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Blue John Accident

Discussion in 'Archives - Yahoo Canyons Group' started by orsdoc, May 1, 2003.

  1. orsdoc

    orsdoc Guest

    The following is a story that just hit the news about an accident in Blue John Canyon.

    http://kutv.com/utah/UT--Climber-Amputatio-en/resources_news_html

    From AP Trapped climber amputates his arm, hikes to safety

    Friday May 02, 2003

    MOAB, Utah (AP) A Colorado climber amputated his own arm Thursday, five days after becoming pinned by a boulder, and he was hiking to safety when he was spotted by searchers.

    Aron Ralston, 27, of Aspen was in serious condition late Thursday at St. Mary's Hospital in Grand Junction, Colo.

    Ralston was canyoneering Saturday in Blue John Canyon, adjacent to the Maze District of Canyonlands National Park and about 38 miles west of Moab in Wayne County, when he became trapped, the Emery and Wayne county sheriffs' offices and the park said.

    He was in a 3-foot wide section when a 200-pound boulder fell on him, pinning his right arm.

    He ran out of water on Tuesday and on Thursday morning, he decided that his survival required drastic action.

    Using his pocketknife, he amputated his arm below the elbow and applied a tourniquet and administered first aid.

    He then rigged anchors, fixed a rope and rappelled to the floor of Blue John Canyon.

    He then continued hiking downstream into Horseshoe Canyon, and was spotted about 3 p.m. by a Utah Public Safety Helicopter. The search for Ralston had begun the same morning, after authorities were notified he was four days overdue reporting for work.

    Ralston was described by the authorities as an avid outdoors person in exceptional physical condition, and he was known to have climbed 49 of the 14,000-foot peaks in Colorado.
  2. John Hart

    John Hart Guest

    --- In Yahoo Canyons Group, "orsdoc" <rosenmark@q...> wrote:
    From AP > Trapped climber amputates his arm, hikes to safety.
    He was in a 3-foot wide section when a 200-pound boulder fell on > him, pinning his right arm. >

    This incredible story was also reported on the Today Show this morning. The Emery County sheriff said that when the search team went back into Bluejohn to try and recover the limb (for possible reattachment), they found the rock to be well over 1000 pounds (and that the limb was irretrievable).

    Rockfalls are huge danger in wet canyons, but I have only heard or seen such in dry canyons just a couple times. What a tragic piece of bad luck and a heroic escape. Makes me question soloing canyons.

    John Hart
  3. If I ever seen an accident that highlights the reason for having a "check-in" this is it. Bluejohn is a relatively easy canyon and should have been a breeze for an experienced person to do solo.

    Please people, when you go into the backcountry leave DETAILED instructions of your plans, your return time and when you expect your check-in to call search and rescue. If you are using a route description from a guide book, website or friend leave a copy of this description with your check-in. If you are doing the route without beta leave a map with your intended route marked. Also, make certain your check-in knows the make, model, color and licence number of your vehicle. SAR has told me vehicle's are usually easy to locate with a little direction and than they know where to start looking. If plans change while out in the wilderness leave a note on your dashboard which can be read through the windshield.

    I admire Aron Ralston's toughness and resolve. But bottom line is this guy would still have his arm if he had of used a reliable check-in with a route descrition. I think we could all learn from his error.

    Shane
  4. beadysee

    beadysee Guest

    --- In Yahoo Canyons Group, "Shane Burrows" <shane@s...> wrote: > Please people, when you go into the backcountry leave DETAILED instructions > of your plans

    What if? What if he didn't have detailed plans? Don't get me wrong, havin' emergency contact folks is a super good idea. But, again, I find harsh criticisem whilst there's blood still in the air, and the feller is recuperating in the hospital, to be in very poor style.

    > I admire Aron Ralston's toughness and resolve. But bottom line is this guy > would still have his arm if he had of used a reliable check-in with a route > descrition. I think we could all learn from his error.

    Bullpucky. Bottom line is that no rescuers died or got hurt. A dangerous canyon extraction didn't need to be performed. The canyon didn't get a bunch of bolted anchors to aid in an extraction. Time critical mistakes weren't made, a helicopter didn't have to land in bad terrain.

    Self reliance and self rescue trumps all else. This guy, by all counts, would have made his car.

