Man dies while trying to hike across Grand Canyon amid high heat

GRAND CANYON, AZ., MARCH 9, 2015: Visitors to one of the viewing spots at Mather Point venture beyond the barricades to get a closer view better photos of Grand Canyon March 9, 2015 (Mark Boster / Los Angeles Times ).
Visitors at Mather Point venture beyond the barricades to get a closer view of the Grand Canyon. (Mark Boster / Los Angeles Times)

A man died over the weekend while attempting a rim-to-rim hike of the Grand Canyon, officials with the National Park Service said.

Ranjith Varma of Manassas, Va., was trying to complete the arduous 21-mile hike from the canyon’s South Rim to its North Rim in just a single day, according to the park service. The trek can take 12 to 15 hours to complete.

The park service's Grand Canyon Regional Communications Center received a call about 1:55 p.m. Saturday about a hiker in distress on the North Kaibab Trail, about a mile from Cottonwood Campground.

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The hiker became unresponsive, and bystanders started CPR, officials said. Park officials deployed a rescue helicopter to reach the remote location and provide "advanced life support efforts," the Park Service said.

Attempts to resuscitate Varma were unsuccessful.

The park service and the Coconino County, Ariz., medical examiner are investigating the death.

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It was not immediately clear whether Varma's death was heat related. Temperatures on exposed parts of the trail can reach over 120 degrees in the shade during summer, according to the park service, which strongly advises against trekking the inner canyon between the hours of 10 a.m. and 4 p.m.

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

At least five fatalities that have occurred in national parks over the summer are believed to be from heat-related illnesses during a prolonged heat wave across the South and Southwest.

In July, 71-year-old Steve Curry of Sunland collapsed after completing a hike in Death Valley, one of the hottest places on the planet, and died of what officials believe were heat-related causes.

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This story originally appeared in Los Angeles Times.