A US tourist has died while hiking in what police call "a beautiful but harsh environment" in Central Australia. The 33-year-old California man and a 40-year-old companion were descending Mount Sonder on a 10-mile hike Wednesday when they became separated. A Northern Territory police superintendent tells ABC Australia the American did "a very foolish thing" and "ran away from his companion." The 40-year-old returned to a parking lot, but the American did not. Three hours after he was last seen, the Californian—who police say had taken a wrong turn—was found dead a quarter to a half a mile from the car park, report Reuters and the BBC. It's not yet clear how he died—a fall or snake bite are possibilities—but authorities say heat and exposure were likely contributing factors.
It was about 108 degrees in the area as the men were hiking a section of the Larapinta Trail described by a Parks and Wildlife Service rep as a "very exposed mountain walk." Though police say the California man did have some water, the rep tells ABC Australia "it's almost physically impossible to put back the fluids that you're going to lose as quickly as you're losing them." That means "people become dehydrated very rapidly before ... realizing that it's even happening," which is why long walks in such heat are discouraged. He points out visitors from the Northern Hemisphere are used to temperatures "much cooler than what they're encountering here." The US Embassy says it's "aware of reports of the death of a US citizen in the Northern Territory" but has provided no additional information. (California can be deadly for hikers, too.)