Caught between a rock and a hard place, American mountaineer Aron Ralston did the unthinkable and lived to tell the tale.
If there’s anyone who can give Bear Grylls (TV’s Man Vs. Wild) a run for his money, it’s American mountaineer Aron Ralston. In his self-penned book 127 Hours, he chronicles the unforgettable six days of ordeal which led him to pay the price of his right arm for a second lease of life.
In 2003, the then-27-year-old Ralston was hiking alone in Utah when a falling boulder came crashing down on his right forearm, imprisoning him in a slot canyon only a little wider than his own body. It wouldn’t have been that bad—except that for all his knowledge and technical expertise as an accomplished outdoorsman (Ralston gave up a cushy job at Intel to pursue his dream of climbing all 59 of Colorado’s peaks solo—in winter), he committed the cardinal folly of not telling anybody where he went. For five days, he called upon everything he knew, both as an accomplished climber and an engineering student at Carnegie Mellon University, to free himself. The thought of amputation struck him early on, but with a blunt penknife, it was as good an act as suicide. As his water supply slowly diminished, so did his hope for survival. Having exhausted all options, he videotaped his farewell to loved ones and carved his epitaph into the canyon wall, until an epiphany threw him the keys to unlock himself.
What makes 127 Hours such a fascinating read (so much so that it has been adapted into a movie starring James Franco) is not the grisly drama of the self-amputation per se, but the honesty with which Ralston confronts his situation. This is the confession statement of a man who, upon coming face-to-face with his own mortality, had no choice but to face up to the consequences of his action and who he really was.
As one reads about his flashbacks to daredevil stunts involving near-drownings and avalanches, there’s no mistaking the vulnerability behind it.
Writing with a depth of clarity, spirit and courage, Ralston’s anger and sense of injustice at his predicament—“What kind of luck do I have that this boulder, wedged here for untold ages, freed itself at the split second that my hands were in the way?”—evaporates as he comes to the searing realization that the accident had been a long time coming; that boulder had in fact been waiting for him all this time.
127 Hours reads like the most gallant tale of survival against the odds but it is an equally unforgettable reminder that we are indeed the choices we make.
Published by Pocket US
Price: S$17.12 (w GST)
Available at all major bookstores.