ďBut once your crew has rowed you past the Sirens
a choice of routes is yours. I cannot advise you
which to take, or lead you through it all
-- you must decide for yourself...Ē
An excerpt from Homerís Odyssey is a fitting introduction to a journey of equally epic proportions -- Aron Ralstonís incredible story of survival in his first book, Between a Rock and a Hard Place.
Creating a sense of place, Ralston opens with a short prologue introducing maverick Blue John Griffith, his exploits with Butch Cassidyís Wild Bunch and his lasting legacy -- the springs and canyon that bear his name. Blue John is a wild, remote canyon in the red rocks of central-eastern Utah. It is a hikerís paradise... and the site of this modern-day maverickís near-death experience.
Saturday morning, April 26th, 2003. Sun shining, wind blowing, Ralston unloads his mountain bike from his pick-up, rides across miles of washboard and loose sand before reaching the trailhead and the start of a journey into the soul of a man.
Heís planned a thirty-mile circuit, part bike, part canyoneering, part hiking. Bike over, he descends into the canyon, Phish playing over his headphones, deep in thought and unaware of what lay ahead. Within a short time, Ralston encounters two Moab women. The trio hike together in a similar direction until the junction, where the girls branch off and Aron continues. Countering their entreaties to continue the hike with them, Ralston offers to meet up later in the day, after heís completed his predestined circuit. They were the last people he would see for five days.
What happens next is unimaginable. In a sudden shift, Ralston is trapped by a monstrous boulder, unable to free his right hand. With precious few resources, he is literally caught between a rock and a hard place. He knows immediately that if no one comes to his rescue, his only option is cutting off his arm. He also knows that doing this might lead to his ultimate death. Ingenuity and logic play a major role in his survival. The will to live is strong and echoed in reflective text describing his life, his love of extreme sport and his passion for adventure. Although the book shifts from present to past in alternating chapters, the thread is strong and readers should appreciate the background leading up to Blue John.
Between a Rock and a Hard Place isnít always an easy read, there are time when I wondered why Ralston was so driven. His adventures prior to Blue John were hardcore, and his life was on the edge more than once. Counter-balanced by his obvious love of the outdoors and the adventure of testing limits, itís up to each reader to decide whether choices made were wise or otherwise.
It seems that there is little the former engineer (graduating with a B.S. in mechanical engineering and a double major French and a minor in piano performance) canít do -- including writing a thought-provoking book that will make the reader contemplate life and the human ability to cope beyond what we believe to be possible. Inspiring, stimulating and intriguing, Between a Rock and a Hard Place is an adrenaline rush of a read.