A 55-year-old man died while hiking in Grand Canyon national park on Saturday, park service officials have announced.
The hiker, identified as Ranjith Varma from Manassas, Virginia, died while attempting an 18-mile trek from the south rim of the canyon to the north rim. Varma was hiking with a party of six people and about halfway through their walk through the inner canyon, the lowest part of the hike, he became unresponsive. Emergency crews were called and bystanders began CPR, according to a press release from the national park service (NPS).
Rescuers flew a helicopter to the area but attempts to resuscitate him were unsuccessful.
“It definitely is a tragic circumstance. No one comes to the Grand Canyon thinking something like this would occur to them,” said Joelle Baird, a public affair specialist for the NPS.
Varma was on his way to the last leg of the “rim to rim” hike, a grueling journey that can take between 12-15 hours with thousands of feet gained in elevation. Each section has a unique elevation, temperature and landscape, making the hike incredibly rigorous and dangerous for people who are unprepared or haven’t done physical conditioning first.
While it is unclear what Varma’s exact cause of death was, Baird emphasized the rigorous nature of the hike combined with the recent heatwaves makes it a dangerous time to attempt such an undertaking. On the day of Varma’s hike, the temperature in the inner canyon was over 100F.
“People need to be acclimated. Heat can be a factor that a lot of folks – unless they’re from a hot environment – can be blindsided by,” Baird said.
Varma is one of several people to die in a national park in recent months as extreme heat has gripped US states from California to Florida and affected nearly all of the nation’s 425 national parks.
In early July, a 57-year-old woman died while hiking at the Grand Canyon. On 23 June, a father and stepson both died in Texas’s Big Bend national park after hiking in 119F (48C) heat. In Death Valley, two people died including a 71-year-old man who collapsed on 18 July after hiking a trail at Golden Canyon, and a 65-year-old man who was found in his car dead from “apparent heat illness”.
Grand Canyon emergency crews receive about 350 search and rescue calls. Two of the main factors in these rescues are, “a lack of physical condition and fatigue”, Baird said. About 10 to 20 people a year die in the canyon, Varma was the ninth of this year.