradox Sports provides inspiration, opportunies and adaptive equipment to the disabled community, empowering their pursuit of a life of excellnece through human-powered outdoor sports.
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