Man Cuts off Own Arm to Save Life, 2003

Adventurer Aron Ralston found himself in a heck of a pickle when a boulder landed and trapped his arm while out hiking. With no help coming, he knew he’d have to do the unthinkable if he wanted to live

It was May 1st, 2003 and a man named Aron Ralston found himself well and truly between a rock and a hard place.

He was alone at the bottom of Bluejohn Canyon starving, dehydrated, beginning to hallucinate, and was in the grip of death’s maw.

All this was because his right hand was pinned to the canyon wall by a 360 kg (800 lb) chockstone and it refused to budge or break no matter what Aron tried.

After five days of this predicament he’d come to accept that, in order to ever see his family again, he and his hand were going to have to part ways. The problem was how to break through the bones to do so.

How the hell had he got into this predicament anyway? 27-year-old Aron Ralston had once worked as a mechanical engineer for a few years but found himself burned out working in a large corporation. In 2002 he quit and moved to Aspen, Colorado in order to pursue a life of climbing mountains.

He’d actually had a brush with death before, surviving a major avalanche on Resolution Peak, Colorado.

Now, five days earlier, canyoning down the dark nether-regions of the Bluejohn slot canyon, a suspended boulder was dislodged as he clambered over it and smashed his left hand before crushing his right against the canyon wall.

Aron was alone, hadn’t informed anyone of his plans, and had no way to call for help

Audio from Aron Ralston’s video footage

He spent five days slowly sipping his small amount of remaining water and eating his small amount of food while repeatedly trying to extricate his arm.

By the fourth day he came to terms with the fact that he had to cut through the arm bones, but his dull 5.1 cm (2 inch) pen-knife was not up to the task.

Eventually, delirious, he had the epiphany to break his radius and ulna bones using torque against his trapped arm. He did so and used his pen-knife to cut through the rest.

Aron hiked out of the canyon, came across a Dutch family who gave him food and water before calling in a rescue chopper and he was rescued just four hours after amputating his arm. Aron Ralston went on to write a book of his harrowing experience, became a motivational speaker, got married and had 2 children. A movie of his incredible tale was made called ‘127 Hours.


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