    Was a 1000 pound boulder? His arm was crushed? Almost had to be to allow severing with a pocket knife.

    There's a lesson here for everyone that stubs a toe and pulls out their cell phone to call for help.

    By all accounts, he made no mistakes. Kudos to him and a speedy recovery. Feller has my utmost admiration.

    Brian in SLC
  5. Kris Nosack

    Kris Nosack Guest

    On Fri, 2 May 2003, beadysee wrote:
    What if? What if he didn't have detailed plans? Don't get me wrong, > havin' emergency contact folks is a super good idea. But, again, I > find harsh criticisem whilst there's blood still in the air, and the > feller is recuperating in the hospital, to be in very poor style.

    Well said. I do feel for this guy. Just one of those life things. Boulders sit on edges of canyons for thousands of years and fall in the space of a few seconds and Aron happens to be in the path of one. I wish him a good recovery and that his zest for life is not quashed by this tragedy.

    > By all accounts, he made no mistakes. Kudos to him and a speedy > recovery. Feller has my utmost admiration.

    Whoa now. Gushing a bit, aren't we? I feel for Aron, but I can't say I admire him. He was out having fun on his terms and fate reached out and slapped him. Doing things more sensibly (how boring, huh?) may have produced a more favorable outcome. Just fate? The American worship of the rugged individualist is overblown. Must validation come from pushing the envelope? What seperates thrill-seeking from adventure? Who believed Dan Osmond was going to live to a ripe old age? But what do I know - I'm coming up on 40 with a wife, 4 kids and a mortgage so maybe I've sold out and missed the boat altogether. I do like to get out and play in the canyons though.

    I do admire Aron for at least one thing: He kept his wits about him and made good survival decisions (very difficult decisions, mind you).

    You mention if his pocket knife had a saw blade. Horrific to contemplate. I think this beats the scene in Castaway where he knocks his infected tooth out by wacking an ice skate with a rock. I'm guessing his forearm bones were crushed so he didn't have to cut through bone. I'm looking at my forearm and thinking about cutting it off - wow, that takes moxy.

    - Kris Nosack
  6. >>Co-workers did call. <<

    Yeah, four days to late.

    >>I find harsh criticism whilst there's blood still in the air, and the feller is recuperating in the hospital, to be in very poor style.<<

    Perhaps, but I prefer to learn from other's mistakes. People seem to remember lessons learned much better when blood is in the air.

    >>how could there have been a better outcome? <<

    Feller could still have his arm.

    >>The canyon didn't get a bunch of bolted anchors to aid in an extraction. <<

    Bolted anchors? I might be a member of the bolt police but even I consider a few bolts worth an arm.

    >>Self reliance and self rescue trumps all else. <<

    Guess we have to agree to disagree. Self rescue is admirable but I would prefer to have my arm.

    Shane
  7. >Boulders sit on edges of canyons for thousands of years and fall in the >space of a few seconds and Aron happens to be in the path of one. I wish >him a good recovery and that his zest for life is not quashed by this >tragedy.

    Exactly. This was probably a freak accident - one that could happen to anyone, anytime, and in places one might never think to set up a check-in. (e.g. LCC, BCC, Big Willow Cirque, Mt. Oly, Lone Peak, I-15 ...). The article I read said Aron was training for a solo speed descent (?) of Denali. The dangers of messing around in a slot like BlueJohn relative to those found on Denali would compare to playing tea party in a backyard sandbox.
  8. beadysee

    beadysee Guest

    --- In Yahoo Canyons Group, Kris Nosack <kn@x> wrote:
    By all accounts, he made no mistakes. Kudos to him and a speedy
    recovery. Feller has my utmost admiration.
    Whoa now. Gushing a bit, aren't we? I feel for Aron, but I can't say I > admire him.

    Its a celebration of the human spirt, and makes my heart soar.

    Sorry, haven't quite gushed enough yet, Kris.

    Maybe this type of news is just old hat for you and your jaded?

    > He was out having fun on his terms and fate reached out and > slapped him. Doing things more sensibly (how boring, huh?) may have > produced a more favorable outcome. Just fate? The American worship of > the rugged individualist is overblown.

