Hiker Aron Ralston Cuts Off Own Arm to Survive
May 2, 2003

GRAND JUNCTION, Colo. - With no water and as little hope of survival, Aspen mountaineer Aron Ralston, 27, used a pocketknife to amputate his own arm and free himself from a boulder weighing 800-1,000 pounds that fell and trapped him for five days in a remote desert canyon in eastern Utah.

Pinned in a 3-foot wide slot canyon near the Maze District of Canyonlands National Park south of Moab, Utah, Ralston cut through his own arm below the elbow Thursday morning, applying a tourniquet and administering first aid before rigging anchors and fixing a rope to rappel to the bottom of Blue John Canyon and hiking out to meet rescuers. Ralston had been hiking alone when the boulder fell and pinned his right arm as he was moving through the narrow slot last Saturday afternoon, according to information from the sheriff's offices in Emery and Wayne counties.

"Ralston cut through his own arm below the elbow Thursday..."

Ralston told rescuers that on Thursday morning he realized he would not survive unless he took drastic action. He had run out of water on Tuesday.

Search efforts that had begun Wednesday evening yielded no signs of the hiker until he walked out of the canyon with two other hikers at about 3 p.m. Thursday. Ralston was taken to Allen Memorial Hospital in Moab where he was stabilized before transport to St. Mary's Hospital in Grand Junction, Colo., for surgery.

The episode marked Ralston's second brush with death since February, when he was buried in an avalanche while backcountry skiing in the Colorado Rockies. Ralston, an avid outdoorsman who has climbed 49 of Colorado's 14,000-foot-plus mountains, was buried up to his neck in the avalanche, managing to dig himself out along with a completely buried skiing companion within 15 minutes.

Ralston's pocketknife amputation was not the first in the region. In October 1993, Colorado fisherman Bill Jeracki cut off his leg at the knee when two boulders fell on his leg while angling alone in a remote canyon stream. Trapped and yelling for hours, Jeracki made the decision to sever the limb after the weather took a turn for the worse and he became concerned for his survival. He used hemostats from his fishing kit to close the severed artery and vein, then crawled a half mile back to his truck and drove to find help.

Scott Willoughby

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