In 2003, a hiker and mountaineer visited Blue John Canyon in Utah. A freak accident leads to his right hand being trapped by a big boulder and so starts a six-day ordeal of pain, isolation, fear, hunger and thirst. I’ve never watched the film of 127 Hours but it’s definitely on my ‘must watch’ list and even more so after reading the book written by the survivor himself, Aron Ralston.
Aron is an avid mountaineer and experienced hiker. He’s climbed up the fourteeners in Colorado and has ended up in – and survived – various hairy scenarios. We get to know this gradually as he writes alternate chapters – one about his current predicament followed by another focusing on his outdoors life to date. It’s an interesting juxtaposition and the background to his life shows how these previous experiences, good and bad, have shaped Aron into becoming positive and independent, always looking for a solution rather than simply panicking (which is exactly what I would have done in his place!)
The observations and descriptions were incredibly powerful, I could almost imagine what it must have been like in that situation. The cold and the utter isolation during the nights, the desperation and dry thirst during the day…
Thankfully, Aron is made of tough stuff. He’s got out of tricky situations before, he’s helped with a mountain rescue team, so he knows how to observe, keep calm, think of potential solutions and, most importantly, avoid panicking.
His outdoor skills, logical mindset and positive attitude can only go so far however. There is only so much food (burritos to be exact) and water. The canyons are warm during the day but freezing cold at night. It’s remote, so remote that it’s unlikely that anyone will come across him in Blue John Canyon before he runs out of food and water and dies from dehydration. And any attempts to remove the boulder that’s crushed his right hand has failed. Oh, and he didn’t tell anyone exactly where he was going so even the rescue attempt, once people start noticing his absence, will be a difficult one before it even begins.
Perhaps not surprisingly considering the lack of food and water, Aron hallucinates – or are they spiritual experiences? Whatever the case, for Aron, these experiences come at a time when he is rapidly losing hope; when he believes with utter certainty that he will not live to see the next day.
This has to be one of my favourite books of this year, with each chapter ending with a ‘cliffhanger’ so to speak. And although I know that Aron survived (he’s written the book so this is no plot spoiler), I am fascinated to know just how exactly he managed to survive…