The hiker, 36, from Westfield, Indiana was attempting a hike to the Colorado River and back via Grand Canyon National Park in one day.
On May 14 at approximately 9 p.m., Grand Canyon Regional Communications Center would receive word of an unresponsive hiker. Her location, the Bright Angel Trail above the park’s Three-Mile Resthouse, was among canyon areas experiencing ‘excessively hot’ temperatures as summer approaches, the park cites in their media release.
Current warnings by Grand Canyon National Park cite an Inner Canyon High of 99 °F (37 °C). In summer months, exposed parts of Bright Angel Trail can reach over 120°F (49 °C) in the shade. Exposure to direct sunlight becomes deadly in turn.
National Park Service (NPS) emergency services personnel responded to the 36-year-old’s last known location down trail. But shortly after rescuers arrived, the 36-year-old became pulseless. Tragically, all attempts to resuscitate her were unsuccessful.
The late hiker’s plan had her traveling intense terrain during conditions the park urges extreme caution against. As a result, “Park Rangers at Grand Canyon National Park strongly urge visitors, especially inner canyon hikers and backpackers to be prepared for excessively hot days in the coming weeks.”
Park rangers do not advise hiking in the inner canyon between the hours of 10 AM and 4 PM. Most heat-related illnesses are from hikers on trail between these hours. NPS also asks visitors to avoid hiking from the rim to the river and back in one day.
An investigation into the woman’s death is ongoing by NPS in coordination with the Coconino County Medical Examiner. No additional information is available at this time.
Grand Canyon National Park Heat Safety is Paramount
As the park notes, “Hiking in extreme heat can lead to serious health risks including heat exhaustion, heat stroke, hyponatremia (a life threatening electrolyte imbalance from drinking too much water and not consuming enough salt), and death.”
Please be aware that NPS efforts to assist hikers may delay during the summer months, as well. This is due to limited staff, the number of rescue calls, employee safety requirements, and limited helicopter flying capability during periods of extreme heat or inclement weather.
Park staff also hopes to remind visitors that there are ways to safely hike below the rim. But this is only for those who are prepared, well-acclimated to the climate and elevation, have the appropriate gear, and who have prior experience hiking in steep, desert terrain.
Important tips for a successful hike include the following:
- Balancing food, electrolyte, and water intake
- Drinking when thirsty, regardless of last drinking time
- Getting wet to stay cool
- Stopping hiking if you start to feel ill
If you plan to hike Grand Canyon National Park in warm months, please evaluate your level of experience honestly. Then, plan accordingly. It can save your life.
For more information on hiking in the summer months in Grand Canyon, visit the national park’s Safe Hiking Guide here.
*Please note that North Kaibab Trail is currently CLOSED for reconstruction between Manzanita Rest Area and the North Kaibab Trailhead.