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Meesh, Aspen,CO Age:28

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wWednesday, May 21, 2003

Unless you've been stuck under a rock
(ok, first bad pun of this post)
no doubt you've heard of Aspenite Aron Ralston and his harrowing saga in the Utah canyons.
(I love the sound of that, "harrowing saga", great)

Former Intel mechanical engineer turned mountain man Panic follower gets his left arm pinned under an 800 pound boulder while descending a steep narrow crevice in Bluejohn Canyon, a pretty advanced section of the Utah Canyonlands.

If you haven't heard this report, let me break it down for you, before the TV movie comes out.

So Aron sets out, on Apr. 26, Sat., by himself, without telling anyone where he is going,
(but hey you solo adventurers out there know that is kind of part of the adventure, no?),
for a one-day loop on his mountain bike into the Bluejohn trailways.
No big deal right?
I used to head into the Ojai hills regularly for a little one-on-one with nature.

He bikes 15 miles (like 2 and a half hours) from the beginning of the trailhead deep into the canyon, hooks up with two random hikers, and they scramble mixed terrain of riverbed and down-climbs for a couple more hours. He splits up with them, to continue his intended loop which will take him into part of the Canyon known as the Big Drop.
As he descends the narrow crevice, the large boulder he is gripping starts to roll over towards him, and rests firmly upon his right hand and lower arm.
With just a liter of water left and a couple burritos, he uses his engineering abilities to rig a seat for himself and begin to tackle the problem of dislodging the boulder.
Over the next two days, he rigs a series of pulleys, using increasing ratios to try to budge the boulder to no avail.

The same day he runs out of water, Tuesday, he sets up his makeshift surgical table, to begin the task of freeing his arm.
The knife, which he describes as a "gift with purchase", fake Leatherman tool, barely cuts the hair on his arm, so badly dulled from chipping away at the rock.
So he settles back to spend his 4th night with the boulder.

On the fifth day, he continues his attempts, finally managing to break the skin, then finds that there is no way he can cut through the bone.
After five nights, Aron resorts to snapping of his arm at the wrist, radius and ulna against the force of the rock, completing his crude amputation.
He wraps his arm in a pair of bike shorts,
sips some water from a dirty pool at the bottom of the drop,
then hikes 6 MILES, until he runs into a family from Holland, then meets up with a rescue helicopter only a mile from where he originally left his car.
I bet if he hadn't run into anyone, the freaking guy would have drove himself to the hospital, too.

We were discussing Aron the other day, it has been THE topic of convo for weeks around Aspen, (the mayoral election a distant second), everyone is amazed at his strength and courage, I am no exception, but hell yes, I'd cut my freaking arm off, too!

One thing I learned from my ex-ex Dan, is to always carry a sharp knife. I always have on hand (last bad pun, I swear), a 5-inch sawtooth/sharp edge switch.

Well even if I only need to slice some Manchego for lunch, free someone from their seat belt in a car accident, or off my own arm should I be trapped under a half-ton boulder,
I am always prepared. I don't know if it could cut through bone though, and snapping the bones in my arm is quite a burly maneuver, but what else would you do? Die there? Let some hiker find you 3 months later.
Yeah, NO.

Aron seems in great spirits, cooly reciting his ordeal in his String Cheese shirt, smiling broadly, damn sexy mountain man.
He says he's craving a margarita.
I'd like to be the first to buy him one,
and shake his hand.
I'd say, "What's up Lefty?"

Another reason I love Aspen.
Guys with big Cajones, great big Cajones, strong, survivalist types.

And this quote from Aron, inspiring.
Certainly applies to anyone facing an immense decision or huge obstacle in life.

"The decision to severe my arm came when I realized that it was the last opportunity that I could have, and still have the physical strength to get myself out to where help could find me. At that point I wanted to have things in my control. ... The courage became more a matter of pragmatics than of could I withstand the actual actions that I had to take. It was more a concern of, 'Will I be able to think through this as I do it and keep on making good decisions once I'm halfway done?'"

True that.

posted by meesh at 9:43 AM