Ralston tells Students to Follow Passions, Overcome Fear

Ralston tells Students to Follow Passions, Overcome Fear

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GREENWOOD VILLAGE, Colo. (AP) -- Aron Ralston, the climber forced to amputate his own arm after being pinned by a boulder in a Utah canyon, returned to his former middle school Tuesday to talk to students about pursuing their dreams and respecting people who are different.

"First and foremost you have a responsibilty to yourself to always act with integrity, follow your passions and overcome your fears," he told West Middle School students. "Don't let other people tell you who you are. Don't settle for their expectations, and dream your own dreams."

Ralston, 27, was climbing alone April 26 when his right arm became pinned under an 800-pound boulder in Canyonlands National Park in southeast Utah. On the fifth day, after other failed attempts, he freed himself by snapping his bones and then using a knife to cut through his arm.

He applied a tourniquet, crawled through a narrow canyon, rappelled down a 60-foot cliff and walked six miles down the canyon, where he saw tourists and got help.

Ralston returned to his parents' home in nearby Centennial three weeks ago. Since leaving a Grand Junction hospital May 10, he has undergone five surgeries and treatment for an infection on his right arm.

He also had plastic surgery so he could be fitted with a prosthesis.

"I'll start off with a simple one, one with a hook on the end so I can pick stuff up," he told students.

Ralston said he has grown spiritually from his experience and said his purpose for making it out of the canyon is so that he can serve as an inspiration to others.

He would not answer whether he has any book, movie or endorsement deals in the works but said he plans to give inspirational talks to kids.

Ralston said he learned through his climbing and mountaineering experiences that with freedom comes a responsibility for oneself.

"I recently learned two ways you need to be prepared," he told students. "One, don't forget to leave word of where you're going with someone who knows what to do if you don't show up, and two, if you're going to carry a knife, carry a sharp one."

He expects to have his prosthetic arm in two months.

He said he is considering returning to moderate hiking in southwest Colorado in about three weeks, rock climbing by the end of the summer and taking solo hikes this winter.

(Copyright 2003 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)

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