Canyonlands National Park (UT)
Self-Rescue from Blue John Canyon
On the afternoon of Saturday, April 26th, Aron Ralston, 27, of Aspen, Colorado, was solo canyoneering in remote Blue John Canyon, adjacent to the park’s Maze District. His intended one-day route was down the main fork of Blue John Canyon to its intersection with Horseshoe Canyon, then down Horseshoe Canyon into the Maze District, then out via Horseshoe Canyon. In a three-foot wide and hundred-foot high section of Blue John Canyon, a boulder weighing approximately 800 pounds and measuring about 42 by 54 by 30 inches shifted, pinning Ralston’s right arm. He was unable to move and was trapped in a standing position.
Ralston unsuccessfully attempted to rescue himself from his stranded location utilizing technical climbing equipment that he carried with him. On the morning of Tuesday, April 29th, Ralston ran out of water.
On Thursday, the park and Emery County Sheriff’s Office were notified that Ralston was missing and four days overdue from reporting for work. ICS was put into effect with a unified command; each agency assumed a command function and provided resources. Additional support and resources were provided by Utah Public Safety, the Wayne County Sheriff’s Office, the Moab Valley Fire Department, the Bureau of Land Management and Grand County Search and Rescue.
That same morning, Ralston realized that his survival required drastic action, so he amputated his arm below the elbow utilizing his pocketknife. He then applied a tourniquet and administered first aid, rigged anchors and fixed a rope to rappel to the floor of Blue John Canyon, and hiked downstream into Horseshoe Canyon. Ralston was found there by a Utah Public Safety helicopter at 3 p.m. and was transported to Allen Memorial Hospital in Moab. He was stabilized there, then transported to St. Mary’s Hospital in Grand Junction, Colorado, by a Care Flight helicopter for further treatment. Ralston’s arm was recovered on May 4th.
Several strategies were considered for recovering the arm by the park’s safety officer, engineer and other employees. An assortment of equipment was backpacked into the site, including jacks, hoists, ropes, pulleys, wrecking bars and cribbing. Once on site, the riggers determined that a grip hoist could be used to lift the boulder, so a raising station was set up. The boulder was wrapped in heavy duty webbing and the grip hoist was used along with a heavy duty jack to lift and shift the boulder far enough to remove the trapped limb.
Ralston is an avid outdoors person and in exceptional physical condition. He is known to have climbed 49 of the 14,000-foot peaks in Colorado, and was preparing for an upcoming Denali expedition. His outdoor pursuits are outlined on his web page at http://www.geocities.com/aronralston
. Media interest has been extremely intense. The park has had as many as five information officers working simultaneously to handle calls, including numerous requests for live appearances.
[Submitted by Steve Swanke, Unified Incident Commander]
Canyonlands National Park (UT)
Rescue of Seriously-Injured Hiker