A Profile of Aron Ralston

DAN PEREZ

Graphic, brutal, devastating,
and inspiring. These words
could be used to sum up the
events that happened to one of
the country’s most talked about
outdoor adventurers.
Aron Ralston, the 36-yearold
Indianapolis native, has
“carved” a name for himself in
American popular culture
(both literally and figuratively).
An academically geared
person, he studied mechanical
engineering at Carnegie
Mellon University in
Pittsburgh. After working as an
engineer at the technology
company Intel, Ralston left
that job to pursue mountain
climbing.
Gaining his fame from a lifechanging
experience he underwent
while hiking in the Utah
desert, Ralston’s story definitely
isn’t for the faint of heart.
On April 26, 2003, he set out
on a treacherous hike in southern
Utah. Shortly into his trip
he accidentally fell down a crevasse
and had his right arm
pinned under an 800 pound
boulder. Five days (or 127
hours) later, he escaped by performing
surgery on himself
and made it to safety.
However, some critics of
Ralston’s newfound fame have
asked the question “why?”.
Why the unnecessary praise
for a man who ignored one of
the basic tenants of hiking and
outdoor adventuring?
Aron Ralston failed to tell his
co-workers, family, or friends
about the trip he embarked on.
A well-known rule among hikers
and campers: if you are
going on a solo trip, it is so
important to let people know
where and when you are going.
The flip side of his fans and
supporters is the argument that
his fame is merely capitalizing
on his own irresponsible and
careless decision that got him
trapped under that fateful boulder
in the first place.
Recently in theaters, the
aptly titled film “127 Hours”
has been creating a buzz. The
film portrays the series of
events that occurred during the
five days when Ralston was
trapped beneath a boulder that
was crushing his right arm.
Aside from a popular director
at the helm of the feature film
(Danny Boyle) and a famous
actor (James Franco) playing
Aron Ralston, “127 Hours” has
sparked controversy due to its
infamous climax where. wait
for it. the hiker “slashes” his
way out of his dilemma.
Last September during the
Toronto International Film
Festival three audience members
fainted and one suffered a
seizure during an early screening
of the film. The gory scene
in question caused these and
other recorded occurrences in
people similar to the ones in
Toronto.
So what ended up happening
to this brave man who cheated
death and escaped unscathed
(minus one right arm)? Well,
Aron Ralston has been busy
capitalizing on his tumultuous
experience. Before the film
based on his story came out, he
wrote a book titled “Between a
Rock and a Hard Place”.
The adventurer is also
exploring the avenue of motivational
speaking. For the reasonable
price of between $20
and $30,000 you too can book
Aron Ralston recently
appeared at a Swiss Economic
Forum.
Losing an arm has caused
Ralston to gain a new perspective
on life. Turning a tragedy
into opportunity, he has gone
on to achieve notoriety for his
mountain climbing expeditions.
Successfully reaching the
peak of all of Colorado’s
“14ers” (the 53 mountains that
tower over 14,000 feet in elevation).
He began this task in
1998 and finished in 2005,
climbing many of these mountains
after his accident in Utah.
Do these adrenally charged
feats of strength show a true
desire and passion for the outdoors,
or do they reflect one
man’s over enlarged ego and
self-centeredness?
Ralston himself stated in an
interview with the New York
Times that “It’s not about what
you do; it’s about who you
are,” he said. “And I went right
back into the mode of being
about what you do. That went
into all these adventures, finishing
the 14-ers, doing the
ultra-races.”
Pictures on Ralston’s blog
show how he copes with the
loss of his arm. By attaching a
prosthetic climbing pick on the
area where his hand once was,
the climber is able to do the
things that the loss of his limb
might have limited him in.
People seem to be split upon
their view of Aron Ralston. In
one camp, people view him as
an egotistical and careless airheaded
instant celebrity who
has received undeserved fame.
While the other side is filled
with fans of Ralston who see
him as a true hero, miraculously
overcoming death and continuing
to elude the reaper by
still adventuring in the outdoors
that took his arm (and
almost his life).