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on March 15, 2018
I felt like I was in that canyon with Aron. He created a mental picture that made me feel as desperate to read more to free him from the boulder. I am glad he made it out and his story inspires me in so many ways. I am glad to see he is striving to be a beacon of hope for those who feel their life is trapped. The only thing I would say lagged for me was the long flashbacks to other adventures. Each was unique and a story worth telling, but the stories may have been better suited to stand on their own. I found the length of those chapters to be distracting. But overall, it was an epic read. Aron is a unique individual. I am glad I got to know him a little through his book.
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VINE VOICEon January 26, 2012
Book Description

In April 2003, 28-year-old Aron Ralston took a day trip in Blue John Canyon in Utah's Canyonlands National Park. Shortly after beginning his solo excursion into the canyon, a boulder came loose and pinned Ralston's right arm between it and the canyon wall. Unable to free his arm, Ralston was trapped for 127 hours (more than 5 days) with limited water and food. Because Ralston had broken one of the cardinal rules of outdoor pursuits (always let someone know where you are going), no one knew where he was (or even to come looking for him) until he didn't show up for work on Monday. His account of the ordeal and his eventual decision to save himself by amputating his right arm is documented in this well-written (and surprisingly funny) memoir.

My Thoughts

When watching 127 Hours, I was absolutely mesmerized by Ralston's predicament. (It didn't hurt that Ralston was portrayed by James Franco and the movie directed by Danny Boyle.) After watching the film, I wanted to get the full story about what Ralston had experienced. Did he really have a vision of his future son that bolstered his courage? Did he really talk into his video camera during his entrapment? Why had he made such a fundamentally stupid mistake by not telling anyone about his whereabouts? The book answered all these questions and provided much more detail into Ralston's personality and background.

In fact, after reading the book, I'm not completely surprised that Ralston found himself in his predicament. In the book, he recounts several near-death experiences he faced during various other outdoor pursuits (from almost drowning in the Grand Canyon to being buried under an avalanche). Ralston's whole life was (and is) about pushing himself in the outdoors--often in ways that others might consider foolish or overly risky. In addition, solo adventuring was nothing new to Ralston. At the time of his entrapment, he was pursuing his quest to make the first solo ascents of all "fourteeners" (mountains over 14,000 feet) in Colorado. The one line in the movie that stuck with me--"This rock had been waiting for me all my life"--really sums up Ralston's life. (I may be misremembering the exact line but it is something fairly close to this.)

Did he leave the canyon a changed man--aside from the obvious loss of his right arm? Spiritually, Ralston matured--coming to a new appreciation for life and his loved ones. What the experience didn't do was dampen his enthusiasm for outdoor pursuits. Working with prosthetics and climbing companies, Ralston designed a prosthetic arm for himself so he could continue rock climbing and mountain climbing.

The book is surprisingly well written. After all, just because you have the guts to amputate your own arm and survive for five days in a canyon with limited food and water doesn't mean you'll be able to tell your story eloquently. But Ralston (who was an engineer before quitting corporate life to pursue the outdoor life in Colorado) seems to be a true Renaissance man--crafting a well-rounded, eloquent and often amusing account of his life, philosophy and the accident changed him forever.

Finally, I must mention that the book includes a collection of full-color photographs of Ralston before, during and after the accident. I had a rather morbid fascination with these photos (including the one of the severed arm immediately after the amputation), but they really did add to the story. It was amazing to see the exact place where this took place and what Ralston looked like during his entrapment. I also need to give a shout-out to the filmmakers for seeming to recreate Ralston's predicament, clothing, and equipment down to the smallest detail.

Recommended For: Readers who enjoy gripping and well-told adventure/survival stories, fans of the movie 127 Hours, and anyone looking for real-life survival story that demonstrates what people will do to survive.
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on November 26, 2017
Incredible story but I found it hard to get into until the second half. The author starts out explaining how he got trapped then spends chapters detailing his many climbing and rafting adventures in which he pushed himself and took great risks to himself (and others). This was almost half the book, told in great technical detail with little emotional content. I skimmed over most of this and almost stopped reading the book.
I have read other books in this genre- Into Thin Air, 6 Below, etc which include technical climbing detail but it was understandable and necessary to the larger narrative. Here it just seemed to be filler- as though he had to recount every adventure and close call he had up until the final one.
The story of his entrapment(second half) increasingly dire predicament, his thoughts and description of how he finally escaped WAS an amazing and compelling story.
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VINE VOICEon April 10, 2011
Well, the odds are pretty darn good that luck is going to run out on you if you have tempted fate as many times as Aron Ralston had and continues to do.

