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'127 Hours': How prepared are you?

In one of my favorite scenes in "127 Hours," in which James Franco plays Aron Ralston, who famously amputated an arm to rescue himself from Utah's Blue John Canyon, movie viewers are visually transported via flyover from the slot canyon where Franco/Ralston is trapped, back to his truck, where a left-behind bottle of Gatorade sits in the back.

Franco:127 Hours Another scene shows him preparing for his trek from the point of view of a top shelf in his kitchen cabinet, his hand searching for a Swiss Army knife that he can't see and can't quite reach — and ultimately leaves behind. That sharp blade probably would have come in handy.

While I thoroughly enjoyed this movie, thinking about it makes me wince — and not just because of the graphic amputation scene, which I glimpsed between squinted eyes. It made me think of forgotten gear and food, and omitted destination notification.

On one hurried backpack into Yosemite's Lyell Canyon, we had to return to the Tuolumne Meadows trailhead not once, but twice: to retrieve tent poles, and then our first night's dinner. And, should we have left behind a note when we hiked into Sheets Gulch, a slot canyon near Capitol Reef National Park? Though a bit off the beaten path, it's a fairly popular destination, and our car was near the canyon entrance, so we thought it unnecessary. Still, what could it have hurt to leave a note on the dashboard?

Neither circumstance could be considered life-threatening, and of course, a few huge differences exist between Ralston and average hikers such as myself. He: has climbed all 59 (his count) of Colorado's Fourteeners; me: zero. And Ralston's experience in engineering, canyoneering and search and rescue probably contributed to his supreme confidence in the backcountry. But still, I wonder if he considered something as elemental as the good old 10 essentials. It's something we try to carry along in our packs even on short day hikes. Shall we review?

Originally created in the 1930s by the Seattle-based Mountaineers, the 10 essentials were meant as must-have gear for climbers and other outdoor adventurers. With technology like GPS, the list has evolved over the years, and it doesn't necessarily apply only to the Northwest. Here's the group's updated list:

1. Navigation (map and compass)

2. Sun protection

3. Insulation (extra clothing)

4. Illumination (flashlight/headlamp)

5. First-aid supplies

6. Fire

7. Repair kit and tools

8. Nutrition (extra food)

9. Hydration (extra water)

10. Emergency shelter

Ralston pretty much covered his bases, with the exception of extra clothing (temperatures plummeted to the 30s at night in the canyon, which was barely penetrated by sunlight during the day). And of course the ultimate mistake was failing to tell anyone where he was going. For solo hikers, this is a must, even if it means leaving a note with a ranger or at the trailhead.

For a look at how "127 Hours" was filmed, check out our interactive infographic, which details how duplicate slot canyons were constructed in a warehouse in Salt Lake City. The film alternated between shots of the real Blue John Canyon and the fake canyons.

— Julie Sheer

Photo: James Franco in "127 Hours." Credit: Chuck Zlotnick/Fox Searchlight

 

 
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Comments (2)

I've read (and loved) Aron's book, but haven't seen the movie yet. Can't wait!

I'm not a hiker or a rock climber or a canyoneer, but I can't help but wonder how well received this film will be in harsh-weather states like Minnesota, Michigan, or the Dakotas versus, say, balmier states like Florida and California. For Minnesotans, common sense is a fact of life: we live in a state where you don't have to go out of your way (up a mountain, for instance) to find weather that can leave you dead of exposure some six to eight months out of the year. So, for me, as a native Minnesotan, "127 Hours" is the story of an idiot, over-confident and poorly prepared, who went well out of his way to get himself into a world of trouble-- and who nearly died as a result. I could skid into a ditch on icy roads on my way home, and no one would laud me as a hero; Ralston behaved stupidly, ended up having to mutilate himself, and his story gets heaps of praise. I simply don't understand. This looks like a prettified version of "Jackass 3D"-- and even the Jackass guys are smart enough to work as a team.


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