A Grand Canyon hiker has died while attempting to hike rim-to-rim in a single day at the national park.
Ranjith Varma -- a 55-year-old man from Manassas, Virginia -- was attempting to hike from the Grand Canyon’s south rim to the north rim in a single day on Saturday when the Grand Canyon Regional Communications Center received an emergency call at approximately 1:55 p.m. of a “hiker in distress” on the North Kaibab Trail, about one mile south of Cottonwood Campround, according to a statement released by the National Park Service (NPS) on Monday.
The trail is notoriously difficult and few people who visit the park take on the challenge.
"For the hearty souls who are willing to work for it – less than one percent of the Grand Canyon’s five million annual visitors – the real magic lies below the rim," the National Parks Foundation says on their website. "On this epic Grand Canyon hike, you’ll leave from the North Kaibab Trail on the North Rim, challenging your personal limits as you descend 14.3 miles and 6,000 feet to the bottom of the canyon before connecting with the Bright Angel Trail and climbing 4,500 feet and 9.6 miles back out again to the South Rim."
Varma became unresponsive and bystanders began initiating CPR on him, according to NPS.
“National Park Service search and rescue personnel responded to the call via helicopter,” NPS said in their statement. “Given the location, specialized helicopter maneuvers were employed to allow rangers to assume care of the hiker, initiating advance life support efforts.”
Attempts to resuscitate Varma were ultimately unsuccessful and the 55-year-old died during his rim-to-rim attempt at the Grand Canyon.
Park officials took the opportunity to warn people about the dangers of hiking, particularly during extreme heat.
"In the summer, temperatures on exposed parts of the trail can reach over 120°F (49 °C) in the shade. Park rangers strongly advise not hiking in the inner canyon during the heat of the day between the hours of 10 a.m. and 4 p.m.," NPS said. "Be aware that efforts to assist hikers may be delayed during the summer months due to limited staff, the number of rescue calls, employee safety requirements, and limited helicopter flying capability during periods of extreme heat or inclement weather."
Hikers are strongly encouraged to read the Hiking Tips page and check the Backcountry Updates and Closures page for current information on inner canyon conditions on NPS’ website before embarking on any journey.
An investigation into the Varma’s death is being now being conducted by the NPS in coordination with the Coconino County Medical Examiner and authorities confirmed that no further information will be made available at this time.