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Wednesday, April 6, 2011

Between a Rock and a Hard Place - Aron Ralston

I just finished reading Between a Rock and a Hard Place last night. This book is about Aron Ralston's story - the climber and skier from Colorado who's hand got trapped by a 800 pound boulder deep in a Utah slot canyon on 2003. This is the story that the recently released movie "127 Hours" is based on.

I didn't see 127 Hours. I am a big chicken when it comes to watching movies, and I didn't think I could handle watching it. My mom reported that she gagged a few times and had to cover her eyes.

But a month or two after they saw the movie, one of my friends mentioned reading this book and loving it. I decided to check it out from the library and couldn't put it down for days. Aron was a risk-taker; constantly going out on hiking, climbing and skiing trips alone - he loved to explore the wilderness solo. He went off on a last minute trip to Utah in April of 2003 and what should have been an easy day-trip into some slot canyons turned into a 6 day entrapment when the boulder he was climbing over pulled loose and fell onto him. It pinned his right hand and wrist against the wall of the narrow canyon and he couldn't get free. He was stuck in the canyon for 6 days before he figured out how to break the bones in his arm, and then he cut off his hand/wrist with a dull pocket knife. He was sure he was going to die in the canyon, but he didn't. He lived.

The book is a mix of Aron's recollection of being trapped, and flash backs to his previous hiking adventures and experiences in the outdoors with his family and friends. His ability to hang on through 6 days of hell just amaze me. It's impossible to picture myself in a situation like that, but I know I wouldn't fare as well as he did.

My favorite part of the book were the photos that were included in 2 different inserts. There's one set of photos of Aron growing up, going on his different hikes, and they show his footsteps, climbing over the very top ridge of a 14,000 foot tall mountain peak. It's chilling for me to even look at that, imagining what it'd be like to be up there. The second set of pictures are of his entrapment. He took a few photos on his trip into the canyon, and when he met the two girls only an hour or two before getting trapped. Once he was trapped though, he continued to take a couple of photos - and I think it completely made the book. It added visual understanding to the written descriptions he was giving. There are photos of him with his arm stuck between the boulder and the canyon wall. There is a photo of his hand, still between the two, once he amputated it. They are real and legit photos, both gruesome and fascinating to look at.

If you are intrigued at the journey he went through, to get to a point where he cut off his arm, read this book. He is now married and has a son - the fulfillment of a vision he had during his last night stuck in the canyon. He saw a vision of himself, holding a 3 year old boy, in his hand-less right arm. He had accepted the fact that he would die in the canyon before having that vision. After that, he knew he wasn't done. He knew he would get out and he would live. He did.

What an inspirational story of using tragedy and hardship to grow and to live a better life. Aron is still an active outdoorsman, but he's no longer trying to fill a void in his life with risks. He said in an interview that his marriage and becoming a father are the new adventures in his life. He is happy with where his life is now, and if he had to do it all over again, he wouldn't change a thing.

That is powerful.

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