There are few who would argue that the act of self-amputation and consequent survival are superhuman feats. But Aron Ralston wouldn’t call it that.
With a refreshingly optimistic and shockingly calm demeanor, Ralston seems to have no qualms talking in-depth about the 127 hours he spent in Blue John Canyon, Utah in May of 2003.
When Aron was hiking solo, an accident occurred where an 800-pound boulder pinned his forearm. Five days later, he performed a self-amputation with a cheap multi-tool.
Through his experience, Ralston quickly gained fame and wrote an autobiography, “Between a Rock and a Hard Place,” and became a motivational speaker. Now, his experience is the center of Danny Boyle’s new film, “127 Hours.”
When asked what Ralston hoped the audience would gain from watching the film, he said he wants to leave it open for the audience to decide.
“I think it’s there for whatever [the audience] needs it to be,” he said. “For some people it may inspire them, maybe provide some hope. I know that I’ve needed hope in my life when I’ve been depressed … I needed something that inspired me. I’ve developed this as a survival story because I wanted to see what I was made of, what I was capable of. And to have this be a story like that for other people would be something really positive to me.”
Exposing his faults and time where he was arguably most vulnerable is something that Ralston said he is glad to share with audiences and the team who produced the film.
“I kind of found this detachment … I received this gift from the wilderness that it continued to be a gift for other people like Danny Boyle and the team in order to translate it,” he said. “So it did require some openness and vulnerability, because to make this guy, this character Aron, human, you have to show the mistakes and regrets. And those were all real. It felt authentic to be open to that.”
In a movie based on one’s own life, it would seem tempting to guide the director to portray oneself in an always-positive light. Ralston said if he were portrayed differently, it wouldn’t have been the same story.
“I felt like they really got it [with portraying the character correctly],” he said. “I felt almost respected that they made it a human story, not a super-human story so that [the audience] could see something of themselves there. It makes the inspiration that much more powerful.”
When he finally freed himself, Ralston said he was smiling.
“It was just the idea of being free,” he said. “It was the idea of getting back with my family; the idea of who kept me alive all those days. I had accepted my death, so to step out of my grave in that moment was … extraordinarily powerful.”
It would be hard for anyone to be able to explain the emotions, and mental and physical stress that one would go through in that situation. But Ralston has figured out a way to describe the feeling of cheating death.
“The closest I’ve come to being able to explain it is you’re being born except knowing what life was all about,” he said. “It was like taking all of the best moments of your life and condensing it into one moment and having it all right there … I mean that’s what it was for me when I was cutting my arm off. I literally passed out from the euphoria of being free.”
Though it may seem insane, Ralston is still an avid adventurer and completed his goal of climbing all 53 of Colorado’s 14ers—solo, and with his prosthetic. After surviving a definitive man versus nature test, one would imagine the traumatic experience would deter him from going out solo again, but Ralston said that being an outdoorsman was more important after his amputation that ever before.
“Having the potential of being an adventurer—a mountaineer—being taken away from me became a very strong motivator during my recovery in order to get back,” he said.
Ralston is married and has a 9-month-old son. He said his focus on nature now has changed since the birth of his son.
“I still like to go to the beach,” he said. “But it’s to go with my wife and my son. To see my son be so mesmerized by surf and the foam…is better than any mountain summit experience.”
Contact CU Independent Entertainment Editor Taylor Coughlin at Taylor.firstname.lastname@example.org.