I Was Trapped In A Canyon For 127 Hours
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I Was Trapped In A Canyon For 127 Hours


April 27, 2003 – An exhausted and pale young
man stares into a camcorder. “It’s 3:05 on Sunday. This marks my 24-hour mark of being stuck
in BlueJohn Canyon. My name is Aron Ralston. My parents are Donna and Larry Ralston, of
Englewood, Colorado. Whoever finds this, please make an attempt
to get this to them. Be sure of it. I would appreciate it.” – Animation Note. Include on bottom of screen “Actual quote
by Aron Ralston taken from his self-made video” With his left hand Ralston moves the camera
and records his right arm. At the wrist, it’s stuck in a narrow gap
between a large boulder and the canyon wall. Past the pinch point, the flesh of his right
hand has turned a sickening bruised grayish hue. Ralston explains to the camera that his hand
has been without circulation for 24 hours and that he’s probably going to die here,
all alone, trapped in a remote canyon. But he didn’t die; this is the story of
how Aron Ralston self amputated his arm to save his life. Saturday April 26, 2003 – 27 year old Aron
Ralston, an avid outdoorsman who excelled at skiing, hiking and mountain climbing was
supposed to go on a mountaineering trip with friends, but the plans fell through. He decided to take the trip by himself, and
he packed some supplies and his mountain bike in the back of his truck and drove nearly
five hours to the wilds of southeastern Wayne County, Utah. Two and a half hours away from the nearest
tiny town of Moab, Ralston parked his car at the trailhead to Horseshoe Canyon in Canyonlands
National Park. Horseshoe Canyon is stunning. It’s full of vast rock formations, sandstone
monoliths and deep ravines. It’s remote, blue sky, big country, where
you can hike all day and never see another see another soul. It was a lovely late spring morning. Ralston’s plan was to do a 30 mile (48.28
km) loop of biking and canyoneering through Horseshoe and BlueJohn canyons. He was dressed in biker shorts with regular
shorts on top and a t-shirt. He carried a 25 pound (11.33 kg) pack, filled
mainly with climbing gear. He also had a small first aid kit, a cheap
knockoff multi purpose tool, two burritos and a gallon of water split between a hydration
pack and a water bottle. Ralston spent the morning mountain biking
cross-country. Around midday, at the end of his 15 mile (24.14
km) ride, he locked his bike to a tree at the top of BlueJohn Canyon planning to later
drive his truck up to retrieve it. Ralston ran into 2 young female hikers and
hiked with them a bit before splitting off to take on the tougher part of the canyon. Ralston used his rock climbing equipment to
navigate the intricate, narrow passages of BlueJohn Canyon. After about an hour or so, he came across
three large boulders wedged in a 3-foot wide slot canyon that he had to climb over. The second boulder shifted as he tried to
scramble over it, painfully crushing his left hand and then pinning his right wrist against
the wall. Ralston was stuck. He yanked at his right arm, to try to pull
it free. His hand had almost instantly gone numb, but
yanking was incredibly painful and the boulder–later estimated to be 800 pounds (362.8 kg) didn’t
budge. Ralston maneuvered himself as best he could
into a more comfortable position. He braced his legs and thrust, trying to push
up the boulder up with his feet. That didn’t work either. Ralston’s hand had lost feeling, he was
experiencing compartment syndrome. This is when acute pressure is on or builds
within muscle to dangerous levels. Blood flow is decreased, which prevents nourishment
and oxygen from reaching nerve and muscle cells. The compartmentalized tissue rapidly deteriorates
and begins to die. Ralston stopped for a break and awkwardly
contorted himself to reach the water bottle in his pack. He chugged quite a bit of water before logical
thought kicked in. He was stuck, he needed to ration his water
supply. He knew the average survival time in the desert
without water is between two and three days, sometimes less if the person is exerting themselves
in 100-degree heat. He estimated that he had until Monday night. Ralston forced himself to relax to stop the
adrenaline coursing through his body. He then took an inventory of his supplies. In addition the food and water he had not
already eaten, he had a personal CD player with CDs, extra AA batteries, a mini-digital-video
camcorder, a digital camera, a three-LED headlamp, climbing gear and the multitool. His legs were tired of standing, so Ralston
used his rope bag to pad the ledge in front of him so he could lean against it. He tried to chip away at the rock with the
3 inch blade on his multitool, but made no progress, the rock was hard and the blade
dull. Ralston spent the next couple of hours coming
up with and discarding ideas for freeing himself. Early on he thought about cutting his arm
off, but quickly shied away from that notion. As day turned into night, it grew chilly,
the temperature dropped to a breezy 30 degrees. Periodically Ralston turned on his headlamp
and continued to try to chip away at the rock to stay warm. He grew exhausted, but when his knees buckled,
the weight of his body tugged on his trapped arm which sent pain shooting through his system. Finally Ralston constructed a seat. He maneuvered himself into his climbing harness
