Aron Ralston Between a Rock and a Hard PlacePosted: 20-01-2012 05:41
Aron Lee Ralston (born October 27, 1975) is an American mountain climber and inspirational public speaker. He is widely known for having survived a 2003 canyoneering accident in Utah in which he was forced to amputate his own right arm with a dull pocketknife in order to free himself from a dislodged boulder.
The incident is documented in Ralston's autobiography Between a Rock and a Hard Place, and is the subject of the 2010 film 127 Hours.
Ralston is a graduate of Cherry Creek High School in Greenwood Village, Colorado. He received his college degree from Carnegie Mellon University in Pittsburgh, finishing with degrees in mechanical engineering and French, with a minor in piano. At Carnegie Mellon, he served as a Resident Assistant, studied abroad, and was an active intramural sports participant. He left his job as a mechanical engineer with Intel in 2002 in order to pursue a life of climbing mountains. He had the goal of climbing all of Colorado's "fourteeners", or peaks over 14,000 feet high, solo and during winter—a feat that had never been done. He has subsequently achieved this feat.
In August 2009, Ralston married Jessica Trusty, and their first child, Leo, was born in February 2010.
In late April 2003, while he was hiking Blue John Canyon (in eastern Wayne County, Utah, just south of the Horseshoe Canyon Unit of Canyonlands National Park), a suspended boulder from which he was climbing down became dislodged, crushing his right forearm and pinning it against the canyon wall. Ralston had not told anybody of his hiking plans and knew 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 350 ml (12 imp fl oz), while trying to extricate his arm. His efforts were futile as he could not free his arm from the 800-pound (363.64 kg) rock. 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 the arm, he would have to cut through his bones, but that the tools he had available were insufficient to do so. When he ran out of water on the fifth day, 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. He found himself still alive at the dawn of the following day (Thursday, May 1, 2003). Soon thereafter, he had an epiphany—he could break his radius and ulna using torque against his trapped arm. He did so, and then performed the amputation, which took about an hour with his two-inch knife. Although he never named the manufacturer of the tool he used other than to say it was not a Leatherman, he did describe it as "what you'd get if you bought a $15 flashlight and got a free multi-use tool." After freeing himself, he still had to get back to his car. He climbed out of the slot canyon in which he had been trapped, rappelled down a 65-foot (20 m) sheer wall one-handed, then hiked out of the canyon in the hot midday sun. He was 8 miles (13 km) from his vehicle, and he had no mobile phone. While hiking out, he encountered a family on vacation from the Netherlands, Eric and Monique Meijer, and their son, Andy, who gave him water and then hurried to alert the authorities. Ralston feared he would bleed to death before that happened (by this point, he had lost 40 pounds total, including 25% of his blood volume), but by coincidence, rescuers searching for Ralston (they had been alerted that he was missing by his family and had recently narrowed the search down to Canyonlands) flew by in their helicopter and he was rescued, six hours after amputating his arm. He thinks 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 days later. Looking back he thinks he was looking forward to the amputation.
Later, his arm was removed from under the boulder and retrieved by park authorities. According to Tom Brokaw, it took 13 men, a winch and a hydraulic jack to move the boulder so that Ralston's severed arm could be freed. The arm was cremated and given to Ralston. He returned to the accident scene with Tom Brokaw and the Dateline NBC crew six months later, on his 28th birthday, for two reasons: to film the Dateline NBC special about the accident, and to scatter the ashes of his arm where he says they belong.
Ralston still climbs mountains prolifically, including a 2008 expedition to climb Ojos del Salado in Chile, and Monte Pissis in Argentina.In 2005, Ralston became the first person to climb all 53 of Colorado's mountains over 14,000 feet in elevation, solo in winter, a project he started in 1997 and resumed after his amputation in Blue John Canyon. In 2008, he climbed Denali and skied from the 20,320' summit. He led a 2009 expedition on the Colorado River through the Grand Canyon, and climbed Mt. Kilimanjaro in Tanzania. While Ralston still intends to climb Mount Everest some day, he did not go along with polar explorer Eric Larsen on his "Save the Poles" expedition in 2010, as was previously reported.
After the accident, Ralston made numerous appearances in the media. On July 21, 2003, Ralston appeared on The Late Show with David Letterman; on October 6, 2005, Ralston appeared on The Late Late Show with Craig Ferguson. On September 10, 2004, Ralston's story was featured on a two-hour edition of Dateline NBC called "Desperate Days in Blue John Canyon". Ralston has appeared twice on The Today Show, Good Morning America, and The Tonight Show with Jay Leno. He has also appeared on The Ellen DeGeneres Show, CNN's American Morning with Bill Hemmer, Minute to Win It with James Franco, Anderson Cooper 360°, CNN Saturday Morning, and CNBC with Deborah Norville. In 2006, Ralston was also featured as a panelist in Miller Lite's "Man Laws" ad campaign. He also starred on the Australian interview show Enough Rope.
Ralston was also named GQ Man of the Year and a Vanity Fair Person of the Year in 2003. In 2003, he was named the first Shining Star of Perseverance by the WillReturn Council of Assurant Employee Benefits. Ralston was a contestant on the U.S. television show Minute To Win It, where he won $125,000 for Wilderness Workshop. The episode aired on February 23, 2011, on NBC.
Ralston provides his voice on The Simpsons' "Treehouse of Horror XXII" as the voice on the other end of Homer's phone when he calls for help after getting trapped in a similar situation to Ralston himself. The episode aired October 30 2011.
He recently took part in the reality show, Alone in the Wild, where he had to survive in the wild with a video camera and a bag of supplies. The episode was to air on the 9th November 2011 on Discovery UK.
As a corporate speaker, Ralston receives an honorarium of about $15,000 per domestic speaking appearance, and up to $37,000 for international speeches. On May 4, 2007, Ralston appeared at the Swiss Economic Forum and gave a speech about "how he did not lose his hand, but gained his life back."
Ralston documented his experience in a book entitled Between a Rock and a Hard Place (ISBN 0-7434-9281-1), published by Atria Books on September 7, 2004. It reached #3 on The New York Times Hardcover Non-Fiction list. It hit #1 in New Zealand and Australia, and is the #7 best-selling memoir of all-time in the UK.
Ralston delivered the commencement speech on May 15, 2011, at Carnegie Mellon University for the graduating class of 2011.
British film director Danny Boyle directed the film 127 Hours about the true story of Ralston. Filming took place in March and April 2010, with a release in New York City and Los Angeles on November 5, 2010. Fox Searchlight Pictures funded the film. Actor James Franco played the role of Ralston. The movie received standing ovations at both the Telluride Film Festival and the Toronto International Film Festival. Some members of the audience in Toronto fainted due to the realistic amputation scene. The film was very well received by film critics. Review aggregator Rotten Tomatoes reports that 93% of 197 professional critics have given the film a positive review, with a rating average of 8.2 out of 10. The film was nominated for six Academy Awards, including Best Picture and Best Actor (James Franco).
“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.”
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