A hiker died from what park officials suspect were heat-related causes while hiking through the Grand Canyon over the weekend. The maximum temperature where she was walking reached 115°F.
According to a statement from the National Park Service, the incident occurred at approximately 1:15 p.m. on Sunday, June 20, when Michelle Meder, 53, of Hudson, Ohio, was on a multi-day backpacking trip from Hermit to Bright Angel Trail when the Grand Canyon Regional Communications Center received a report of a backpacker experiencing heat illness on the Tonto Trail near Monument Creek (NPS).
“While hiking down the Hermit Trail on June 19, [Meder] got disoriented and eventually unconscious,” the National Park Service stated in a statement. “Meder was discovered dead on June 20 by responding rangers; the cause of death is thought to be heat-related. The maximum temperature at Phantom Ranch on June 20 was around 115°F (46°C).”
Hiking in extreme heat can cause “serious health risks such as heat exhaustion, heatstroke, hypothermia, and death,” according to the National Park Service, and hikers should be aware that assistance may be delayed during the summer months due to “limited staff, the number of rescue calls, employee safety requirements, and a variety of other factors.”
According to the National Park Service, “Park Rangers at Grand Canyon National Park are strongly encouraging visitors to Grand Canyon, particularly inner canyon hikers and backpackers, to be prepared for unusually hot days in the coming weeks.” “Temperatures on exposed portions of the route may reach over 120°F (49°C) in the shade during the summer. Between the hours of 10 a.m. and 4 p.m., park rangers do not recommend trekking in the inner canyon. The majority of persons who require emergency medical assistance in the canyon due to heat sickness hike during these hours.”
The NPS stated that if you are prepared, well-acclimated to the climate and elevation, have the necessary gear, and have past experience hiking in high, desert terrain, the Grand Canyon trails will not close due to inclement or hot weather.