Crew of 13 needed to move boulder that trapped climber

Tuesday, May 6, 2003

CANYONLANDS NATIONAL PARK, Utah -- Thirteen park rangers lugged equipment into this southeastern Utah park and lifted an 800-pound boulder that trapped a mountain climber and forced him to amputate his arm to escape.

After hiking 3 miles to the remote canyon Sunday, the crew was able to lift the egg-shaped boulder and push it into a space where it fit securely. The rangers also recovered the arm of Aron Ralston, who was pinned for five nights before cutting off his arm below the elbow with a pocketknife on Thursday.

Ralston, 27, hiked out of the canyon for help and remained hospitalized in fair condition in Grand Junction, Colo. He was to undergo surgery Monday to close the wound in preparation for a prosthetic arm. His parents say his spirits remain high.

On Sunday, the rangers slung the chalkstone rock with 2-inch webbing and moved it up about 1 1/2 feet until they found a spot where it could fit, said river ranger Steve Young.

The lower portion of Ralston's right arm was recovered Sunday and taken to a mortuary, said Young, who helped move the boulder.

It took about two hours to lift the rock and push it into a new spot. It is still possible the boulder will move again, Young said. The narrow canyon is prone to flash flooding whenever it rains, and the water could sweep it away.

Sunday was the second time rangers attempted to recover the arm; a previous attempt on Friday was unsuccessful.

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