Between a Rock and a Hard Place – Day 249

February 7, 2011 No Comments


365 Days to a Balanced Life Journey – Day 249


Quote of the Day

“Never underestimate the potential and power of the human spirit” – Author Unknown

I watched Dateline last night about the young man, Aron Ralston who was trapped in a canyon alone for 127 hours pinned to a wall by a 500 pound boulder.  I remember hearing about this back in 2003 when it happened and was impressed by his ability to make the hard choice he had to make to survive. However it was not until seeing him relive his ordeal and tell us in his own words what he went through that I realized what a difficult, bordering on impossible situation he was in.

He was dehydrated, starving and had gone most of this time without sleep and still he found the strength of character, courage and clarity of mind to work himself free.  Facing certain death he cut his hand off with a dull pocket knife.  He had to break two bones before he started the cutting process as he knew the knife was not sharp enough to cut through the bone. 

This was only the beginning though.  He then had to climb out of the canyon, bleeding and in pain with his body shutting down from dehydration and fatigue.

I don’t think there are too many people who could pull this off.  He said that at one point he was sure he was going to die alone in that canyon so he scratched his own grave markings on the canyon wall so people would know who he was.  However at some point he had a vision of a young boy running towards him and he knew it was his son (he was childless at the time) and this gave him courage to continue his efforts to free himself. (Some years later he married and had a son).

They interviewed his mother and she spoke about her desperation to get her son help.  They knew he was missing but they did not know where he was as he broke the number one rule of the outdoors – always tell someone where you are going.  So it was four days before anyone knew he was missing.  His mother claimed she never felt that he was dead just in trouble and in need of their help.  In fact he was ultimately saved at the right moment by a rescue helicopter just as he was facing an 800 foot climb up to his truck that he did not think he would make (from there it was a several hour drive to a hospital).

Although I am in awe of this young man I obviously identify with what his mother was going through.  Anyone who has had children knows that the worry starts at birth and continues throughout our lives.  When they become young adults and start to experience life on their terms we are left quivering at home hoping they make the right decisions and keep themselves out of harm’s way.  We know that our lives could be destroyed by this child making one bad decision. Although I wish my children would be more interested in exercise and the outdoors, after seeing this program I’m secretly glad they have chosen safer interests.

In his own way my son participates in risky behavior.  He does not take care of his diabetes properly putting him at risk for a whole host of health issues both in the future and on a day to day basis.  He is passionate about helping the homeless so he spends a great deal of his off hours helping in the downtown eastside, an area considered dangerous by many.  He’s not hiking into canyons on his own or climbing mountains in the winter solo but just the same he puts himself in danger on a daily basis.  I have spent many years learning to live with these thoughts and take a wider view of life which helps me cope with the fear I have and try to accept life as it comes.

I can only imagine how Aron’s parents handle the fact that he likes to climb mountains alone in the winter.  There are few activities as high risk as this.  This kid survived avalanches and still yearned for more adventure.

When Aron went into the canyon he was a cocky adventurer looking for the next adrenaline rush to make him feel alive.  While there he had many hours to reflect on his actions and realized how stupid he was to not at least minimize some of his risk.  He also felt a great deal of guilt for what he was putting his parents through.  His book “Between a Rock and a Hard Place” and the recent movie 127 hours takes us on his journey of despair and transformation.  You cannot hear his story and not be in awe of this young man and amazed at the human spirit.

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