Sorry, but if it's me, I'm dead. Bring on the wolves and the vultures. Let the winds spread my remains over the sandstone. In fact I'm pretty sure I don't even saw into my arm. I weep when removing a Garfield Band-Aid.
But not Aron Ralston. He found a way to live. "All the desires, joys and euphorias of a future life came rushing into me," he said. "Maybe this is how I handled the pain. I was so happy to be taking action."
It took him most of the morning, but—and how often do you get to write this sentence?—he was finally able to break the wrist bones in half. Yes, he did. Using torque and the strength he had left, the man purposely broke two bones in his already flayed arm. As he described that, everyone in the room forgot to blink, scribble, breathe.
Though he declined to describe what he had to do next, there is only one thing Ralston could've done—and a hospital official later explained this: He would've had to stretch his body away from that trapped hand to separate the broken ends of those bones. That would be the only way to make a path for the pocketknife to pass through.
That done, "it took about an hour," he said, to finish the amputation. Amazing. The man sawed off a body part and timed himself.
Finally free, the mountain-shop worker from Aspen crawled through that narrow, winding stretch of canyon, rappelled 60 feet down a cliff and hiked about six miles, all with one arm and one profusely bleeding stump, until he met what had to be two horrified Dutch hikers.
Ralston may never play concert piano again (he minored in performance piano composition at Carnegie Mellon), but he vows to keep exploring every inch of the West, as did the great John Wesley Powell, for whom Lake Powell is named—the great one-armed explorer, John Wesley Powell.
They call Ralston an extreme athlete, but the courage and will he displayed over those five days is not extreme, it's legendary. Don't care who you meet, you'll never find anybody tougher than this guy. After the press conference, back in his hospital room, he said, "I wish I could've been funnier."
Yeah, Aron. Next time, can you do something to liven it up?