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From the archives: Trapped climber amputates own arm
Serious condition: After five days pinned by a boulder in southern Utah, the outdoorsman is now recovering in a Colorado hospital; Climber Cuts Off Arm to Free Self

By Michael N. Westley The Salt Lake Tribune

Published November 18, 2010 3:27 pm
This is an archived article that was published on in 2010, and information in the article may be outdated. It is provided only for personal research purposes and may not be reprinted.
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Originally published May 2, 2003.

After being trapped under a boulder for five days in a remote area of southern Utah, Aron Ralston resorted to a desperate measure: He cut off his arm with a pocketknife, according to Emery County sheriff's deputies. Officers found Ralston around 3 p. m. Thursday walking and covered in blood."Once he cut his limb off, he had to rappel down to the base [of the cliff] so he could come out the canyon, and he nearly made it to his own vehicle," said Sgt. Mitch Vetere of the Emery County Sheriff's Office. "He's got to be the toughest guy I've ever seen."Ralston, 27, from Aspen, Colo., had embarked on what was to be a one-day solo climb Saturday in Bluejohn Canyon, adjacent to the Maze District of Canyonlands National Park. During his climb in a 3-foot-wide section of the canyon, a 200-pound boulder fell on him, pinning his right arm, police say. Ralston ran out of water on Tuesday and by Thursday, deputies say, he had begun the unpleasant task of amputating his arm below the elbow. With a tourniquet applied, he rigged anchors and rappelled to the floor of the canyon.That same morning, the Emery County Sheriff's Office and National Park Service activated the Incident Command System and began a search for Ralston after hearing that he had not reported for work this week, say police. Vetere had been surveying the area by helicopter when Ralston was spotted."It was amazing that he was walking on his own, losing as much blood as fast as he was," Vetere said.Ralston was flown to Allen Memorial Hospital in Moab by helicopter and then taken to St. Mary's Hospital in Grand Junction, where he was listed in serious condition Thursday night, according to hospital spokeswoman Kimberly Williams.Authorities told the Denver Post they had located but not recovered the amputated limb.In an odd coincidence, the Denver Post published a piece on Monday detailing Ralston's narrow escape from death in an avalanche in February on Resolution Peak in Colorado — the same time that he lay pinned by the boulder in Utah."We were definitely fortunate," Ralston told the Post about surviving the avalanche.An avid outdoorsman, Ralston was said to be in excellent physical condition and has climbed more than 40 peaks in Colorado, say police. Ralston's Web site,, reads like an encyclopedia of adventure, showing pictures from his recent excursions in hiking, climbing, ballooning, skiing and more.His climb last Saturday was in preparation for an upcoming Denali, Alaska, trip, where he planned to attempt a solo speed descent, according to his Website.Vetere says that rescues are almost a weekly occurrence in that remote region, but that he had never seen a situation like Ralston's in his nearly 20-year career."You get to the point where they're dead and it's just a recovery, or something like this where the guy's just as tough as nails and just had the will to live," Vetere said.A testament to that will, an unattributed quote from Ralston's Web site reads: "Life is empty and meaningless. It is in the emptiness that we create possibilities for extraordinary results."

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