‘Aron Ralston’s Story’ by Jessica Bryson

I took my knife in my hand and pulled off the case, wondering if it was possible to put myself through more pain. As my vision blurred, I knew that I didn’t have long and that this was not going to be easy.

I was trapped down there for a long time – 127 hours, to be precise. This was only supposed to be a couple of days of just me and the nature around me. But in just a few hours, a couple of days of freedom turned into five days of hell.

It all started on Saturday, April 26th. It was a normal weekend. I put my hiking gear in the truck and started planning my journey through the canyons. Putting my bike in my truck, and letting out a deep sigh, I sat in the driver’s seat. Finally, I was able to leave the city.

I grabbed my bag while parking the truck at the canyon entrance. Grabbing my bike I set off to the pit of the canyons. I was finally free.

About halfway there, I left my bike at a tree and set off on foot. I started running into the heart of the canyons. I felt more at home than I did when I was curled up in my bed.

As I was walking through a canyon, I met two girls called Megan and Christie. They were lost and heading the same way as me and because I knew these canyons like the back of my hand, I helped them to get back on track.

On the way there, I took them to one of my favorite spots – the underground lake I found exploring Blue John last year. After swimming and a bit of diving, we parted ways. I left with an invite to a party they were having. But little did I know I wouldn’t be attending.

As I was walking through the rocks, I was running my hand along the wall. I loved being alone. It made me feel free.

The next few minutes were the ones that were going to change my life. It all happened so fast. One minute I was checking to see if there was a stable boulder to hold my weight. The next thing I know, my right forearm is being pinned to the wall by an 800lb boulder. I was confused and shocked at first but then, as my adrenaline gave way, I got hit with a huge wave of pain and frustration.

After about an hour, my arm started to go numb and I could feel a ball of emotions going crazy inside of me. My frustration turned into sadness when I realised my stupidity. I never told anyone where I was going. No one was coming. For once in a long time, I hated being lonely, especially in the middle of nowhere.

Looking back now, I think I had a bit of a breakdown as I desperately tried to dislodge the rock; nothing was happening.

After pointless attempts to break the rock, I came up with the idea to try and pull myself out using my rock climbing ropes. I tied the harness around my waist and tied a loop in the other end. I began to throw the loop up to try and wrap it around the remaining boulders. After a lot of attempts, I had hooked around the rock and I started to try pull myself out. To my disappointment, It didn’t work. By this time, the sky had turned into a blanket of black and grey; the moon illuminated the rocks above me as I used the harness to balance myself as I drifted off to sleep.

Those two days that followed seemed to last forever. Was I going to die or would someone come? That’s all that I kept repeating in my head. Deep down, I think I knew no one was coming, but there was a sense of hope that kept me going.

Food. Water. Warmth.

These were the only things that were going through my head. At this point, I only had a biscuit or two left and I was out of water. The only thing I had been drinking for the last few hours was my own pee. But I didn’t have a choice. The only warmth I got was a bit of sunlight that reached the walls for about two or three hours a day.    

By the fourth day, I was out on supplies and ready to give up hope. But I had these weird hallucinations that kept me going. At first, there were these weird ones about my family: me and my sister playing the piano and ones of my mum and dad.   

I lost all hope.

I had a moment and carved a gravestone in the wall. I was convinced I was going to die down there. Then out of nowhere, I began to have these hallucinations. I imagined what it would be like if I had a son and how he would need a dad. These got me through as it made me understand that I have people that rely on me. It gave me courage to do the unthinkable.

Five and a half days. I had been stuck down there for what felt like an eternity. I was out of water and food. I thought I wasn’t going to make it. That was until I got a sharp pinch of pain in my arm and I felt my bone start to bend. It was going to break. I was so happy. I used the boulder to break the bone.

I was going to get out of here. This gave me what I thought would be one last bucket of hope. I grabbed my multi-tool and pulled out the knife. As I plunged the blade into my skin, I could hear some trapped air pop as my knife pierced the skin. At first It was hard to get my blunt knife through the dead skin, but it became easier.

As I had just cut the last ligament in my forearm, I felt a wave of relief roll over me. All I had to do was find a way out.

I made a makeshift sling out of a bag from my rucksack and made my way to the edge of the wall. If I were to fall, I would drop 60ft to my death. So I used the ropes I had to abseil down the cliff face.

When I reached the canyon floor, I started to make my way back to what I hoped would be my truck. My vision started to blur and just as I thought I was going to pass out I spotted a family out for a walk and I started shouting in hope of them spotting me. Fortunately, they saw me, and ran to help. They gave me water and found another couple who also gave me some water. They called the emergency services and a helicopter came to help me. At long last, I was taken away to the hospital.

In the winter of 2007, I was having a drink at a local bar while watching a friend’s band play and I met this woman, Jessica. She bought me a beer and we started talking and we went hiking. I really hit if off with her and we got married two years later in August. We now live in Boulder, Colorado with our young son, Leo. My wife helped me a lot while I was healing. It was funny how even though I didn’t know them at the time, they were the reason I got out. We have these very fundamental desires for freedom, for love and for connections. And that’s what got me out.

Photo by Alex Pham from Pexels