GCNP’s Search & Rescue workers see busy week

INNER CANYON — Grand Canyon National Park had plenty of visitors over Memorial Day weekend early last week and with hot temperatures, there were a variety of incidents involving hikers.

The biggest search and rescue operation involved 11 missing day hikers early last week in the Grandview Trail area. National Park Service’s Search and Rescue team found them Memorial Day morning.

Rangers had received a report the day before of the group being overdue from a hike in the Grandview Trail-Horseshoe Mesa area. NPS began a hasty search for the hikers, a group ranging in age from 17-33.

The search continued overnight in the Horseshoe Mesa area and then the NPS sent out one of its helicopters on Memorial Day morning. At 9:30 a.m., the party was found near Hance Creek and evacuated.

The hot weather over Memorial Day weekend affected several other hikers down in the Canyon.

On May 27, dispatch received a report of a 28-year-old man experiencing exhaustion and dehydration on the Bright Angel Trail. The man’s condition was reported from the 1.5-Mile Resthouse emergency phone. The hiker was located in the area of the two-mile corner on the Bright Angel Trail.

Calls such as those have become routine for GCNP rangers during the busy tourism season. But when responding to this particular man, a paramedic came across several other hikers experiencing similar problems.

While hiking in to help the original man in distress, the paramedic came across other hikers with heat-related difficulties. On the way back out, more hikers were found. In the end, approximately 14 people had joined the hike out. South Rim patrol met the party and assisted with transportation from the Bright Angel trailhead.

Nearly every day in the past few weeks, rangers helped hikers get out of the inner canyon. A potentially serious situation developed on May 23-24 when three older hikers set out on a day hike on the Ken Patrick Trail and Uncle Jim Trail.

The trio, which included two men and one woman in their 50s and 60s, was reported as overdue at 8:30 p.m. on May 23. At first light on May 24, rangers conducted a ground search and checked trailheads. At noon, a NPS helicopter was launched with two spotters aboard.

Fortunately, two of the hikers were found on the old Bright Angel Trail. The third hiker was found about three miles further down the same trail and the copter dropped Gatorade and food.

The group, which had one quart of water, very little food and no overnight gear, had spent the night at Bright Angel Creek. The first two hikers tried to hike out on the old Bright Angel Trail, but the third hiker chose to stay at the creek. All were flown to the North Rim and once there, they refused further medical treatment.

Various other hikers were helped on hikes out or flown out because of the heat or injuries on Memorial Day weekend. Among those was a 74-year-old woman who hiked down from the North Rim to Roaring Springs on May 26. Unable to walk following her hike down, the woman, who had two hip replacements, was evacuated via NPS copter.

Besides hikers being poorly equipped to cope with inner canyon heat, others helped out in recent days included a woman suffering an ankle injury, a 42-year-old male diabetic who did not take his medication on the hike, a 52-year-old man who suffered an ankle fracture while traveling with a commercial river trip and a 47-year-old river trip passenger with kidney stones.

This past Wednesday, another river trip passenger experienced problems with a probable broken arm. The passenger suffered the injury while the boat was going through Horn Rapids. NPS flew out the patient from River Mile 92 to the South Rim.

On Thursday, Rangers evacuated two men and two boys from the river, all experiencing heat-related distress. A Wilderness River commercial trip reported the distressed hikers at Emminence Break Route at River Mile 44.

Search and Rescue continued to work hard over the weekend with several more calls, likely due to continued high temperatures.

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