Heat Possibly Played Role In Death Of Grand Canyon National Park Hiker

With an extended heat wave baking the West, generating temperatures above 100 degrees in many national parks, Grand Canyon National Park officials are investigating whether the heat played a role in the death of a hiker on trhe South Kaibab Trail.

Temperatures above 100 already have been pointed to as the possible cause of one death in the National Park System, that of a Boy Scout leader at Lake Mead National Recreation Area last month. Now officials are looking into the death of a woman who collapsed in 113-degree heat on the South Kaibab Trail.

Grand Canyon dispatchers received a call from the emergency phone at Phantom Ranch boat beach on Sunday afternoon with a report of an unconscious hiker about three-quarters of a mile above Phantom Ranch on the South Kaibab Trail.

Park rangers responding from the Phantom Ranch ranger station began CPR upon arrival, but efforts to revive the unidentified woman were unsuccessful. Her body was flown out and transferred to the county medical examiner.

The woman was in a group of five people who were on the first day of a permitted multi-day backcountry hike, according to a park release.

The South Kaibab is a steep, exposed trail, and the high temperature at Phantom Ranch that afternoon was 113 degrees.

Comments

Forgive my ignorance, I'm not a hiker or outdoors-person. Do they not suspend permits or close trails during periods of extreme heat or similar dangers?

Stormy, the only trail closures I can recall were for wildlife issues or trail damage.

We had a similar discussion about a year ago when the Yosemite Ranger checking the daily passes at the foot of the Half Dome cables did nothing as hikers, knowing that they could not come back the next day with a no longer valid permit, went right past her and went up the cables in a rain squall, despite the obvious danger of the already slick granite being coated with water. A hiker slipped on the way back down near the bottom of the cables and lost her life.

A common comment at that time was that the NPS does not want to get into the game of "Is it safe?" because if someone is allowed to go out and it turns out that it was not "safe" for a given individual, the NPS may get sued by the survivors of the deceased for their "lack of judgement" in allowing them to proceed.

Thanks for the info, Kurt & Rudy.