Like so many people, I was held spellbound back in 2003 when Ralston's story first hit the media. What kind of man does it take to cut off his own arm to survive a terrifying accident? I knew the area the accident happened in and that just made the story more compelling to me - the Canyonlands are not a forgiving landcape.

"Between a Rock and a Hard Place" answered some of my questions. I, for one, am glad that this is not the story of JUST the accident but tells more of Ralston's life story. I see it more as a character study and I think if you read it as that, you won't be disappointed.

Even after reading the book, do I understand Ralston? No. He wrote the book himself and I enjoyed his writing style. He was VERY candid about his lifestyle and all his past mistakes and imperfections. He is an adrenaline junkie, an adventurer - problem is that he makes careless mistakes, takes ridiculous chances, has endangered others in his various quests.

I have a son the same age as Ralston and I have to say, as a mother, I would not want to be Ralston's mother. I am quite sure that his accident was the culmination of years of sleepless nights and waiting for THAT phone call.

The book really made me think about what inner qualities it takes to become an adventurer, an explorer, a trailblazer. I can't decide if any of these are Ralston's aims or whether he just has a death wish.

I don't agree with many of his methods but Ralston is living the life he wants to live. He is the first person, as noted in his book, to ever scale all 59 of Colorado's 14,000 foot or above peaks solo in winter. And this manchild had the extraordinary fortitude and will to live to be able to cut off his own arm, rappel one-armed down a cliff face, and hike miles out of the desolate Canyonlands to reach safety. How many people in the whole world would have been able to do the same?
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on December 7, 2010
I read the book cover to cover in 4 days (just finished a couple hours ago), not unheard of but there are only a handful of books that have engaged me as much. In the words of Mark Twain, "Why shouldn't truth be stranger than fiction? Fiction, after all, has to make sense." Indeed if you read a fiction book that was 1/2 as unlikely as Ralston's accounts of himself, you'd declare it ridiculously unlikely and throw it against a wall. However, you realize that Ralston isn't making this stuff up. I can't remember reading a book that impressed me more with its author. He has also taught me a lot about myself and inspired me to discover a lot more! What more could you want from a book? Well there's plenty, but this book does deliver.

I noticed 3 things he seems to have done wrong. One maybe my misunderstanding (what else could it be?). Another, a mistake he admits (and rues). Another that it seems to me he should have known. They are, in order:

1. He says it was 6 days. Well, he was pinned by the boulder at 2:45 PM on a Saturday and he freed himself at 11:32 AM on Thursday, was transported to a hospital around 3 PM, so that's 5 days. He says it was 6 days and I wonder why. Yes, he got up early on Saturday morning for his adventure, so maybe he's counting that extra time, basically chronicling how long he went without what ordinary people would consider sleep. Even so, it seems to me that calling the ordeal 6 days is a stretch.

2. It took him almost 5 days to hit on the idea that led to his freedom, i.e. intentionally breaking the bones in his forearm. He admits to feeling quite stupid later for not having thought of it earlier.

