Grand Canyon backpacker dies in extreme heat, rangers say

A backpacker died along Thunder River Trail as temperatures hit 115 degrees in the Grand Canyon, park rangers said.

A backpacker died along Thunder River Trail as temperatures hit 115 degrees in the Grand Canyon, park rangers said.

NPS Photo/E. Foss

A backpacker died in the Grand Canyon as temperatures hit 115 degrees, park rangers said.

Delphine Martinez, a 59-year-old from Window Rock, Arizona, was visiting the Grand Canyon on Sunday, Sept. 4, as part of a multi-day backpacking trip. At about 7:30 p.m., Martinez became disoriented and unconscious.

Other people on the trip tried to save her, but resuscitation efforts were unsuccessful, according to the National Park Service. Martinez was pronounced dead along the Thunder River Trail, about 1 mile from the Colorado River.

Park officials and the Coconino County Medical Examiner are investigating the incident.

“High temperatures in the inner canyon were well over 100°F (38°C), with the high temperature at Phantom Ranch approximately 115°F,” park officials said in a Sept. 6 news release. “Park rangers at Grand Canyon National Park urge visitors to Grand Canyon, especially inner canyon hikers and backpackers, to be prepared for excessively hot days.”

During the summer, parts of the Grand Canyon can hit temperatures above 120 degrees in the shade. Park rangers said people shouldn’t hike the inner canyon between 10 a.m. and 4 p.m.

“Hiking in extreme heat can lead to serious health risks including heat exhaustion, heat stroke, hyponatremia, and death,” officials said.

Beating the heat

When temperatures are extremely high, bodies can have trouble regulating temperature, McClatchy News reported.

In some cases, people can experience heat exhaustion. People experiencing heat exhaustion can have muscle cramps, nausea, weakness and cold or clammy skin, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

If heat exhaustion persists for too long, it can lead to heatstroke, the most serious form of heat injury. People experiencing heatstroke can have hot, red, dry or damp skin. They have a fast and strong pulse, and they can become confused. People should move indoors immediately and call 911 if they have symptoms.

If people choose to hike or be outdoors in dangerously hot temperatures, officials recommend the following tips:

  • Carry and drink plenty of water and plan to replenish electrolytes

  • Eat twice as much food as normal and have salty foods on hand

  • Carry a first-aid kit

  • Pack essentials only

  • Bring a flashlight with spare batteries to hike during the cool evening

  • Spray yourself with water to cool down

  • Have a hat and sunscreen as protection from the sun

  • Have a whistle or signal for emergency use

  • Wear waterproof clothing

Maddie Capron is a McClatchy Real-Time News Reporter focused on the outdoors and wildlife in the western U.S. She graduated from Ohio University and previously worked at CNN, the Idaho Statesman and Ohio Center for Investigative Journalism.

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