Between a Rock and a Hard Place
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"Between a Rock and a Hard Place" Summary

By Aron Ralston

nonfiction | 368 pages | Published in NaN

A brilliantly written, funny, honest, inspiring, and downright astonishing report from the line where death meets life which will surely take its place in the annals of classic adventure stories.One of the most extraordinary survival stories ever told -- Aron Ralston's searing account of his six days trapped in one of the most remote spots in America, and how one inspired act of bravery brought him home. It started out as a simple hike in the Utah canyonlands on a warm Saturday afternoon. For Aron Ralston, a twenty-seven-year-old mountaineer and outdoorsman, a walk into the remote Blue John Canyon was a chance to get a break from a winter of solo climbing Colorado's highest and toughest peaks. He'd earned this weekend vacation, and though he met two charming women along the way, by early afternoon he finally found himself in his element: alone, with just the beauty of the natural world all around him. It was 2:41 P.M. Eight miles from his truck, in a deep and narrow slot canyon, Aron was climbing down off a wedged boulder when the rock suddenly, and terrifyingly, came loose. Before he could get out of the way, the falling stone pinned his right hand and wrist against the canyon wall. And so began six days of hell for Aron Ralston. With scant water and little food, no jacket for the painfully cold nights, and the terrible knowledge that he'd told no one where he was headed, he found himself facing a lingering death -- trapped by an 800-pound boulder 100 feet down in the bottom of a canyon. As he eliminated his escape options one by one through the days, Aron faced the full horror of his predicament: By the time any possible search and rescue effort would begin, he'd most probably have died of dehydration, if a flash flood didn't drown him before that. What does one do in the face of almost certain death? Using the video camera from his pack, Aron began recording his grateful good-byes to his family and friends all over the country, thinking back over a life filled with adventure, and documenting a last will and testament with the hope that someone would find it. (For their part, his family and friends had instigated a major search for Aron, the amazing details of which are also documented here for the first time.) The knowledge of their love kept Aron Ralston alive, until a divine inspiration on Thursday morning solved the riddle of the boulder. Aron then committed the most extreme act imaginable to save himself. Between a Rock and a Hard Place -- a brilliantly written, funny, honest, inspiring, and downright astonishing report from the line where death meets life -- will surely take its place in the annals of classic adventure stories.


Estimated read time: 4 min read

One Sentence Summary

Aron Ralston recounts his harrowing experience of being trapped in a Utah canyon and the extreme measures he took to survive.


"Between a Rock and a Hard Place" is a gripping memoir by Aron Ralston, recounting his harrowing experience of being trapped in a remote Utah canyon and his extraordinary will to survive. The book takes readers on an intense journey of endurance, resilience, and the indomitable human spirit in the face of extreme adversity.

Brief Synopsis

Plot Overview

The story unfolds in the rugged canyons of Utah, where Aron Ralston, an experienced outdoorsman and avid climber, embarks on a solo canyoneering adventure. During his exploration, a dislodged boulder pins his arm against the canyon wall, leaving him stranded and facing the daunting prospect of survival in an isolated and unforgiving environment.


The narrative primarily unfolds in Blue John Canyon, a remote and desolate location characterized by towering rock formations, narrow passageways, and the raw beauty of the Utah wilderness. The stark and unforgiving landscape serves as the backdrop for Ralston's remarkable struggle for survival.

Main Characters

Aron RalstonAn adventurous outdoorsman and climber who becomes trapped in Blue John Canyon.
Ralston's FamilySupportive and loving, they play a crucial role in his journey of survival.
RescuersThe dedicated individuals who ultimately come to Ralston's aid, pivotal in his eventual rescue.

Main Events

Struggle for Survival

As Ralston battles against the elements and his own physical limitations, he is forced to confront the brutal realities of his predicament. With dwindling supplies and a grim prognosis, he endeavors to devise creative solutions to sustain himself while trapped in the canyon.

Decision to Amputate

Facing the prospect of certain death if he remains trapped, Ralston makes the agonizing decision to amputate his own arm in a desperate bid for freedom. This harrowing and courageous act becomes a defining moment in his quest for survival.

Rescue and Redemption

Following his incredible feat of self-amputation, Ralston's eventual rescue by a dedicated team of responders marks a profound turning point in his harrowing ordeal. His remarkable resilience and unwavering determination inspire a global audience and redefine the boundaries of human endurance.

Themes and Insights

Resilience and Determination

The narrative underscores the extraordinary power of the human spirit in the face of insurmountable challenges. Ralston's unwavering determination and refusal to succumb to despair serve as a testament to the resilience of the human psyche.

Self-Discovery and Redemption

Through his solitary struggle for survival, Ralston undergoes a profound journey of self-discovery and personal redemption. His transformative experience in the canyon forces him to confront his innermost fears and ultimately emerge as a stronger, more introspective individual.

Nature's Indifference

The book also delves into the indifferent and formidable nature of the wilderness, portraying the stark contrast between the beauty and brutality of the natural world. Ralston's entrapment serves as a poignant reminder of nature's unforgiving and unpredictable character.

Reader's Takeaway

"Between a Rock and a Hard Place" offers readers a gripping and introspective account of one man's remarkable survival against seemingly insurmountable odds. Through Ralston's riveting narrative, readers are invited to contemplate the depths of human resilience, the transformative power of adversity, and the enduring capacity for hope in the face of extreme hardship.


In "Between a Rock and a Hard Place," Aron Ralston's compelling memoir captivates readers with its raw emotional intensity and profound insights into the human spirit. The book serves as a compelling testament to the unyielding force of human resilience and stands as an enduring testament to the triumph of the human will in the face of unimaginable adversity.

Between a Rock and a Hard Place FAQ

  1. What is 'Between a Rock and a Hard Place' about?

    Between a Rock and a Hard Place is a memoir by Aron Ralston detailing his experience being trapped in a Utah canyon and his remarkable struggle for survival.

  2. Is 'Between a Rock and a Hard Place' a true story?

    Yes, 'Between a Rock and a Hard Place' is a true story based on Aron Ralston's harrowing experience and his ultimate survival after being trapped by a boulder in a canyon.

  3. What are the main themes in 'Between a Rock and a Hard Place'?

    The main themes in 'Between a Rock and a Hard Place' include survival, determination, self-discovery, and the strength of the human spirit.

  4. Is 'Between a Rock and a Hard Place' suitable for all readers?

    While the book is an inspiring story of survival, it does contain intense and graphic descriptions of the author's ordeal, so it may not be suitable for all readers.

  5. Was 'Between a Rock and a Hard Place' adapted into a film?

    Yes, the book was adapted into the film '127 Hours' directed by Danny Boyle, starring James Franco as Aron Ralston.