    No it isn't, I'd argue that it isn't celebrated enough. As Lionel Terray said, following the ascent of Mount Huntington in Alaska (1965):

    "If the conquest of a great peak brings moments of exultation and bliss, which in the monotonous, materialistic existence of modern times nothing else can approach, it also presents great dangers. It is not the goal of "grand alpinisme" to face peril, but it is one of the tests one must undergo to deserve the joy of rising for an instant above the state of crawling grubs.

    And... "On this proud and beautiful mountain we have lived hours of fraternal, warm and exalting nobility. Here for a few days we have ceased to be slaves and have really been men. It is hard to return to servitude."

    Its the essense of the human experience, Kris. All boiled down into a thick juicy broth.

    > Must validation come from pushing > the envelope?

    He was involved in an accident in a canyon commonly done. Hardly pushing the envelope.

    > What seperates thrill-seeking from adventure?

    Choice. And perspective. Hiking Bluejohn Canyon is thrill seeking? Not on this egroup.

    > Who believed > Dan Osmond was going to live to a ripe old age?

    No one that knew or spent time with him. There's a difference. Read Lynn Hill's account of their trip together a few years back (NF expedition to Kyrg...). Foolish risks versus calculated adventure.

    > But what do I know - I'm > coming up on 40 with a wife, 4 kids and a mortgage so maybe I've sold out and missed the boat altogether. I do like to get out and play in the canyons though.

    Regions of the Heart. Alison Hargreaves bio. She caught a bunch of flak for climbing whilst having a hubby and chillens at home.

    How come you don't get the same?

    "Suffering produces endurance, and endurance produces character, and character produces hope." (St. Paul (Romans 5:3-4))

    Brian in SLC
  9. Brian said: > By all accounts, he made no mistakes. Kudos to him and a speedy > recovery. Feller has my utmost admiration.

    Kris said: The American worship of the rugged individualist is overblown. Must validation come from pushing the envelope? ... ... But what do I know - I'm coming up on 40 with a wife, 4 kids and a mortgage so maybe I've sold out and missed the boat altogether.

    ....Bottom line for me is that doing dangerous activities solo is irresponsible.

    Maybe I'm just too chicken to go solo canyoneering or climbing. I solo mountain bike all the time (of course I walk anything that's exposed).

    Shane said: ....Feller could still have his arm.

    ....Bolted anchors? I might be a member of the bolt police but even I consider a few bolts worth an arm.

    Charly We each seek validation on our own terms and define our own limits. Kris himself, admits to doing solo mountain bike rides all the time. The solo experience is very personal and one that is difficult to explain to people who don't have the itch.

    To say soloing is irresponsible is unfair. Are you irresponsible simply because you have an accident? Is an accident with a partner that requires rescue irresponsible? The questions are rhetorical and not necessarily answerable. Sadly, Aron was the victim of a terrible accident and check in arrangement or no, partner or no, bolts or no, nothing could have saved his arm.

    Charly
  10. beadysee

    beadysee Guest

    The flogging's will continue until moral improves...(hee hee)...

    Continues to be an amazing story.

    Brian in SLC

    Climber Who Cut Off His Arm Had No Choice

    GRAND JUNCTION, Colo. - The climber who amputated his own arm to free himself from beneath a boulder had no other choice if he wanted to survive, one of his rescuers said Friday.

    Aron Ralston, 27, of Aspen would have died had he stayed where he was, in remote Blue John Canyon near Canyonlands National Park in the far southwestern Utah, Emery County sheriff's Sgt. Mitch Vetere told NBC's "Today" show.

    Ralston, described by authorities as an avid outdoorsman in exceptional physical condition, was in serious condition late Thursday at a hospital in Grand Junction, Colo.

    Vetere said two other rescuers who returned to the canyon in hopes of retrieving the limb discovered that the boulder weighed 1,000 pounds, not the 200 that they first believed. They were unable to retrieve the arm.

    "If he wouldn't have gotten himself out of that mess," Vetere said, "they wouldn't have seen him from the air."

    Ralston was hiking Saturday when he became pinned by the boulder. He ran out of water on Tuesday and on Thursday morning, he decided that his survival required drastic action.

    Using a pocketknife, Ralston cut off his right arm below the elbow and applied a tourniquet and administered first aid. He then rigged anchors, fixed a rope and rappelled 60 feet to the canyon floor.

