Ohio Woman Taking Solo Backpacking Trip Through Grand Canyon Dies From Oppressive Heat as Temps Soar to 115F

Hiker below Cathedral Stairs on the "Long Drag" that leads to "the Serpent," a series of switchbacks on the west-facing slope of Cope Butte that descend to the Tonto Plateau, and the intersection with the Tonto Trail.
NPS Photo/M. Quinn

“Hiking in extreme heat can lead to serious health risks including heat exhaustion, heat stroke, hypothermia, and death,” park officials said.

A 53-year-old Ohio woman on a solo backpacking trip in Grand Canyon National Park died from the oppressive heat as temperatures soared to a sweltering 115 degrees, according park officials.

On Saturday, Michelle Meder had been hiking on the Hermit Trail to Bright Angel Trail when she became disoriented and later unconscious, Grand National Park officials said in a news release. 

The following day, when park rangers searched the area they found Meder's body along the Tonto Trail. Temperatures that weekend reached in the triple digits, park officials said.

“Hiking in extreme heat can lead to serious health risks including heat exhaustion, heat stroke, hypothermia, and death,” park officials 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.”

Park officials said the Grand Canyon trails do not close due to inclement weather.  During the summer, temperatures on exposed parts of the trail can reach over 120 degrees Fahrenheit “in the shade,” and approximately 140 degrees Fahrenheit in the sun, officials said. 

Park rangers are strongly urging visitors to be prepared for excessively hot days in the coming weeks. Inner canyon hikers and backpackers should be especially vigilant. It is strongly advised not to hike in the inner canyon between 10 a.m. and 4 p.m. 

“Most of the people who need emergency medical help in the canyon due to heat illness are hiking between these hours,” the release said. 

According to the AllTrails.com, the Tonto Trail is rated "difficult" and is recommended for very experienced hikers. The trail stretches just over 27 miles and can take up to four to five days to travel.

Hike responsibly, according to the National Park Service (NPS). “There are ways to safely hike below the rim, for those who are prepared, well-acclimated to the climate and elevation, have the appropriate gear, and who have prior experience hiking in steep, desert terrain. Visitors should evaluate their level of experience and plan accordingly,” park officials said. 

For more information on hiking in the summer months in Grand Canyon, visit: www.nps.gov.gov/grca/planyourvisit/hike-smart.htm

An investigation into the incident is being conducted by the NPS in coordination with the Coconino County Medical Examiner. No additional information is available at this time. 

Related Stories