When Robin Phillips of Bountiful, Utah, planned a six-day hiking trip into the Grand Canyon for his troop of Boy Scouts last month, he knew the remote route would be waterless. But maps and guidebooks couldn't tell him it would prove deadly. Three days into the trip, which, as it turned out, Phillips could not attend, the group of five Scouts and three adults ran out of water. That afternoon, Phillips' 15-year-old son David died from heat exhaustion and dehydration.
The survivors were
evacuated by helicopter the following day. Less than a week later,
rescuers evacuated another group of parched Scouts from the canyon,
reports the Salt Lake Tribune.
Boy Scouts aren't
the only visitors who run into trouble in the park. Each year,
rescue crews handle about 400 "search and rescue" incidents
involving groups of unprepared or unlucky hikers in the Grand
Canyon; during the peak season from June to August, two to three
helicopter evacuations take place every day. "We have signs on the
trails that say "do not go beyond this point without food and
water," "''''says park spokeswoman Maureen Oltrogge. "People walk
right past them."
Visitors can experience heat
exhaustion, heat stroke, and hyponatremia or "water intoxication,"
says Ken Phillips, the park's search and rescue coordinator. All
three are easily prevented by drinking ample water (the Park
Service recommends that each person carry one to two gallons per
day in the Grand Canyon) and replacing electrolytes by eating salty
snacks or drinking sports drinks. Phillips also says it's important
to obtain an accurate backcountry permit, wear rugged shoes or
boots, carry a first aid kit and pack what he calls "backcountry
life insurance' - a signal mirror.