    Ralston's expeditions have been known to trigger awe, said Brion After, manager of the Ute Mountaineering store in Aspen where Ralston works. After said Ralston has climbed 49 of Colorado's 14,000-foot- plus mountains.

    "To be honest, sometimes we get pretty scared with some of the things he's doing," After said.

    Ralston was found about 3 p.m. Thursday with two other hikers, said Vetere, who did not elaborate on who the other people were or why Ralston was with them. The search had begun in the morning after authorities were notified of his disappearance.

    Vetere said Ralston described to them what he had done and that he was "obviously tired." His only request was water.

    The rescurers tried to keep Ralston awake for the 12-minute flight to the hospital in Moab, Utah, by talking to him. He walked into the emergency room on his own. He was flown later to the Grand Junction hospital.

    "I've never seen anybody who has the will to live and is as much of a warrior as Aron is, and I've been doing this for 25 years, said park ranger Steve Swanke, who was with Ralston in the emergency room. "He is a warrior period."
  11. Boulders sit on edges of canyons for thousands of years and fall in > the
    space of a few seconds and Aron happens to be in the path of one. I > wish
    him a good recovery and that his zest for life is not quashed by > this
    tragedy. >

    We don't know this is what happened. I've seen 5 lb rocks come off the edge of a canyon during a windy day, which is why I wear a helmet on windy days, but a 1000 lb boulder? As long as we're guessing I'd say he was chimneying around the boulder and it wasn't solid. Still a freak accident. Think of all those chockstones everyone raps off. Solid one day, water comes thru, not solid the next but slings are still there. Accidents waiting to happen. Canyoneering is dangerous. He is a tough guy. I wish him the best. steve

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  12. " Think of all those chockstones everyone raps off. Solid one day, water comes thru, not solid the next but slings are still there. Accidents waiting to happen. Canyoneering is dangerous. He is a tough guy. I wish him the best. steve "

    As "natural anchors" advocate I find this statement very meaningful and directed to all those canyoneers out there who "clip and go" without a second look at the anchor they are using. We should never assume that "because it's there, it's good."

    Charly



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  13. richard berk

    richard berk Guest

    from the denver post:

    "We've killed a lot of people in this country. They just don't pay attention when they come out here," Les Thompson, commander of the Emery County sheriff's Search and Rescue Team

    What are you guys doing to people out there in Utah?

    rich (safe in Denver and wondering if I should start avoiding Utah)

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  14. In a periodical a while back (National Geographic?) they pointed to the most desolate spot in the lower 48 states and it was centered in "The Maze" of Canyonlands which is a stone's toss from Bluejohn. I believe that has a lot to do with "We've killed a lot of people in this country. They just don't pay attention when they come out here."

    Shane
  15. Kris Nosack

    Kris Nosack Guest

    On Fri, 2 May 2003, beadysee wrote:
    Its a celebration of the human spirt, and makes my heart soar.
    Sorry, haven't quite gushed enough yet, Kris.
    Maybe this type of news is just old hat for you and your jaded?

    I don't think I'm jaded. Reading tales of adventure, even the epics told to this group, get my blood pumping. I hear the call of the wild, I just don't answer every call. I think it's just a matter of degree. The point where I draw the risk -vs- reward line is different than for people like Aron who accept more risk than I feel is worth the fun to be had. Personal choice. I think I've been a bit too judgemental of Aron's tradgedy. Some people give me funny looks when I share with them what mild forms of adventure turn my crank that I feel very comfortable with. Aron probably feels comfortable with his much riskier level of adventures. Still, being comfortable with greater risks, and more capable of dealing with them, doesn't mean the risk is diminished. As long as people own up to the risks involved, I guess I shouldn't have a problem with it.

    On another front, lest I be misconstrued as being anti-adventure, anti-American and/or anti-rugged-individualist: Men and women achieving great things is thrilling and inspiring. But how about the thrill of seeing your first child born? Ever been inspired by a sunset that you witnessed from your front doorstep? Ever celebrate a hard job well done? How about the feeling of lending a helping hand to someone in need? I met a guy once that devoted his life to orphaned children, and frankly I admire him more than Sir Edmond. But if you ask me it's all about balance - so hard to master.

