On April 26th 2003, Aron Ralston was hiking alone through Bluejohn Canyon, in eastern Utah, just south of Horseshoe Canyon in Canyonlands National Park.
While descending, a suspended boulder dislodged while he was climbing down from it. The boulder smashed his left hand, then crushed his right hand against the canyon wall. He had not informed anyone of his hiking plans, nor did he have any way to call for help.
Aron spent five days slowly sipping his small amount of remaining water and slowly eating his small amount of food, two burritos, while trying to free his arm.
After three days of trying to lift and break the boulder, the dehydrated and delirious Ralston prepared to amputate his trapped arm at a point on the mid-forearm in order to escape. After having experimented with tourniquets and having made exploratory superficial cuts to his forearm, he realized, on the fourth day, that in order to free his arm he would have to cut through the bones in it, but the tools available were insufficient to do so.
After running out of food and water on the fifth day, Ralston decided to drink his own urine. He carved his name and date of death into the canyon wall and videotaped his last goodbyes.
After waking at dawn the following day he discovered that his arm had begun to decompose due to his injuries. Ralston broke his radius and ulna bones using torque against his arm. He then amputated his forearm with his multi-tool. The process took an hour, during which he used tubing from a CamelBak as a tourniquet.
After freeing himself, Ralston climbed out of the slot canyon in which he had been trapped, rappelled down a 65-foot sheer wall, then hiked out of the canyon. He was 8 miles from his vehicle, and had no phone. However, after 6 miles of hiking, he encountered a family on vacation from the Netherlands; Eric and Monique Meijer and their son Andy, who gave him food and water and hurried to alert the authorities.
Aron not only survived his ordeal, he continued mountaineering after the accident. He later became the first person to ascend all of Colorado’s fourteeners solo in winter.
He is the subject of the 2010 film 127 Hours in which he is portrayed by James Franco.