Thursday, February 10, 2011

127 Hours

I’m always looking for a good, inspirational story, but I’m not sure I was ready for this one. After sampling the first couple of chapters—thank you Kindle for the nice feature of “sample ebooks before you buy”—of Aron Ralston’s, “Between a Rock and a Hard Place,” I took the plunge into an amazing tale of life and death and survival.

For those of you who don’t know, Ralston is a young man who became trapped in one of Aron_Ralston_Utah’s “slot canyons,” and had to make the decision to amputate his own arm in order to save his life.

Slot canyons are other-worldly and beautiful places to hike and climb. They can also be very narrow, and that explains how Ralston became trapped by a huge boulder. Accidentally dislodged, the rock crashed onto Ralston’s arm, pinning it against the canyon wall, and isolating him in a place where no one knew he was or could be.

After five days of gradually starving and dehydrating—and exhausting all other possibilities to extricate his arm—Ralston freed himself using only his body weight, materials from his climbing gear and backpack, and a somewhat worn down utility knife (think LeatherMan).

To say Ralston exhausted all possibilities is a bit of an understatement because he has immense experience in both climbing and rescue climbing. The ingenuity he demonstrated to craft a pulley system to potentially move the boulder is not something most of us would be prepared to do in the same situation. For virtually the entire time he was trapped he pounded away at the boulder hoping to break enough off to allow him to pull himself free.

Yes, I was inspired, but not by the central story. Ralston is a man who sets lofty goals and then pursues them relentlessly—even after his accident. At the time he became trapped he was most of the way through his plan to climb all of the 53 Colorado mountain peaks that are over 14,000 feet in elevation. Yes, lots of people have done that. I’ve even climbed one of the easier ones (Pikes Peak). What made Ralston different? He went after all of them during the winter. Alone. He is the only one.

As Ralston videotaped (he always carries video and still cameras with him) his goodbyes to his friends and families there was sadness, but very few regrets. That’s because he has lived his life to the fullest extent possible. A life of abundant living, fully lived, fully experienced. That’s what I hope for.

The movie, “127 Hours,” is in theaters now.