and after many tries, managed to throw a carabiner bundle into an overhead crack in the rock
and wedge it tight so it could support his weight. For the first time in several hours, Ralston
was able to sit. However, after about 15 minutes the harness
restricted blood flow to his legs. So he began sitting and standing in 20-minute
intervals, to rest his legs, but not damage them. Over the next 2 days Ralston continued to
chip at the rock and also tried to construct a pulley system to move the boulder off his
hand. It was to no avail. He began urinating into his empty hydration
pack, saving his pee. Ralston experienced a host of emotions. He reminisced about happy times with family
and friends. He brooded and struggled with remorse and
depression over times that had gone poorly. Though not particularly religious, he prayed
and spoke aloud to God, asking for help and a way out. A few times he thought he heard voices and
yelled for help, but only received the mocking sound of his own voice echoing from rock formations
in reply. On Tuesday when Ralston ran out of water,
he began drinking his pee. As time passed, Ralston experimented with
cutting his trapped right arm. He stabbed down to the bone, but realized
that there was no way his blunt knife would be able to cut through it. Ralston despaired, but eventually came to
a kind of peace and acceptance of the fact that he was going to die alone in the canyon. Ralston made videos with his camcorder, saying
goodbye to friends and family. He also gave his last will and testament. He scratched his name, birth month and year
into the rock as an epitaph. He also scratched APR 03. On Wednesday night, having been stuck for
6 days, Ralston faded in and out of trances; hallucinating. He was delirious, dehydrated and cold. Near dawn, he suddenly had a premonition of
his future. He was playing with a blond-haired 3 year
old boy in a red polo shirt. Ralston scooped the toddler up with his left
arm, using his right stump to balance him and swing the child up on his shoulders while
they both laugh. This vision spurred Ralston on, before then
he thought that he would perish by himself in the canyon before help arrived, now he
believed that he would live. By now, Ralston’s eyes hurt every time he
blinked, there was 5 days of grit built up on his contacts. His gums and tongue had grown raw from sipping
his acidic urine. He poked the thumb on his right hand twice. The second time he easily slipped the blade
deep, which punctured the epidermis. Due to the gases from the advanced decomposition,
his arm hissed like a balloon letting out air. He smelled a fainting rotting stench. Suddenly angry, Ralston went into a rage,
yanking his arm, struggling against the boulder. He discovered that his decomposing limb was
pliable and had the epiphany that he could bend it against the boulder until his bones
broke. Ralston violently bent his arm back and forth,
using his body weight to exert pressure on his arm. Finally, the torque snapped his radius and
ulna bones. He then used the dull blade of his multipurpose
tool to saw through the soft skin and tissue of his arm, carefully preserving the arteries. Ralston paused in cutting to apply a makeshift
tourniquet made from the rubber tubing from his hydration pack, using his biking shorts
for padding. He then used the multitool’s pliers to sever
his tendons, before continuing to cut his flesh. Cutting through the main bundle of nerves
was especially painful. Then Ralston cut through the last piece of
skin and was free. Later Ralston said the amputation and bandaging
took about an hour. Ralston described the moment when he walked
out of the slot canyon as being reborn, “because I’d already accepted I was going to die”. Meanwhile, worried friends had filed a missing
persons report on Tuesday night after Ralston had failed to show up for work for 2 days. The police traced Ralston’s credit card;
it had been last used to purchase groceries in Moab. Family and friends were convinced that Ralston
had gone hiking near there. Authorities started checking the southeast
corner of the county and luckily came across Ralston’s truck at the trailhead of Horseshoe
Canyon. Search and rescue started doing flyovers in
a rescue helicopter. After the amputation, a bleeding Ralston crawled
and climbed his way through the rest of BlueJohn canyon. With his teeth and left hand he slowly, painfully
rigged his climbing ropes. He then rappelled one handed some 60 feet
(18.28 m) down a sheer cliff face. It was late afternoon when Ralston finally
made it to the canyon floor. In bad physical shape, covered in blood, Ralston
staggered through the desert. He managed to hike nearly 7 miles (11.26 km)
before running into the Meijers, a family of Dutch tourists. They gave him some water and hailed a helicopter
from the Utah Department of Public Safety flying overhead. Ralston was rescued about 4 hours after amputating
his lower right arm. He was only about a mile from his truck when
found. Rescuers helped keep Ralston conscious for
the 12 minute flight to the Allen Memorial Hospital in Moab. When they got to the hospital, he amazed them
by walking into the emergency room on his own. He was stabilized before being flown to St.
