Officials urge visitors to prepare for excessive heat after hiker dies in Grand Canyon

Stock Image | Grand Canyon National Park stock image | St George News

ST. GEORGE — Following the death of a woman on Sunday afternoon who was hiking on the Tonto Trail in Grand Canyon National Park, park officials are urging visitors to prepare for excessive heat.

Grand Canyon North Rim photo courtesy of National Park Service, St. George News

At approximately 1:15 p.m. on Sunday, the Grand Canyon Regional Communications Center received a report of a backpacker experiencing heat illness on the Tonto Trail near Monument Creek, according to a press release issued by 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. Hiking down the Hermit Trail on Saturday, she reportedly became disoriented and later unconscious. On Sunday, responding rangers determined Meder had died; the cause of death is believed to be heat-related, according to the news release. On Sunday, the high temperature at Phantom Ranch was approximately 115.

An investigation into the incident is being conducted by the National Park Service in coordination with the Coconino County Medical Examiner.

In the news release, Grand Canyon park rangers strongly urge visitors to Grand Canyon, especially inner canyon hikers and backpackers, to be prepared for excessively hot days in the coming weeks. In the summer, temperatures on exposed parts of the trail can rise above 120 in the shade.

The Grand Canyon National Park is covered in the morning sunlight as seen from a helicopter near Tusayan, Ariz., Oct. 5, 2013 | Associated Press file photo by Julie Jacobson, St. George News

Park rangers strongly advise not hiking in the inner canyon between 10 a.m. and 4 p.m. Most people who need emergency medical help in the canyon due to heat illness are hiking between these hours, the release states.

Hiking in extreme heat can lead to serious health risks including heat exhaustion, heat stroke, hyponatremia and death. Visitors should also 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 fly-in capability during periods of extreme heat or inclement weather.

The National Park Service encourages hikers to recreate responsibly. Grand Canyon trails do not close due to inclement or hot weather. Visitors should evaluate their level of experience and plan accordingly. Find more information on hiking in the summer months in Grand Canyon online.

Copyright St. George News, LLC, 2021, all rights reserved.

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