Temperatures on certain trails at Grand Canyon National Park can reach 120 degrees Fahrenheit even in the shade, which is why park rangers continually warn visitors to avoid hiking during the hottest part of the day and to take other precautions. Those warnings were underscored by a tragedy over the weekend, when a hiker from Ohio apparently succumbed to the heat while on a multiday backpacking trip. Per a park release, the Grand Canyon Regional Communications Center got a call just after 1pm on Sunday about a hiker suffering from heat illness along the park's Tonto Trail. The backpacker, IDed as 53-year-old Michelle Meder of Hudson, Ohio, was said to have become "disoriented and later unconscious" the previous day. By the time rangers got to her on Sunday, she had already died.
"The cause of death is believed to be heat-related," the release says, noting that temps in the area hovered around 115 degrees Sunday. The release adds that rescue efforts during the summer can be hampered due to a lack of staff, the need to keep employees safe, and restrictions on flying helicopters in severe weather. The Arizona Republic notes that Meder's death comes just a week after a 63-year-old Colorado man drowned during a boating outing at the park on the Colorado River. The Coconino County Medical Examiner is working with the National Park Service to investigate both fatalities. In the meantime, "Park Rangers are strongly urging visitors to Grand Canyon, especially inner canyon hikers and backpackers, to be prepared for excessively hot days in the coming weeks," the NPS tweeted. Trails in the park aren't shut down during extreme heat. (Read more Grand Canyon stories.)