Mary’s Hospital in Grand Junction, Colorado for surgery. Ralston had lost around 40 pounds (18 kg),
including 25% of his blood volume. Rescuers said that the slot canyon Ranston
was stuck in was so narrow, that he never would have been spotted from the helicopter. Worried that hikers would make pilgrimages
to see Ralston’s arm and get into trouble themselves, park authorities retrieved Ralston’s
arm. It’s said to have taken several men, a winch
and a hydraulic jack to move the boulder so that Ralston’s severed arm could be freed. Since his canyoneering accident, Ralston spent
6 months making a complete recovery. He quickly learned to use a prosthetic and
returned to the outdoor activities he loved so much. During the 1998-1999 winter season, Ralston
had begun working towards a goal of being the first person to climb all 59 of Colorado’s
“fourteeners” — mountains with peaks over 14,000 feet (4,270 m) altitude solo and during
winter. He had climbed 45 of the fourteeners, prior
to losing his right wrist and hand in the spring of 2003. However, the accident hardly slowed him down. In 2005, Ralston after 7 winter seasons completed
his mission. In 2008, Ralston traveled to the North and
South poles, and also climbed Mount Everest. He continues to climb mountains and participate
in a variety of outdoor pursuits. Ralston has appeared on several news and TV
talk shows recounting his ordeal. He’s made some other TV appearances too,
including participating in a reality wilderness show, making a cameo on the Simpsons and having
been a game show contestant and winning $125,000 for a nonprofit land conservation watchdog. Ralston is also a motivational speaker and
has given speeches discussing mental fortitude, overcoming adversity and inspiration. He’s also involved in wilderness advocacy. Ralston documented his accident in autobiography
which has become a nonfiction bestseller. While people worldwide have been inspired
by Ralston’s almost superhuman tale of survival, those in the mountaineering community were
less impressed. The first rule of backcountry adventuring
which is to tell someone where you’re going or leave an itinerary of your plans. In his book, Ralston freely admits he’s
been sometimes reckless and stupid when it comes to taking risks in the wild. In addition to losing his arm, Ralston has
been nearly mauled by a bear and was once buried in an avalanche. Aron Ralston is not the only person to have
survived a self amputation. It’s happened several times before. Notably, in 1993, 38 year old William Jeracki
was fishing a remote spot near St. Mary’s Glacier in Colorado’s Arapaho National Forest
when a boulder fell on and pinned his leg. For 3 hours Jeracki yelled for help. The weather turned ugly and without a jacket
or supplies, Jeracki didn’t believe he would survive the night. Fashioning a tourniquet out of his flannel
shirt and using his bait knife, Jeracki cut through his knee joint, using hemostats from
his fishing gear to clamp the severed arteries. He then crawled a half mile back to his truck
and managed to drive half a mile to the nearest town to find help. The human will to live is strong. People have risen to the challenge and done
some difficult and amazing things to make sure that they survived. Do you think you could amputate a body part
to survive? Let us know in the comments! And check out the brand new channel called
“I Am.” Real stories come to life as they’re told
from the perspective of the people who lived it. Watch “I Am a Plague Doctor” right now
and be one of the first to subscribe!

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