3. His knife blades were dull, in particular the longer blade. Well, he was surrounded by stone and you can sharpen any blade against stone. Indeed, sharpening stones are just abrasive stones, and I'm sure the stone all around him had some measure of abrasiveness. People generally use oil or water with sharpening stones, but it is certainly not necessary, it just makes the process easier and faster (I seldom bother to apply oil or water when I use my sharpening stones). He could have given his blades near razor sharpness with a small application of the patience he exhibited on various other projects while trapped. Even if the stone around him was slick as glass, he could have at least set the edge of his blades on them (making them far sharper), however, I'm sure that wasn't the case.
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on November 9, 2015
The book is well written. Ralston is an idiot. This guy risks his life regularly and stupidly. He doesn't appear to have any insight even after he self amputates. A good read for what not to do in the great outdoors. For someone who works in mountain rescue, he should have much more common sense. My biggest irritation about him is that shenanigans like his make rescuers risk life and limb, haha for these irresponsible actions.
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on February 4, 2014
I don't ever want to be too hard on a book, because I enjoy the act of reading regardless (usually) of the content. I have always been enthralled by this story, and followed it pretty closely in the news. I expected the book to be an insider view of what Aron dealt with while trapped by the boulder. Well, that story is in there, but so is a lot of fluff. Aron tells story after story after story of his climbing prowess, usually about something death-defying. In fact, reading the book, it's amazing he lived long enough to get his arm trapped. The stories tend to come off in a braggadocios manner, like Aron is trying to prove how awesome he is as if people are out there saying he's not. Reading about his time trapped in the canyon was thrilling. It is a great story that involves facing death and the will to survive against all odds. The stories that take place outside of the canyon, even his recounting of his friends and family back home preparing to search for him, are painful at best. The book would have rated at 5 stars if all of the fluff had never been added.
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on May 18, 2011
I decided to read Ralston's book while doing research about inner voices. Setting aside his enormous mistakes in failing to give his itinerary to anyone and going alone, I wondered what must have been going on inside his head while enduring such an incredible ordeal; what inner voices must have spoken to him and what they said. My wondering and my research was richly rewarded as Ralston shared his experience in a most candid and honest way. I was actually surprised at the excellent quality of his writing, and the affinity I felt with is love of adventure and the solitary moments in majestic places. Having had many of my own, I identified with him and recognized myself once again as a carefree 27-year-old. There are some extraordinary lessons to be learned from Ralson and his near death experience. In spite of his mistakes (we all make them, especially in our younger years) he is an incredible and accomplished young man that we can admire for his courage and perseverance.
After reading the book, I decided to rent the movie version 127 Hours, staring James Franco and Kate Mara. What a waste. It could have been a great movie, but instead it is a poorly crafted slap-dash collection of cobbled-together scenes that fails to do justice to Ralston's remarkable experience. Oh well. Fortunately I read the book first.
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on November 29, 2011
This was a good book that I definately enjoyed reading. I thought it started off a little slow and got more interesting as the story progressed. I think a map of the area would have been a good addition to the book because it seemed to assume you are familiar with the layout of the area and routes.

I guess I expected a story about some random guy who had a rock fall on him, cut his arm, and survived. I didn't know he was such an experienced adventurer living an action packed lifestyle. It would definately be a great read if you have ever done any of the outdoor activities that he talks about in his flashbacks/memories because it will help you relate to how much Aron had accomplished prior to this incident.

It definately makes me double check my plans and gear when heading out on a trip because this proves that you never know what can happen. Glad I read the book before I watched the movie because the movie was terrible!
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on May 10, 2010
Aron Ralston's book may well have saved my life and my husband's life in the same canyon system where he effected the most amazing and heroic of self rescues by amputating his own arm to escape BlueJohn Canyon. While as 'seasoned' citizens, neither my husband or I are into extreme sports like Ralston's canyoneering, much of the Canyonlands National Park (the rest of the National Park system, State and local parks and more)is readily accessible and restoring to the rest of us. We got lost, spent an overnight alone with a mountain lion, and in late morning found ourselves without water at the same spot that Ralston eventually found a Dutch family to help him. We relied on insight from his book to make wise decisions that -- along with the Artist in Resident who found us and the Park Ranger he called -- allow me to sit at my desk and write this review ten months later. The book is a good read in the safety of your own home, as story of inspiration on the metaphorically level for getting through difficult emotional problems so prevalent in our current political, economic, job situation and all the stresser of every day life. We all find ourselves between the proverbial rock and hard place and some of us may have to make financial, familial, and/or interpersonal decisions just as extreme as Ralston's decision to saw off his own arm with a generic multi-purpose tool. (I gave my husband a Swiss Army knife and a camelback (hydration system) for Christmas -- just in case our next stroll in the park goes as badly as the last.
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