    Thanks all for the good thoughts. I'm sure Brian could pull out some good quote about only the know-it-all is ignorant.

    - Kris Nosack
  16. beadysee

    beadysee Guest

    --- In Yahoo Canyons Group, Kris Nosack <kn@x> wrote: > I think I've been a bit too judgemental of Aron's > tradgedy.

    And...that's what sort of sets me off.

    A bit too stream of consciousness, perhaps, a bit too verbose, perhaps, but, is a fun and passionate topic, rapid fire. Not to be taken too seriously...in the heat of it all.

    When folks fight the good fight, and come out kickin', its worthy of celebrating.

    Good thoughts, Kris.

    Conquistors of the Useless, indeed...

    Thanks!

    Brian in SLC
  17. beadysee

    beadysee Guest

  18. richard berk

    richard berk Guest

    I wonder if the arm he cut off was the same one sticking out of the snow in the avalanche he was caught in on Tennessee Pass?

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  19. Dean

    Dean Guest

    richard berk wrote: > I wonder if the arm he cut off was the same one sticking out of the snow in > the avalanche he was caught in on Tennessee Pass?

    That's possibly in the top 5 most tasteless jokes that I have ever heard, yet I'm mildly amused.

    I've been following this thread with quite a bit of interest, as I'm sure most people have. I'd have to say that I agree mostly with what Brian has been saying, that there are far too many assumptions and accusations, especially since there is no basis for many of these statements.

    How many people on this list have felt the urge to amputate their own arm because it was pinned under a boulder? How many people on this list were in Blue John yesterday morning when this took place? I'm willing to bet none. It's fine to have discussion on the matter, but the fact remains that the actual facts are not completely in and that we weren't there to see for ourselves.

    There's far too many questions that remain. Was it crushed or just pinned? Was circulation compromised? Could an extraction have been performed without further damage, in a reasonable time frame, or even at all? It's pretty hard to throw around judgement and accusations (at least from where I stand) when we really have no idea as to the circumstances.

    Most counties, especially rural Utah counties, do not have the equipment, training, or ability to remove a 1/2 ton boulder from a person's arm in a 3' wide canyon. And even if they did, had there been a compromise to circulation it wouldn't have much mattered. By the time the extraction was complete the limb would be a loss anyway, even if he had had a partner with him who hiked out immediately for help. These things take time, and tissue doesn't do well over time without blood flow.

    Initial information that I have seen from various "news" sources and from this group tells me that the guy did the best thing he could do to insure his own survival, and good for him. He reached a point where he couldn't count on anyone else, where despair and thirst and fear took him far enough to make a decision that most of us, no matter how hard we try, can't even comprehend. Give the guy some credit, his will to live was overpowering, it conquered every other instinct and desire that he had, and now he's going to recover.

    I helped to rescue a man 5 years ago that jumped 45 feet to a 15 foot wide ledge perched above a 280 foot sheer canyon wall where he stayed for five days, melting snow for water and rationing the 5 ham & cheese biscuits that he had in his daypack. He did it because he felt it was the only way to save his own life. Whether or not that was a correct assumption we may never know, but he is alive today to talk about it. Some folks wouldn't have made the same decisions, and some folks wouldn't have survived the same situations.

    I just hope that Aron will have a speedy recovery, and I'm sure that he will come out ahead in the end.

    Dean
  20. >>He did it because he felt it was the only way to save his own life. Whether or not that was a correct assumption we may never know, but he is alive today to talk about it. <<

    I think some of you are missing the point. If a few precautions were taken before hand the decision to amputate his own arm would have been a moot point. Personally I take precautions beforehand so I will never have to make such a discussion. I notify someone where I am going, when I will be back and where to look for me if I don't show up. Perhaps I just live on the tame side, or perhaps I use common sense..........you make the call.

    Obviously Aaron expected to be back to work Monday so his check-in should have been notified Monday morning at the latest. Aaron should have been found Monday or Tuesday if he had of left proper notification. Even if his arm was beyond saving it could have been amputated by proper medical personal. I am guessing at the moment Aaron is running a serious risk of infection and is not out of danger. Also, a proper amputation leave's more options for a future prosthesis.

    The seriousness of your situation usually hinges on the precautions and preparations made before you get into trouble.

    Shane
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