A 55-year-old man from Virginia, Ranjith Varma, has tragically passed away while attempting to hike rim-to-rim in a single day at the Grand Canyon National Park. The incident occurred on September 12, 2023, when Varma was hiking from the south rim to the north rim. The National Park Service received an emergency call around 1:55 p.m., reporting a distressed hiker on the North Kaibab Trail, approximately one mile south of Cottonwood Campground.
Varma became unresponsive, and bystanders on the trail immediately initiated CPR. National Park Service search and rescue personnel arrived via helicopter and performed advanced life support efforts, but unfortunately, they were unable to resuscitate Varma. The 55-year-old hiker lost his life during his ambitious rim-to-rim hike at the Grand Canyon.
The North Kaibab Trail, where the incident occurred, is known for its difficulty, and only a small percentage of visitors to the park attempt it. The hike involves descending 14.3 miles and 6,000 feet from the North Kaibab Trail on the north rim to the bottom of the canyon, before ascending 9.6 miles and 4,500 feet through the Bright Angel Trail to the south rim. The National Parks Foundation acknowledges the challenge of this epic hike but highlights the unique experience it offers to those who brave it.
Park officials have taken this unfortunate event as an opportunity to remind hikers of the dangers associated with hiking, especially during extreme heat. In the summer, temperatures on exposed parts of the trail can exceed 120°F (49°C) in the shade. The National Park Service strongly advises against hiking in the inner canyon between the hours of 10 a.m. and 4 p.m. during hot weather conditions. They also recommend checking the Hiking Tips page and Backcountry Updates and Closures page on their website for current information on inner canyon conditions before embarking on any journey.
An investigation into Varma’s death is currently underway by the National Park Service, in collaboration with the Coconino County Medical Examiner. At this time, no further information is available regarding the incident.