Aron Ralston : biography
Aron Lee Ralston (born October 27, 1975) is an American outdoorsman, engineer and motivational speaker.
He is very widely known for having survived a canyoneering accident in south-eastern Utah in 2003, during which he amputated his own right arm with a dull multi-tool in order to free himself from a dislodged boulder, which had trapped him there for five days and seven hours. After he freed himself, he had to rappel down a 65 foot (around 20m) sheer cliff face to reach safety.
The incident is documented in Ralston’s autobiography Between a Rock and a Hard Place and is the subject of the film 127 Hours.
On April 26, 2003, Aron Ralston was hiking through Blue John Canyon, in eastern Wayne County, Utah, just south of the Horseshoe Canyon unit of Canyonlands National Park. While he was descending a slot canyon, a suspended boulder he was climbing down became dislodged, crushing his right hand and pinning it against the canyon wall. Ralston had not informed anybody of his hiking plans, thus no one would be searching for him.
Assuming that he would die, he spent five days slowly sipping his small amount of remaining water, approximately and slowly eating his small amount of food, two burritos, while trying to extricate his arm. His efforts were futile as he could not free his arm from the 800 lb (360 kg) chockstone. After three days of trying to lift and break the boulder, the dehydrated and delirious Ralston prepared to amputate his trapped right arm at a point on the mid-forearm, in order to escape. He experimented with tourniquets and made some exploratory superficial cuts to his forearm in the first few days. On the fourth day he realized that in order to free his arm he would have to cut through the bones in it, but the tools he had available were insufficient to do so.
When he ran out of food and water on the fifth day, he was forced to drink his own urine. He carved his name, date of birth and presumed date of death into the sandstone canyon wall, and videotaped his last goodbyes to his family. He did not expect to survive the night. After waking at dawn the following day (Thursday, May 1) he had an epiphany that he could break his radius and ulna bones using torque against his trapped arm. He did so, then performed the amputation, which took about one hour with his multi-tool, which included a dull two-inch knife. He never named the manufacturer of the tool he used, other than to say it was not a Leatherman but "what you’d get if you bought a $15 flashlight and got a free multi-use tool".
After freeing himself, Ralston still had to get back to his car. He climbed out of the slot canyon in which he had been trapped, rappelled down a sheer wall one-handed, then hiked out of the canyon in the hot midday sun. He was from his vehicle, and had no phone. However, while hiking out, he encountered a family on vacation from the Netherlands, Eric and Monique Meijer and their son Andy, who gave him food and water and then hurried to alert the authorities. Ralston had feared he would bleed to death; he lost 40 pounds, including 25% of his blood volume. Fortunately, the rescuers searching for Ralston, alerted by his family that he was missing, had narrowed the search down to Canyonlands and flew by in their helicopter. He was rescued six hours after amputating his arm.
Ralston has said that if he had amputated his arm earlier, he would have bled to death before being found, while if he had not done it he would have been found dead in the slot canyon days later. He believed he was looking forward to the amputation and the freedom it would give.
Later, his severed hand and forearm was retrieved from under the boulder by park authorities. According to television presenter Tom Brokaw, it took 13 men, a winch and a hydraulic jack to move the boulder so that Ralston’s arm could be removed. His arm was then cremated and the ashes given to Ralston. He returned to the accident scene with Brokaw and a camera crew six months later on his 28th birthday to film a Dateline NBC special about the accident and to scatter the ashes of his arm where he says they belong.