Rangers rescue overeager hikers every year from inside the canyon, and sometimes the hikers never make it out alive because of heat stroke. Extreme heat, lack of shade and limited water sources can turn into the perfect storm making a quick day hike into a life-threatening nightmare. Read our interview of two search-and-rescue rangers to get tips on how to stay safe.
Heat Stroke Can Be Deadly
The National Park Service has erected countless signs along the canyon rim showing a fit male with the description, “Every year we rescue hundreds of hikers who look like this.” The signs are to warn hikers that no matter how good of shape they’re in, extreme heat can lead to heatstroke and possibly death.
Recognizing Heat Stroke
Heat stroke can overcome a hiker quickly. Suddenly hikers struggle to move forward and make strong decisions. Early warning signs of heat stroke are typically loss of appetite, thirst and feeling fatigued. As the symptoms worsen headaches, fainting and vomiting can ensue. When starting to feel the symptoms of heat stroke it is important to drink fluids and eat a small amount of food. Also stop to rest and try to find some shade.
Tips to Avoid Heat Stroke
First and foremost the most important way to prevent heat stroke is to set realistic goals and make sure to stick to them. Don’t plan on hiking from the rim of the canyon to the river and back in one day. Instead plan on leaving early and picking a turnaround point where water is available.
Also, be flexible based on what happens. If you get a later start than you had planned or your water bladder breaks and you lose all of your water, re-evaluate your plans to make the safest decision possible. Do not stick to your original itinerary just because you spent months planning it. A bad decision made in a moment’s time can lead to dangerous outcomes in the Grand Canyon.
Always make sure to carry more water than you think you need and have some salty snacks since you’ll be sweating a lot. Covering up is also important since exposed skin can be a major cause.
Finally don’t forget to let someone know your plans. If you don’t come back on time, they can alert rangers who can start a search and rescue effort.