Between a Rock and a Hard Place
40 miles from the nearest paved road, he found himself on top of an 800-pound boulder. As he slid down and off of the boulder it shifted, trapping his right hand against the canyon wall. No one knew where he was; he had little water; he wasn't dressed correctly; and the boulder wasn't going anywhere. He remained trapped for five days in the canyon: hypothermic at night, de-hydrated and hallucinating by day. Finally, he faced the most terrible decision of his life: braking the bones in his wrist by snapping them against the boulder, he hacked through the skin, and finally succeeded in amputating his right hand and wrist.
The ordeal, however, was only beginning. He still faced a 60-foot rappell to freedom, and a walk of several hours back to his car - along the way, he miraculously met a family of hikers, and with his arms tourniqued, and blood-loss almost critical, they heard above them the whir of helicopter blades; just in time, Aron was rescued and rushed to hospital.
Since that day, Aron has had a remarkable recovery. He is back out on the mountains, with an artificial limb; he speaks to select groups on his ordeal and rescue; and amazingly, he is upbeat, positive, and an inspiration to all who meet him. This is the account of those five days, of the years that led up to them, and where he goes from here. It is narrative non-fiction at its most compelling.
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Read an Excerpt
Chapter One: "Geologic Time Includes Now"
This is the most beautiful place on earth.
There are many such places. Every man, every woman, carries in heart and mind the image of the ideal place, known or unknown, actual or visionary....There's no limit to the human capacity for the homing sentiment. Theologians, sky pilots, astronauts have even felt the appeal of home calling to them from up above, in the cold black outback of interstellar space.
For myself I'll take Moab, Utah. I don't mean the town itself, of course, but the country which surrounds it -- the canyonlands. The slickrock desert. The red dust and...
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Reading Group Guide
TOPICS AND QUESTIONS FOR DISCUSSION
1. Environmentalist and writer Edward Abbey is something of a hero to Aron Ralston, as Ralston states right near the beginning of his book. “We each hold Edward Abbey—combative conservationist; anti-development; anti-tourism, and anti-mining essayist . . . as a sage of environmentalism [and who said]: ‘Of course, we’re all hypocrites. The only true act of an environmentalist would be to shoot himself in the head. Otherwise he’s still contaminating the place by his mere presence.’” (pp. 11–12) Where does Aron stand on this particular philosophy? Do you agree with Abbey that we ruin the natural environment by our mere presence within it?
2. How do the two girls, Megan and Kristi, respond to meeting Aron Ralston? What are their initial reactions to him? Why does he refuse their invitation to attend their gathering? What must he do first?
3. In Aron’s confrontation with the black bear, we see evidence of extraordinary bravery. “All I could do was keep hiking, hope I didn’t founder in the snow, and see more