Review by Vicky T. (VickyJo)
“It’s 3:05 p.m. on Sunday, April 27, 2003. This marks my twenty-four-hour mark of being stuck in Blue John 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.”
That was Aron’s first video-recorded message after becoming trapped in Blue John Canyon in Utah while on a hiking trip. You may have heard about his ordeal; he’s the young man who had to eventually, after six days, cut off his own arm to save his life. His book, “Between a rock and a hard place” tells his story.
Aron was 27 years old the morning he set out alone to hike in a secluded area of Utah’s canyons. He was climbing down a narrow slot canyon when a large boulder dislodged, pinning his arm between the boulder and the canyon wall. He was stuck, with little more than two burritos, a partial bottle of water, and his video camera. The book’s narrative takes us back and forth between Aron’s past and his present predicament. We learn about his childhood growing up in Colorado and how he loved and explored the outdoors; how he became skilled in hiking, mountain climbing, skiing and rescue work; and finally, what brought him to his present horrifying situation.
It soon becomes evident to Aron that no one is going to find him; there is no rescue party searching for him. He hadn’t told anyone where he would be hiking which was a BIG mistake. The only way for him to survive is if he amputates his arm to free himself from the boulder. So, on the morning of the sixth day, Aron plans to amputate his arm with a very dull knife on his multi-tool, hike the eight miles back to his truck and then hopefully drive himself to a hospital. That’s the plan.
I will admit that I first picked up this book out of morbid curiosity. The thought of someone cutting off his or her own arm was gruesomely fascinating to me. How do you prepare for something like that? The courage and fortitude an act like that requires is just amazing. And too, the more I thought about it, the more I wondered if that option would even OCCUR to me! Plus, I am not a risk-taker, but I have a curiosity about people who ARE risk-takers…people who climb mountains or jump out of perfectly good airplanes…on purpose…I just don’t get it, frankly. Aron tries to explain this phenomenon; he talks about how taking risks makes him feel alive. They say the adrenaline rush is addictive; once they start, they must keep searching for another adventure, another rush. But adrenaline rushes make me feel as though my heart is going to stop, a feeling I dislike very much. After reading the book, I understand his viewpoint, but I just can’t relate to it. I guess I’ll just be a happy non-risk-taker who only reads about taking risks!
I will say that this book was very useful in one way. Whenever I’m gearing up to do something I really don’t want to do; something I dread, like speaking in front of a large group of people…if I start to get all nervous or anxious, I stop and think, “Well, at least I don’t have to cut off my arm today.” It really helps put everything into perspective.