Summary and book reviews of Between a Rock and a Hard Place by Aron Ralston

Between a Rock and a Hard Place

by Aron Ralston

Between a Rock and a Hard Place
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  • First Published:
    Sep 2004, 320 pages
    Paperback:
    Aug 2005, 368 pages

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Book Summary

A brilliantly written, funny, honest, inspiring, and downright astonishing report from the line where death meets life which will surely take its place in the annals of classic adventure stories.

One of the most extraordinary survival stories ever told -- Aron Ralston's searing account of his six days trapped in one of the most remote spots in America, and how one inspired act of bravery brought him home.

It started out as a simple hike in the Utah canyonlands on a warm Saturday afternoon. For Aron Ralston, a twenty-seven-year-old mountaineer and outdoorsman, a walk into the remote Blue John Canyon was a chance to get a break from a winter of solo climbing Colorado's highest and toughest peaks. He'd earned this weekend vacation, and though he met two charming women along the way, by early afternoon he finally found himself in his element: alone, with just the beauty of the natural world all around him.

It was 2:41 P.M. Eight miles from his truck, in a deep and narrow slot canyon, Aron was climbing down off a wedged boulder when the rock suddenly, and terrifyingly, came loose. Before he could get out of the way, the falling stone pinned his right hand and wrist against the canyon wall.

And so began six days of hell for Aron Ralston. With scant water and little food, no jacket for the painfully cold nights, and the terrible knowledge that he'd told no one where he was headed, he found himself facing a lingering death -- trapped by an 800-pound boulder 100 feet down in the bottom of a canyon. As he eliminated his escape options one by one through the days, Aron faced the full horror of his predicament: By the time any possible search and rescue effort would begin, he'd most probably have died of dehydration, if a flash flood didn't drown him before that.

What does one do in the face of almost certain death? Using the video camera from his pack, Aron began recording his grateful good-byes to his family and friends all over the country, thinking back over a life filled with adventure, and documenting a last will and testament with the hope that someone would find it. (For their part, his family and friends had instigated a major search for Aron, the amazing details of which are also documented here for the first time.) The knowledge of their love kept Aron Ralston alive, until a divine inspiration on Thursday morning solved the riddle of the boulder. Aron then committed the most extreme act imaginable to save himself.

Between a Rock and a Hard Place -- a brilliantly written, funny, honest, inspiring, and downright astonishing report from the line where death meets life -- will surely take its place in the annals of classic adventure stories.

Chapter One
"Geologic Time Includes Now"

This is the most beautiful place on earth.

There are many such places. Every man, every woman, carries in heart and mind the image of the ideal place, known or unknown, actual or visionary....There's no limit to the human capacity for the homing sentiment. Theologians, sky pilots, astronauts have even felt the appeal of home calling to them from up above, in the cold black outback of interstellar space.

For myself I'll take Moab, Utah. I don't mean the town itself, of course, but the country which surrounds it -- the canyonlands. The slickrock desert. The red dust and the burnt cliffs and the lonely sky -- all that which lies beyond the end of the roads.
-- Edward Abbey, Desert Solitaire

Fraying contrails streak another bluebird sky above the red desert plateau, and I wonder how many sunburnt days these badlands have seen since their creation. It's Saturday morning, April 26, 2003, and I ...

Please be aware that this discussion guide may contain spoilers!
  1. 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 these pursuits?
  2. 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?
  3. 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?
  4. In one near fatal incident, he ...
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Reviews

BookBrowse Review

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   (Reviewed by BookBrowse Review Team).

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Media Reviews

Washington Post - Grace Lichtenstein

... Once he frees himself, the story accelerates into a riveting drama as he rappels one-handed down a cliff and staggers through rough terrain for miles, blood leaking through his tourniquet as he tries to find help. Aron Ralston went to Utah as just another rock jock; he emerges as a Gen X action hero.

Daily News -Sherryl Connelly

Ralston's true story is grisly and inspirational if you're the type to survive against all odds.

The Cleveland Plain Dealer - Donna Marchetti

Ralston's diversions into his childhood and past climbing adventures disrupt the story's momentum and are likely to appeal mainly to climbing enthusiasts. His writing, at times, can be simplistic and sentimental. And it lacks the breadth and skill of an experienced writer. That said, Ralston's courage, his introspection in the face of death and his joyful embrace of life are reason enough to read his book. He doesn't need to be Krakauer to make readers stop and think about risk, happiness and the meaning of our existence.

Publishers Weekly

Ralston's prose is never gruesome, nor is it used to shock, even as he describes first breaking his forearm, and then slipping into some sort of autopilot as he cuts through muscle fibers to detach the arm. It's truly thrilling when he finishes and is free.

Booklist - Alan Moores

Starred Review. ...What makes his account of his ordeal extraordinary, too, is the detail and precision Ralston, a former mechanical engineer, brings to the telling, from the almost minute-by-minute chronology of his ordeal to topographical descriptions of the ground he's covered in his life as an outdoor adventurer.

Reader Reviews

Tracy

Amazing
I just finished reading it "Between a Rock and a Hard Place". Sure, he could've left out past anecdotes, but I really enjoyed how real the story felt and how much you liked the guy by the end. Yes, it was a story about a guy that gets stuck...   Read More

Kaila

Between a Rock and Hard Place
This book is amazing! I loved it from start to finish. It took me about 4-5 days to finish and I've read it more than twice. The thought if cutting your arm off is horrible, but with hallucinations of his future family, that really touched me. Also ...   Read More

person

good book
It was very good. I liked it. The divine aspect was very appealing to me. I hope others read this book.

Anonymous

even dumb things happen to smart, skilled adventurers and ralston fortunately lived to tell a terrific story about exactly that !

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Beyond the Book

What would you say to those who find it difficult to understand why you continue to take part in outdoor adventures after having lived through this frightening experience?

'Adventuring in the outdoors is my passion, and passion is not something we control in our lives. To resume my activities was much more natural...

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