Amputee Aims To Scale New Peaks

Expert climber Aron Ralston is seen in this undated self-portrait from the top of a mountain. Ralston, who amputated his own arm with a pocketknife to free himself from a narrow, remote canyon in Utah, was recovering in fair condition Saturday, May 3, 2003, at St. Mary's Hospital in Grand Junction, Colo. (AP Photo/HO, Aron Ralston, St. Mary's Hospital)
Aron Ralston
Aron Ralston, the trapped rock climber who was forced to cut off his own arm to free himself from the deadly grip of a massive boulder, is recovering from surgery Tuesday morning at St. Mary's Hospital in Grand Junction Colorado.

Donna Ralston says she believes this ordeal will not diminish her son's passion for climbing, Rick Sallinger from the CBS Denver station KCNC reports. He'll just have adjust how he goes about it, Mrs. Ralston says.

When the 27-year-old Ralston disappeared in a maze of canyons in some of this country's most rugged land, he hadn't notified anyone, including his parents, where he was going.

"He realized he hadn't left word, that he actually thought about making that call and then thought it was too late," said his father Larry Ralston at a press conference.

For five days, Ralston attempted in vain to chisel his arm free from the 800-pound boulder while his parents wondered where he could be.

"We hacked his computer, got to his e-mail address, and immediately sent urgent messages to all of his friends," Donna Ralston said.

Ralston's truck was found in southeast Utah by authorities, but by then his water was running out. In a desperate act of courage, using a pocketknife, he gave up his arm to save his life.

"It wasn't until just a few minutes after 3:00 on Thursday afternoon when the call came back again that they had found him and he was alive. And all I could say was, 'Thank God,'" explained his mother.

The severed arm was recovered, but could not be reattached. And so Ralston underwent surgery Monday to prepare him for an artificial arm.

Donna Ralston said her son is doing well. "His attitude, and his spirits are very high," she said. "He is thoroughly enjoyed the cards and flowers, and a very few phone calls from his closest friends."

Ralston received his first counseling session Monday to talk about the incident.

His father, Larry, told The Early Show's co-anchor Harry Smith that on that fateful day his son was trying to make a handhold and the 800-pound boulder rolled onto his arm and trapped him for five days.

"The boulder seemed to be stable, positioned on top of a narrow slot canyon, and as he started to lower himself over the side, the boulder rotated and came down towards him. But he felt he had tested it out thoroughly ahead of time. But it was just balanced differently than he realized it was," Larry Ralston explains.

Showing an amazing focus, Aron Ralston was able to think clearly under the circumstances. Larry Ralston says his son explained the events in memo-like manner. "He said, 'Dad, my first hour, I identified four options.' He said, 'One was that someone would come along the trail and find me. A second is that I'd be able to chip away at that rock and relieve my hand. A third that I might be able to mechanically rig up with ropes and equipment - I had something to move the rock. And the fourth option, if all else failed, would be I might have to sever the arm."

Terry Mercer, the helicopter pilot who helped rescue Ralston says when he landed the helicopter he saw Ralston walking strong. He had walked six miles seeking help. Mercer notes he was amazed at the young man's state of mind under the circumstances.

Mercer says Ralston was "extremely calm. In fact, his fist words were, 'I'm Aron, are you looking for me? He said, 'I've amputated my arm, could you take me to the hospital?' He was just straightforward, not emotional. Not excited, just very straight forward. And he was incredible."