Thursday, September 23, 2010

Between a Rock and a Hard Place

New York: Atria Books, 2004
ISBN: 0743492811
342 pages
4 out of 5

One of the most extraordinary survival stories ever told--Aron Ralston's searing account of his six days trapped in one of the most remote spots in America, and how one inspired act of bravery brought him home.

It started out as a simple hike in the Utah canyonlands on a warm Saturday afternoon.  For Aron Ralston, a twenty-seven-year-old mountaineer and outdoorsman a walk into the remove Blue John Canyon was a chance to get a break from a winter of solo climbing Colorado's highest and toughest peaks.  He'd earned this weekend vacation, and though he met two charming women along the way , by early afternoon he finally found himself in his element: alone, with just the beauty of the natural world around him.

It was 2:41 p.m.  Eight miles from his truck, in a deep and narrow slot canyon, Aron was climbing down off a wedged boulder when the rock suddenly, and terrifyingly, came loose.  Before he could get out of the way, the falling stone pinned his right hand and wrist against the canyon wall.

And so began six days of hell for Aron Ralston.  With scant water and little food, no jacket for the painfully cold nights, and the terrible knowledge that he'd told no one where he was headed, he found himself facing a lingering death--trapped by an 800-pound boulder 100 feet down in the bottom of a canyon.  As he eliminated his escape options one by one through the days, Aron faced the full horror of his predicament: By the time any possible search and rescue effort would begin, he'd most probably have died of dehydration, if a flash flood didn't down him before that.

What does one do in the face of almost certain death?  Using the video camera from his pack, Aron begins recording his grateful goodbyes to his family and friends all over the country, thinking back over a life filled with adventure and documenting a last will and testament with the hope that someone would find it.  (For their part, his family and friends had instigated a major search for Aron, the amazing details of which are also documented here for the first time).  The knowledge of their love kept Aron Ralston alive, until a divine inspiration on Thursday morning solved the riddle of the boulder.  Aron then committed the most extreme act imaginable to save himself.

Between a Rock and a Hard Place--a brilliantly written, funny, honest, inspiring, and downright astonishing report from the line where death meets life--will surely take its place in the annals of classic adventure stories.

So Aron Ralson is pretty cool guy.  His life is about adventure and being outdoors.  The book outlines his life before the accident and it's a life many guys (and perhaps some ladies) undoubtedly dream of.  What could be better?

This book happens to be about what could be worse.  But this isn’t exactly a book with spoilers: Ralston’s story was all over the news in 2003, the book was published in 2004 and now in 2010, Ralston is being played by James Franco in the upcoming movie 127 Hours

But sometimes it’s not about the ending; it really is about the journey.  The mental and physical difficulties of what Ralston went through during his week trapped by the boulder, his recovery, and his return to the outdoor life.  His story is about bravery, determination, and ultimately the will to survive. 

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