Scorching inner-canyon temperatures led to a group of hikers being evacuated along the North Rim of the Grand Canyon last week.
Approximately 20 public service officers from four agencies successfully located all of the hikers on Wednesday and Thursday in the Tuweap area.
The group of 16 hikers, who were from Lehigh University in Bethlehem, Pa., had attempted a round-trip day hike to the Colorado River on the Lava Falls Trail.
Margee Hench of Grand Canyon National Park’s public affairs office said the trail is short, though extremely steep, difficult and exposed.
“With yesterday’s (Wednesday) temperatures exceeding 108 degrees, only six of the 16 hikers had returned by nightfall,” Hench said.
By 6:40 p.m., a park visitor used an emergency phone at the Tuweap Ranger Station to report the missing hikers.
Three helicopters responded to the scene, but were forced to postpone flights into the Canyon because of poor weather conditions and ensuing darkness.
However, search and rescue personnel conducted a hasty search along the trail after dark. At 11 p.m., they located one more hiker from the group, still leaving nine unaccounted for.
But the hiker said his companions were further down in the Canyon near the river, where they intended to spend the rest of the night.
At first light on Thursday, a Department of Public Safety helicopter located the remaining nine hikers and evacuated them from the Canyon.
One hiker suffered a leg injury and was transported to Flagstaff Medical Center.
Jeff Martinelli, a National Park Service ranger, said the other 15 hikers were medically evaluated and most were recovering from mild to moderately serious levels of dehydration.
“Even the most prepared and experienced hikers can run into trouble on hot days,” said Mark Law, GCNP’s corridor ranger. “This may be what happened on the Lava Falls Trail. When it is 110 degrees Fahrenheit and people are involved in very strenuous physical activity, they run the risk of being overwhelmed by the combination of environmental and metabolic heat.”
Joining the NPS and DPS in the search and rescue were Mohave County and Coconino County.