James Franco is a pretty cool guy, but he’s no Aron Ralston. Well, actually, he is if you count the one-time role he played in 2010 film, “127 Hours.” In the film, Franco portrayed the American adventurer and motivational speaker. The inspiring movie depicts the real life horror story Aron Ralston endured during a canyoneering accident in Blue John Canyon in southeastern Utah. It’s a story of flat out toughness, both mental and physical strength, – a story of epic proportions – the type that gives you a new appreciation of the resiliency of mankind.
On Saturday April 26, 2003, without telling anyone about his plans, Aron Ralston set out on a solo hiking trip in Eastern Utah. This time aiming for one of the most desolate regions in America. Aron drove nearly five and a half hours until he reached a dirt road and then drove another 30 miles away from the closest pavement, parking at a trailhead. Aron being the avid adventurer that he is, pulled his mountain bike off the car and rode it 15 miles through the desert before deciding to hike on foot further into the wilderness. He discarded his bike along the trail and took off on foot hiking miles into the canyons bringing with him nothing but a backpack filled with a multi tool, a gallon of water, and climbing gear so he could cap off a good day’s work by repelling into 50 feet slot canyons.
In the words of the local Park Ranger, Steve Swanke: “Imagine going to the end of the world and then traveling two and a half hours more. That takes you to the Horsehoe Canyon trailhead where Aron Ralston began his journey. It was in the middle of nowhere.”
The trip seemed like a dream come true for most men. He was cycling through stunning landscapes lost in the beauty of views of red sand, mesas and buttes not too far from the Green River. The rugged casanova met up with two women along the way and took them swimming in a blissful, hidden pool tucked away in one of the canyon slips. They even invited him to a party they were having the next night. However, his thirst for isolation and extreme adventure was not yet quenched and he decided it was time to go a canyon exploration. Ralston was a true American outdoorsman and living the American dream. But the day was just beginning.
As Ralston was descending deep into a slot canyon, an 800lb boulder dislodged itself crushing Ralston’s arm and pinning him against the canyon’s wall. No one knew that he was climbing, and no one would be coming to look for him. All he could do was lie in pain and consider his fate. Nope. Aron wasn’t going to accept defeat. Reaching in his backpack he pulled out his dull multi tool and began chipping away at the chalkstone. He only had 350 ml of water and two burritos as his rations and on the fifth day, Ralston drank his own urine to stay hydrated.Advertisement
After struggling for days to free his arm from beneath the 800-pound boulder, Ralston decided to amputate his own arm. He made a tourniquet and began sawing into his own arm in an effort to free his body from the canyon wall. When Aron got to the bone he realized his multi tool wasn’t sharp enough to cut through the bone. He had to break it. Using the 800 pound boulder as leverage, Ralston used his body weight to snap his forearm, then severed through the tissue using his cheap multi-tool. It took over an hour to seperate the limb using the dull blade and to extricate himself from his captor. Ralston later claimed that during the process of removing his arm he experienced extreme pain in addition to absolute elation as he knew he was getting closer and closer to freeing himself. After days of continuous emotional and physical turmoil, Aron Ralston kept fighting to stay alive, and he succeeded. He had been trapped for 127 hours. But he still, wasn’t out of the thick.
Once free, Ralston wrapped his severed arm and climbed his way out of the slot canyon he was in. He then one-handed repelled down the 65 foot canyon wall and covered in blood, sweat, and maybe a tear drop or two beginning his eight mile journey back to his car. By the time he stumbled on a vacationing Dutch family, he had lost forty pounds and a quarter of his blood supply. The family was able to alert the authorities and Ralston was taken under medical care six hours after his self-amputation.
Since his traumatic experience, Ralston is just as free spirited and awesome as he was before the accident. He wrote an autobiography titled Between a Rock and a Hard Place which found its way onto bestsellers lists in several countries. Hollywood immortalized his ordeal through the aforementioned 127 Hours, which was nominated for six Oscars in 2011. Ralston even served as the commencement speaker twice at his alma mater, Carnegie Mellon. He is the only speaker to do so in the school’s history.
While Ralston now spends much of his time motivating others, he has not forgotten his personal goals. Prior to his accident, Ralston dreamed of solo climbing Colorado’s “fourteeners” during winter. This feat meant climbing all peaks over 14,000 feet high in in the state, which had never been recorded. As expected, Ralston conquered this enormous feat too.
Ralston didn’t stop there. In June 2008, he not only climbed Denali, the highest peak in North America, he also skied down. This made him the first disabled person to complete the achievement. Now, Ralston actively advocates for many organizations promoting conservation in Utah and Colorado and shares his triumphant and courageous story.
But, what happened to his arm? After the accident, local authorities were able to recover the limb with the help of a crane. It was cremated and returned to Ralston who returned to the spot of the crisis on his 28th birthday to spread the ashes. Ralston, you are a man among men. We salute you.
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