The soft thock-thock-thock tells me I have reached the end of this experiment. I cannot cut into or through my forearm bones. I bend my head to my arm, and my surroundings leave sepia-toned hallucinogenic trails behind them. Yesterday, it didn’t seem possible that my knife could ever get through my skin, but I did it. When I grasp the tool more firmly and wiggle it slightly, the blade connects with something hard, my upper forearm bone.
I can see bright daylight on the north wall, 70 feet above. Picking up the camera, I point it first at my forearm and wrist, where it disappears in the horrifyingly skinny gap between a large boulder and the canyon wall. Then I pan the camcorder up over the pinch point to my grayish-blue hand.
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Then there would be an 800-foot vertical climb to the trailhead and his truck. The nearest hospital was a several hour drive. Ralston was pinned to the canyon wall by an 800-pound boulder. He was at the bottom of a hole in a hidden canyon, 100 feet beneath the desert surface, 20 miles from the nearest paved road and surrounded by hundreds more miles of uninhabited desert. On the Tuesday, finishing the last of the water he was carrying, he made his first attempt, preparing a tourniquet from a pair of bike shorts.
I realize I’m arguing with myself, and yield to a halfhearted chuckle. But I know that I could never saw through my arm bones with either of the blades of my multitool, so I decide to keep picking away at the boulder. The sound of my knife tapping is pathetically minute. My first attempt to saw into the boulder barely scuffs the rock. I try again, pressing harder, but the back of the knife handle indents my forefinger much more readily than the cutting edge scores the rock. Changing my grip on the tool, I hold it like Norman Bates and stab at the rock.
I tap the knife down and feel it knocking on my radius. I’m elated at the idea and retrieve the discarded tubing insulation from my pack. Using my left hand to wrap the thin black neoprene twice around my right forearm two inches below my elbow, I tie a simple overhand knot and tighten with one end in my teeth, then double and triple the knot.
I take a carabiner and clip the neoprene, twisting it six times. Clamping down on my forearm, the material pinches my skin. Engrossed, I call upon my search-and-rescue experience, and the two hauling systems we used to evacuate people from vertical faces. I decide on a modified Z-pulley system with a haul line so I can pull down to lift the boulder off my hand. I add Prusik loops, wrapping webbing around the rope in a friction knot that, when loose, slides along the rope but tightens when weighted.
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I pushed myself on increasingly difficult routes, but I also developed strategies to mitigate the added risks of winter travel. Still, there were a few near misses that prompted me to reevaluate my practices. When we gathered midslope at a cluster of trees, the entire half-mile-wide hillside released with a quiet whoomph. The slide swept us hundreds of feet down the mountain, swamping two of us and burying the third for long minutes, until our avalanche transceivers pinpointed his location.
His arm was then cremated and the ashes given to Ralston. Ralston later 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. Ralston used the small point-and-shoot camera he had with him to take a picture of the rock and his severed hand “as a kind of ‘screw you, I’m outta here’,” he says.
Described by friends as soft-spoken and easygoing off the mountains, Ralston focused on his climbing goals with an intensity few could rival. Though relieved that Ralston survived, Blazik chided him for hiking through such rugged, remote terrain alone and without leaving a detailed itinerary with friends. “As far as I’m concerned, that was a foolish act, very, very unwisely done,” Blazik said, emphasizing that he was not speaking for the park service. He had walked about five miles when a helicopter search team spotted him Thursday afternoon on a trail through Canyonlands National Park, drained and dehydrated — but still pushing forward. Aron Ralston outlines during a May 8, 2003, news conference how he deliberately broke the bones in his right arm before sawing through it.
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Remember the last time you stubbed your big toe and cursed bloody murder or the time you felt a pang of toothache pain? On what started out as a beautiful carefree day exploring the wilder parts of Utah’s southeast canyons, 27-year-old adrenaline junkie Aron Ralston became trapped between a rock and a hard place . Ralston still likes solitude but when he goes out rafting and climbing now he almost always takes his friends.
The boost I felt from my vision of the boy has dissipated entirely. There is nothing that gives even a slight hint that this awful stillness will break. I can resume smashing the chockstone with the rock. In the outside mesh pouch, I have my CD player, CDs, extra AA batteries, my mini-digital-video camcorder, a digital camera, a three-LED headlamp, and a knockoff of a Leatherman multitool. I’ve also got a climbing rope and harness and the small wad of rappelling equipment I’d brought to use at the Big Drop rappel.
As the days went by, he felt depression and remorse as well. He told reporters he regretted not leaving a note about where he was going, likening it to when an auto accident occurs the one time the driver isn’t wearing a seat belt. From there, it was five days of frustration as he tried to find a way out of his dilemma. “At no point was I ever able to get that boulder to budge even microscopically,” he said. “It occurred to me I could break my bones,” said a composed Ralston, who underwent surgery Monday to facilitate the fitting of a prosthesis.
MOAB, Utah — A rock climber amputated his own arm Thursday, five days after becoming pinned by a boulder, and was rescued while hiking out of the canyon. CNN anchor Miles O’Brien analyzed the situation using satellite imagery and talked with helicopter pilot Terry Mercer, who assisted with the rescue. Yep, Ralston describes starting out with the larger of the two blades on his pocket knife. But upon realizing that he couldn’t break deep enough through the skin, he went with the smaller 2-inch blade and began the horrible self-surgery that would save his life. Nevertheless, Aron’s incredible survival instinct kicked in and he was able to save his life with what he had at his disposal, but it sure made things more difficult.
Five long days after becoming trapped, Aron lost hope… And on landing in the helicopter in the town of Moab, he said, he “walked off the helicopter to a gurney, and started filing my report with the national park service folks who were waiting”. “I’m not sure how I handled it,” said Mr Ralston. The stump of his right arm, which he wore in a sling, has already been fitted for a prosthetic attachment. “I felt pain and I coped with it. I moved on.”