A hiker died while attempting to hike rim-to-rim across the Grand Canyon on Friday, September 9th.
According to the Grand Canyon Regional Communications Center, an emergency call was received at approximately 1:55 PM about a hiker in distress on the North Kaibab Trail, about one mile south of Cottonwood Campground. The hiker, identified as 55-year-old Ranjith Varma of Manassas, Virginia, had been attempting to hike from the South to North Rim in a single day.
Soon after the initial emergency call, the hiker became unresponsive. Bystanders who were also on the trail initiated CPR. National Park Service (NPS) search and rescue personnel quickly responded via helicopter, using specialized maneuvers to reach the remote location and take over medical care. However, resuscitation attempts by NPS personnel were unsuccessful, and the hiker died at the scene.
The incident serves as an important reminder about the dangers of hiking in the Grand Canyon, especially the inner canyon, during the summer months. Temperatures on exposed sections of the trail can reach over 120°F in the shade during the peak heat of the day. For this reason, park rangers strongly advise against hiking in the inner canyon between 10 AM and 4 PM during summer.
Rescue efforts may also be delayed during this time due to limited NPS staff, a high number of rescue calls, employee safety requirements, and limited helicopter capability in extreme heat or inclement weather.
An investigation into the incident is being conducted by the NPS in coordination with the Coconino County Medical Examiner. No additional information is available at this time. Park officials will provide updates as the investigation progresses.
Friday’s Death Prompts Warnings About Summer Hiking from NPS
Before embarking on a hike, the NPS urges all hikers to read the Hiking Tips page on the park website and check the Backcountry Updates and Closures page for current information on inner canyon conditions. These resources provide critical information to help hikers plan and prepare for safe canyon travel.
Here’s the most important things to know to make for a safe hiking trip in Grand Canyon’s summer heat:
Hiking under the hot, dry conditions of the Grand Canyon’s inner canyon in summer poses unique challenges for hikers. The extreme heat and arid climate increase the physiological strain on the body, with fluid and electrolyte loss exceeding 2 quarts per hour in direct sunlight during the hottest parts of the day.
Park rangers strongly advise against hiking inner canyon trails between 10 AM and 4 PM during summer months. Even with proper hydration and nutrition, the body cannot efficiently cool itself in direct sunlight when temps climb well above 100°F in exposed areas. Most emergency evacuations for heat illness occur for hikers on the trails during these core daylight hours.
Instead, hikers should plan routes that allow for pre-dawn starts and late afternoon finishes. Taking a long break in the shade near water sources can also help avoid the worst heat. Wearing lightweight, light-colored clothing and using a wide-brimmed hat, sunscreen, and sunglasses are also important for sun protection.
Staying hydrated and refueling with high-energy foods is critical but over-hydration can also be dangerous. Drink when thirsty and avoid forcing fluids beyond what your body needs. Consuming too much water without replenishing salts and electrolytes can lead to a dangerous condition called hyponatremia.
Hikers showing signs of heat exhaustion, including nausea, vomiting, headache, and cool, moist skin, should rest in the shade, drink electrolyte fluids, and cool their body by getting wet. More serious heat stroke requires emergency treatment – continuous cooling with water and evacuation.
Hypothermia is also a risk in the canyon. Carry layered clothing and stay dry and fueled during wet or cold conditions. Following ranger recommendations, preparing properly, and timing the hike to avoid peak heat will help ensure a safer, more enjoyable inner canyon hike.
Cover photo courtesy of: Michael Quinn, National Park Service