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Woman from Ohio dies while hiking Grand Canyon in extreme heat

Grand Canyon Superintendent
Posted at 12:41 PM, Jun 22, 2021

A woman died while hiking in Grand Canyon National Park during extreme heat.

The National Park Service (NPS) says 53-year-old Michelle Meder of Hudson, Ohio, was on a multi-day backpacking trip to Bright Angel Trail when she began experiencing a heat-related illness on the Tonto Trail near Monument Creek.

The NPS says Meder became disoriented and later unconscious. On Sunday, responding park rangers discovered the woman had died and the cause of death is believed to be heat-related.

The high temperature in the area was about 115°F on Sunday.

An investigation into the death is being conducted by the NPS in coordination with the Coconino County Medical Examiner.

Rangers are strongly urging Grand Canyon visitors to be prepared for excessively hot days in the coming weeks, especially inner canyon hikers and backpackers.

In the summer, the NPS says temperatures on exposed parts of the trail can reach over 120°F in the shade. 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, according to the NPS.

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

The NPS says visitors should 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.

Grand Canyon trails do not close due to inclement or hot weather. The NPS says 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. Visitors should evaluate their level of experience and plan accordingly.