Reading Guide Questions
Please be aware that this discussion guide may contain spoilers!
- Ralston mentions his many moments at near certain death yet he continued
to participate in activities with potential danger. Do you believe Ralston
felt he was taking risks? What is it about his personality that drove him to
- Americans enjoy several extreme sports, not to mention the pastimes of sky
diving, bungie cord jumping, and white water rafting. Do you think this is
unique to our culture, or can you think of examples in other countries?
- How did Ralston's previous near death encounters change him? Did they
cause him to crave more or increase his carelessness? Was he aware of the
hazards? Did he take all the necessary precautions?
- In one near fatal incident, he and two of his friends were caught in an
avalanche. After this incident Ralston explains he never heard from those
friends again. What did you think of Ralston's reaction? Why do you think he
mentions this story? Was there a lesson from this situation that he didn't
take away at the time?
- Compare Ralston's many stories of his numerous near deadly excursions and
his mountaineering and skiing adventures. Besides physically, explain how
these adventures prepared him for this awful experience mentally and
- Ralston was very detailed in the accounts of his survival, including the
amputation. Were there sections you weren't able to read? Were there methods
you learned? What effect did this have on you? Do you feel he needed to be so
- Although Ralston chastises himself for not thinking of it sooner, do you
think he needed those six days to come to the realization that amputating his
arm was his only hope of survival?
- Is Ralston's story a symbol of hope or a cautionary tale for thrill
seekers? Ralston affirms that he wouldn't change anything about his experience
and would actually live through it again if given the choice. Why? What did he
take away from this? Why do you think he needed to tell his story? Was there
anything that you learned which surprised you?
- What are the most significant lessons Ralston learns over the course of
- What are Ralston's feelings about nature? How has his opinion changed
after this experience?
- Hindsight is 20/20. Ralston is an experienced outdoorsman. What did he
need to do to prevent this accident? Do you think his probability of disaster
was increasing with the number of risks he took? Are some activities ever
safe? Or safe only to a certain degree?
- Many people have expressed that they don't think themselves capable of
doing what Ralston did. How does he answer them?
Unless otherwise stated, this discussion guide is reprinted with the permission of Atria Books.
Any page references refer to a USA edition of the book, usually the trade paperback version, and may vary in other editions.