What is a summary of A Rock and a Hard Place by Aron Ralston?

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Tamara K. H. eNotes educator| Certified Educator

Between a Rock and a Hard Place is Aron Ralston's autobiographical account of having his arm pinned by a boulder in Blue John Canyon of the Utah desert and needing to amputate his own arm in order to survive.

In April 2003, Aron Ralston went hiking by himself in the outskirts of Moab, Utah. He at first spends the day exploring slot canyons, meaning very narrow canyons created by rushing water, with two girls he had met on his hike. Slot canyons can be both exhilarating and dangerous, especially when hiking alone. One particularly exhilarating slot canyon is nicknamed "Mindbender" because at one point the v-shaped wedge composing the walls of the canyon only taper to "a few inches wide at your feet," and the space continues to grow narrower. He and the girls separate after inviting him to a party later on, and he continues to hike solo.

While exploring one of these slots on his own and trying to maneuver to the canyon's floor, he tries to use a chockstone, meaning a stone jammed into a crack, to safely maneuver; however, the chockstone proves to be not as stable as his earlier testing demonstrated it to be. When the chockstone starts to teeter, he drops to the rocks below and looks up in time to see the "backlit chockstone falling toward [his] head." Unfortunately, the chockstone pins his arm to the wall of the canyon.

He is next faced with a decision: wait for a rescue or free himself by amputating his arm. He has some water and two burritos, which is not much, but it helps him survive six days pinned by the boulder. As he nears the point that he knows he's running out of time to survive, he must make the decision to use his dull multi-tool to amputate his arm and manages to survive the ordeal. His story is seen as a testament to both the understanding that risk-taking can be vital to a person's happiness and the innate human will to survive.

shmindle | Student

Between a Rock and a Hard Place is an autobiography by Aron Ralston, which was produced into the film 127 hours. Ralston goes on a solo hiking trip in Blue John Canyon, Utah. While attempting to dislodge a boulder, his right arm gets stuck on the canyon wall. With no one around to rescue him, Ralston decides that he must amputate his arm with a pocketknife. In the process, he deals with dehydration, sleep deprivation, hypothermia, and starvation among many other things. The chapters alternate between his experiences in the canyon with his life prior to coming on the trip. Originally born in Ohio, his family moved to Denver, Colorado. He became a mechanical engineer, but left for his love of outdoor activities.  

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