Colorado Climber Who Cut Off His Arm Had No Choice

GRAND JUNCTION, Colo. (AP) -- 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 southeastern 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, remained in serious condition Friday 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 rescuers 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.''

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