View Full Version : Hiker: 'I felt pain and ... I moved on'

05-08-03, 09:50 PM
Thursday, May 8, 2003

Hiker: 'I felt pain and ... I moved on'

His arm pinned by a boulder for three days in a remote Utah canyon, Aron Ralston summoned the nerve to do what for most is unthinkable.

The Associated Press

GRAND JUNCTION, Colo. – Hopelessly pinned by a boulder that rolled onto his arm in a remote canyon, adventurer Aron Ralston first took a dull pocketknife to his forearm after three days, but couldn’t cut the skin.

The next day he went through the motions of applying a tourniquet, laying out bike shorts to use for padding. He worked out how to get through the bone with the cheap "multitool"-type knife he carried.

"Basically, I got my surgical table ready," Ralston, 27, recalled today in his first meeting with the media since walking, bloody and dehydrated, out of the canyon on May 1.

Finally on the fifth day, he summoned up technique and nerve to do what for most who followed his story is unthinkable:

"I was able to first snap the radius and then within another few minutes snap the ulna at the wrist and from there, I had the knife out and applied the tourniquet and went to task. It was a process that took about an hour," he said.

Even after the excruciating operation, the rest of the rescue required skills beyond the abilities of most.

He crawled through a narrow, winding canyon, rappelled down a 60-foot cliff, and walked some six miles down the canyon near Canyonlands National Park in southeastern Utah.

By the time he encountered hikers and then rescuers, Ralston was just two miles from the nearest road.

"I’m not sure how I handled it," Ralston said. "I felt pain and I coped with it. I moved on."

Slim and pale with short reddish-brown hair, the stump of his right arm in a sling, the mechanical engineer-turned full-time outdoorsman met reporters at the hospital where he is recovering.

Ralston described a planned outing that would exhaust most, but which seemed like a lark to an outdoorsman whose goal is to climb all of Colorado’s approximately 54 14,000-foot mountains – in winter.

Leaving his truck in a parking lot, he rode his mountain bike about 15 miles cross-country, locked it up not far from the head of the canyon and hiked in. He walked for a time with two young women he met along the way, then went on alone into a tougher section of the canyon.

At one point, he had to scramble over and down three large boulders wedged in the narrow canyon.

The middle boulder, weighing an estimated 800 pounds, rolled as he climbed over it, trapping his right arm against a cliff face.

He tried chipping away with his knife at the boulder and the cliff, and tried to rig a way to lift the boulder off himself with climbing gear.

Finally, having gone through most of his three liters of water and his food – two burritos and some crumbs clinging to candy bar wrappers, he decided to sacrifice his arm to save his life.

The accident followed a long weekend of outdoor activity that began with skiing, then a mountain bike ride, and finally, on the third morning, April 26, a "canyoneering" trip down Blue John Canyon.

Canyoneering involves navigating the narrow, winding slot canyons of the Colorado Plateau, alternately using climbing techniques, hiking and sometimes wading or swimming through streams and pools.

Copyright 2003 The Orange County Register