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Grand Canyon hiker dies trying to walk from rim to rim in same day

Updated September 11, 2023 - 3:35 pm

GRAND CANYON NATIONAL PARK, Ariz. — A 55-year-old Virginia man died in the Grand Canyon while trying to hike from the South Rim to the North Rim in a single day, a distance of 21 miles, authorities said Monday.

Grand Canyon National Park officials identified the hiker who died Saturday as Ranjith Varma of Manassas. The location where he passed away is toward the end of the South Rim to North Rim trek, which can take 12 to 15 hours to complete.

At around 2 p.m. Saturday, the Grand Canyon Regional Communications Center reported receiving an emergency call of a hiker in distress on the North Kaibab Trail, about one mile south of Cottonwood Campground. Varma became unresponsive, and bystanders and rangers both unsuccessfully tried to resuscitate him, park officials said.

It wasn’t immediately clear if his death was heat related. An investigation was being conducted by the Park Service and the Coconino County Medical Examiner.

The high temperature on Saturday was 87 degrees at Grand Canyon Airport, which is about a 20 minute drive from the South Rim.

Recent deaths

Hiker fatalities are not uncommon in the Arizona park.

— In July, a 57-year-old woman died while on an eight-mile hike in triple-digit heat.

— In May, an Indiana woman died on the Bright Angel Trail.

— In July 2021, a 56-year-old hiker died on the trail.

— In that same month, a Louisiana man died on the trail while on a multi-day hiking trip.

— In June 2021, an Illinois man died on the South Kaibab Trail.

— In that same month, an Ohio woman died of suspected heat-related illness during a backpacking trip.

— In June 2020, a California hiker died on the South Kaibab Trail.

Hiking at the Grand Canyon can be deceiving. The temperature at the South Rim, where 90% of all visitors go, is about 20 degrees cooler than at the bottom. The temperature at Phantom Ranch along the Colorado River can top 100 degrees in summer.

— The Review-Journal contributed to this report.

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