Aron Ralston’s 127 Hours of Agony Trapped Under a Rock

It was six of the most excruciating six days one can ever have. While navigating himself deep through Utah’s Bluejohn Canyon, Aron Ralston heard a noise coming from above. Before he could even think, a dislodged boulder that weighed approximately half a ton came crashing down. 

When the boulder had settled, it was nestled and stuck between the two sides of the canyon. It had pinned down Ralston’s right arm to the rock. It was too heavy to move or dislodge.

Ralston could not go anywhere. He was absolutely stuck with no phone or any way to contact the outside world.

It was now a fight for survival. How could Aaron Ralston find his way out of this? He was no Indiana Jones; this was real life, not a movie.

He had told no one of his plans of where he was going. He had barely any food and just one liter of water. He was basically left for dead.

But somehow, some way, 127 hours later, Ralston found himself alive and freed from the boulder. His story of courage, sacrifice, faith, and perseverance kept him alive and made for one of the greatest stories in the history of the world.

Aron Ralston near Independence Pass (Aspen), CO, 2009

127 Hours of Hell

Ralston stood there stuck, not knowing what to do. Besides the one liter of water, he had two burritos, a chunk of chocolate, some headphones, and a video camera.

That wouldn’t allow him to live very long. This wasn’t Castaway where he could live secluded from the outside world for four years.

Since nobody knew where he was or where he was going, a search party couldn’t rescue him. He figured he had maybe a week or two of life in him. 

Ralston’s first plan was to slowly chip away at the rock, hoping to get it to move and eventually separate from his arm. He tried this, and sparingly used his food and water, but was making hardly any progress.

Ralston’s mind was going delirious, and there were times when he was blacking out. Eventually, he realized if he was to live, he was going to have to make a very bold move.

In his pocket, he had a small knife from his inexpensive tool kit. He didn’t use it to chip away at the rock; instead, he thought of something more intense.

“You’re gonna have to cut your arm off,” Ralston said to himself.

A photo that Aron took of himself and his arm stuck next to the boulder. Simon and Schuster

The Plan

Ralston wrote in his autobiography how he had a conversation with himself back and forth about how he had to do this, but couldn’t. Finally, he realized he had to take the chance to survive.

So he took the knife and started cutting through his arm. If he could separate himself from his arm, he could at least keep moving and escape to safety and freedom. He cut through the skin, agonizing in pain.

Finally, as he got through cutting, he hit something solid–the bone in his arm. Ralston thought there was no way he could cut through the bone. He started using it more like an axe than a knife, trying to chop through the bone, but he was making very little progress.

By day five, he succumbed to the fact that he would die here. He began to feel at peace, knowing the end of his life was near. He just couldn’t get his arm free. As he hallucinated going into the sixth day, he dreamt of himself dead.

“I see myself in this out-of-body experience playing with him with a handless right arm,” Ralston said. “I see myself scoop him up and there’s this look in his eyes, ‘Daddy, can we play now?’ That look tells me this is my son, this is in the future, and I’m gonna have this experience someday. Now it’s like, I am going to get through this night.”

On the sixth day, Ralston took the most drastic measure, trying to fling himself at the boulder to try and break his bones to the point where his arm would break off. He kept snapping his bones, trying to break them so the arm would detach.

For most people, snapping the bones in your arm would be the worst feeling in the world, but to Ralston, the sound was “euphoric” for it was breaking up the area where he had to cut.

Finally, after he had broken the bone enough, he was able to cut through the rest of it and detach himself. After six days trapped, he was finally free.

The main fork in the Blue John Canyon

The Aftermath

Ralston still needed to avoid bleeding to death. He desperately strapped himself to a rope, scaled 65 feet northward, got out of the canyon.

He was then was fortunately found by three Dutch tourists who helped get him the help he needed immediately to survive. A search-and-rescue helicopter with his family picked him up and took him to the hospital.

“That’s where I start getting all weepy-eyed,” says Ralston, “because when I see that helicopter what I’m seeing is my mom because she made the rescue happen.”

Because of the video camera he had, many of these scenes, from the gruesome situation he faced to the miraculous recovery, was all filmed. Ralston had actually taped his last will and testament in the canyon thinking he was going to die.

The video-taping also helped with the movie “127 Hours,” where actor James Franco plays Aron Ralston and re-dramatizes the entire experience.

Today, Ralston is a motivational speaker, helping inspire others who needed that extra bit of courage. He also preaches about how God was a key figure in helping save him, and he discusses his out-of-body experience.

He said one big moment that has changed him is he always takes his friends with him if he ever does anything dangerous, such as rafting or climbing, and he always alerts his family where he is. He also will visit Bluejohn Canyon as a remembrance of what happened.

“I touch it and go back to that place, remembering when I thought about what’s important in life, relationships, and this quest to want to get out of there and return to love and relationships,” he says, “to return to freedom instead of entrapment.”


Barkham, Patrick. “The Extraordinary Story Behind Danny Boyle’s 127 Hours.” The Guardian. 15 Dec 2010.

Ralston, Aron. “Trapped.” Outside Online. 12 May 2022. 

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