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Monday, May 06, 2013

Height of Human Spirit: “127 Hours” Movie from British Director Danny Boyle


I happened to watch an amazing movie “127 hours” inspired by the true life experience Aron Ralston, (born October 27, 1975) an American outdoorsman, engineer and motivational speaker.

Aron Ralston is very widely known for having survived a canyonneering accident in south-eastern Utah in 2003, during which he amputated his own right arm with a dull multi-tool in order to free himself from a dislodged boulder, which had trapped him there for five days and seven hours. After he freed himself, he had to rappel down a 65 foot (around 20m) sheer cliff face to reach safety. The incident is documented in Ralston's autobiography ‘Between a Rock and a Hard Place’ and is the subject of the film ‘127 Hours.’

My observation and comment:

Most of us have very limited idea about our own potential and strengths. History is full of incidents of people who had displayed extraordinary spirit to show what humans are capable of achieving raising themselves to ‘God-like’ stature in the process. It is we who limit ourselves and become contended with our limited achievements.

The attitude, “Yes, we can!” needs to be encouraged from childhood. We need to encourage our children to explore and test their own strength. In our own anxiety and love for the children, we tend to be highly protective and discourage them from stretching themselves beyond some comfort zone. A right balance in parents’ approach could probably help many children explore newer areas, discover, and make great strides in their lives.

I was fortunate to watch the movie on ‘blue-ray’. The amazing photography of the canyons in Utach is very thrilling, captivating, absorbing and scaring too. The scene relating to Ralston and the two girls wantonly sliding along the rock through the narrow canyon into a deep blue pool really churned my stomach. The scene relating to Ralston amputating his own right arm is something only mentally strong people can watch. The music score by A R Rahman towards the end of the movie is a class only class musicians like A R Rahman can produce.

The Accident:

On April 26, 2003, Aron Ralston was hiking through Blue John Canyon, in eastern Wayne County, Utah, just south of the Horseshoe Canyon unit of Canyonlands National Park. While he was descending a slot canyon, a suspended boulder he was climbing down became dislodged, crushing his right hand and pinning it against the canyon wall. Ralston had not informed anybody of his hiking plans, thus no one would be searching for him.

Assuming that he would die, he spent five days slowly sipping his small amount of remaining water, approximately 350 ml and slowly eating his small amount of food, two burritos, while trying to extricate his arm. His efforts were futile as he could not free his arm from the 800 lb (360 kg) chock-stone. After three days of trying to lift and break the boulder, the dehydrated and delirious Ralston prepared to amputate his trapped right arm at a point on the mid-forearm, in order to escape. He experimented with tourniquets and made some exploratory superficial cuts to his forearm in the first few days. On the fourth day he realized that in order to free his arm he would have to cut through the bones in it, but the tools he had available were insufficient to do so.

When he ran out of food and water on the fifth day, he was forced to drink his own urine. He carved his name, date of birth and presumed date of death into the sandstone canyon wall, and videotaped his last goodbyes to his family. He did not expect to survive the night.

After waking at dawn the following day (Thursday, May 1) he had an epiphany that he could break his radius and ulna bones using torque against his trapped arm. He did so and then performed the amputation, which took about one hour with his multi-tool, which included a dull two-inch knife. He never named the manufacturer of the tool he used, other than to say it was not a Leatherman but "what you'd get if you bought a $15 flashlight and got a free multi-use tool".

After freeing himself, Ralston still had to get back to his car. He climbed out of the slot canyon in which he had been trapped, rappelled down a 65-foot (20 m) sheer wall one-handed and then hiked out of the canyon in the hot midday sun. He was 8 miles from his vehicle, and had no phone. However, while hiking out, he encountered a family on vacation from the Netherlands, Eric and Monique Meijer and their son Andy, who gave him food and water and then hurried to alert the authorities. Ralston had feared he would bleed to death; he lost 40 pounds, including 25% of his blood volume. Fortunately, the rescuers searching for Ralston, alerted by his family that he was missing, had narrowed the search down to Canyonlands and flew by in their helicopter. He was rescued six hours after amputating his arm.

Ralston has said that if he had amputated his arm earlier, he would have bled to death before being found, while if he had not done it he would have been found dead in the slot canyon days later. He believed he was looking forward to the amputation and the freedom it would give.

Later, his severed hand and forearm was retrieved from under the boulder by park authorities. According to television presenter Tom Brokaw, it took 13 men, a winch and a hydraulic jack to move the boulder so that Ralston's arm could be removed. It was then cremated and the ashes given to Ralston. He returned to the accident scene with Brokaw and a camera crew six months later on his 28th birthday to film a Dateline NBC special about the accident and to scatter the ashes of his arm where he says they belong.

Post Accident Feat:

After the accident happened, Ralston continued to climb mountains frequently, including participating in a 2008 expedition to climb Ojos del Salado in Chile and Monte Pissis in Argentina. In 2005, Ralston became the first person to climb all 59 ranked and/or named Colarado’s fourteeners’ solo in winter, a project he started in 1997 and resumed after the amputation in Blue John Canyon.

While Ralston says he intends to climb Mount Everest, he did not go along with polar explorer Eric Larsen on his "Save the Poles" expedition in 2010, as was previously reported.

Ralston’s background

Ralston was born on October 27, 1975, in Marion, Ohio. He and his family moved to Denver when he was age 11. He received his college degree from Carnegie Mellon University in Pittsburg, finishing with degrees in mechanical engineering and French, with a minor in piano. At Carnegie Mellon, he served as a resident assistant, studied abroad, and was an active intramural sports participant. He left his job as a mechanical engineer with Intel in Phoenix, Arizona, in 2002 and moved to Aspen, Colarado in order to pursue a life of climbing mountains. He had the goal of climbing all of Colorado's "fourteeners" — peaks over 14,000 ft high, of which there are 59; solo and during winter (a feat that had never been recorded). He has subsequently achieved this goal in November, 2001. In 2003, Aron got caught in a Grade 5 avalanche on Resolution Peak, Colorado with his hiking partners Mark Beverly and Chadwick Spencer. Nobody was seriously injured. Back in Aspen, Aron had a part-time job at Ute Mountaineer.

In August 2009, Ralston married Jessica Trusty. His first child, Leo, was born in February 2010.


“Do what you love” or “Love what you do” if you really want to be satisfied, successful and famed.
I thank Wikipedia for the detailed information on Aron Ralston

1 comment:

  1. Krupaa L


    Dear Mr.Neelakantan,
    Thank you for visiting my blog and your encouraging words.
    I did visit your blog & read your post on Aron Ralston, it truly requires a lot of courage.
    The concluding words “Do what you love” or “Love what you do” if you really want to be satisfied, successful and famed” is surely food for thought.
    I do want to leave a comment on your blog, but I unable to do so since I don’t see any comment box. I would like follow your blog, please let me know how I could so
    I am a 40+ CA Professional based in Bangalore, I write only when my mind permits me and not a regular at writing but a keenly follow many blogs and spend many hours reading.
    If you are fond of short stories, I suggest you look up this blog…
    In case you do read this blog, leave me know your thoughts.
    Thank you once again,