Hiker dies from possible heat-related illness in Grand Canyon National Park

A hiker on the Hermit Trail below Cathedral Stairs. Photo Courtesy: National Park Service

GRAND CANYON, Arizona, June 21, 2021 (Gephardt Daily) — A hiker in Grand Canyon National Park died Sunday from a possible heat-related illness, officials said.

“At approximately 1:15 p.m. Sunday, the Grand Canyon Regional Communications Center received a report of a backpacker experiencing heat illness on the Tonto Trail near Monument Creek,” said a news release from the National Park Service.

The backpacker, Michelle Meder, 53, of Hudson, Ohio, was on a multi-day backpacking trip from the Hermit to Bright Angel Trail. Responding rangers determined Meder to be deceased; the cause of death is believed to be heat-related. On Sunday, the high temperature at Phantom Ranch was approximately 115°F.

“Park Rangers at Grand Canyon National Park are strongly urging visitors to Grand Canyon, especially inner canyon hikers and backpackers, to be prepared for excessively hot days in the coming weeks,” the news release said. “In the summer, temperatures on exposed parts of the trail can reach over 120°F in the shade. Park rangers do not advise hiking in the inner canyon between the hours of 10 a.m. and 4 p.m. Most of the people who need emergency medical help in the canyon due to heat illness are hiking between these hours.”

Hiking in extreme heat can lead to serious health risks, including heat exhaustion, heat stroke, hyponatremia, and death.

“Be aware that efforts to assist hikers may be delayed during the summer months 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,” the news release said.

Grand Canyon trails do not close due to inclement or hot weather. There are ways to safely hike below the rim, 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, the news release said. Visitors should evaluate their level of experience and plan accordingly.

For more information on hiking in the summer months in Grand Canyon, click here.

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.


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