Grand Canyon Tips
By Radu Timis
The Grand Canyon Park is a high elevation desert covering a surface of more than 1.2 million acres of land. The majority of park’s surface is inaccessible to humans because of the geological configuration, but not inhospitable for plants and animals. Depending on the planning each one is making ahead of time, The Canyon can be a wonderful, revelatory experience, or an ordeal. Don’t forget! You must be in control and responsible for your own actions, and safety.
No Need For Suffering The Grand Canyon’s trails descend from a cool, nice, shady, and forested environment, to a desert, hot microclimate. When you already descended 1.5 – 3 miles, a combination of elevation, temperature, hiking in direct sun, and the distance walked, act against your body losing its thermoregulation ability, calories (energy), and water.
The recommendations are:
Plan the hike ahead of time
Hike early in the morning, or late in the evening to avoid direct sun. If you hike in sun, wet the shirt and hat; take rests often in shaded areas with feet elevated;
Climbing up takes, in time, twice as much as the descent, and the climbing out has the right of way over those who descend; avoid feet blisters. In groups stay together with the most experienced hikers at the front and end of the party.
Do not try to walk down to river and back to rim in one day. Over exhausting yourself is dangerous and life threatening.
During hiking eat salty and highly caloric snacks, and drink water or sport drinks, to replenish lost energy and electrolytes. You must balance your food and liquid intake. According to each person’s genetic make up and physical conditioning, one could consume during hiking, up to one half /or one quart of water. Eat a hearty breakfast before start hiking. Stop for a full lunch in shadows. Eat snack every time you stop for drinking water. At the end of the hike eat a large dinner!
Don’t rush! Hike slowly. The right pace to hike, is to be able to carry a conversation. If you’re out of breath, your body does not get enough oxygen and the results are exhaustion, fatigue, heavy, aching, and cramping legs.
Hazards - In every single year the rangers have hundreds of “search and rescue” operations at the rescue’s expenses (do have available a cell phone and a valid credit card on your name). Some have physical accidents: enter the river and drown, or fall and fracture bones, or suffer heat stroke, or are left without water. So, think and plan ahead! You venture onto a rugged desert environment, with little or no water, almost no shades, and with extreme temperatures. The help might not be able to reach you for days. Even on corridor trails the help cannot be immediate. Depending on your planning, the life-or-death consequence is yours!!!
Heat: In summer time the inner canyon temperature can rise to 110F (43.3C) or even more, in the shade. As you descend from the cooler rim temperature down into the canyon, the lack of shades and direct sun heat may reduce your physical efficiency. During the midday stay in shades. Hike early in the morning, or late in the evening, or during night, and use a hat and clothing covering your body. Hike if possible –descend and climb up- in spring, fall, or winter.
Cold: In Grand Canyon Village, between September and late in spring (April, May, and June) expect snowfalls. In winter big snowstorms cover in snow and ice the trails’ upper portions, the climbers needing crampons attached to their boots, and walking sticks/ski poles. The temperatures are extremely variable, with snowing on the rim and raining at the river’s level.
Under these circumstances, the most weather related emergencies are:
Heat Exhaustion Caused by improper physical conditioning, and long exposure to heat. You might feel weak, dizzy, head aching, maybe nauseated or vomiting, clammy skin, dilated pupils.
What to do? - Lay down with feet elevated in shaded areas (where ever you can find them), drink plenty of water or sport drinks for replacing lost electrolytes, and eat salty snacks. Get help!
Heat Stroke Although it doesn't happen often, it is very serious. It happens 2 to 5 times annually. The condition appears when the human body has lost the capability of thermoregulation. The overheating of the body is due to overexertion. The skin is dry and hot (even in armpits), face flushed, the pulse weak and rapid, the judgment poor, the level of consciousness is low, the body temperature is high.
What to do? Get the victim in the shades; cool the body; immerse it in the water if this is available, and, remember, the person may die if the body temperature is not lowered. Get help!
Hyponatremia It's low Sodium (salt), or water intoxication, is seen often in this country (especially on west and south-west), people having water bottle in their hands and drinking uncontrollably, due to poor information. Hiking in canyon and drinking too much water, might wash out too much salt off of your body by sweating. The person urinates often, is nauseated, may vomit, and the mental status might be altered.
What to do? Provide lots of salty foods/snacks, place the person in shades and try to cool him/her with water. If consciousness is diminished, call for help!
Hypothermia It is a state in which the body is not capable to preserve its warmth due to exhaustion, and extreme weather conditions: windy, cold, wet. The person might have uncontrollable shivering, slurred speech, careless and incoherent behavior due to exhaustion, low mental status.
What to do? Drink plenty of hot fluids, shelter the person from elements, change person’s wet clothes with dry ones, warm the victim by body contact. Call for help!
Bites. Rattlesnake bites are rare because the snakes avoid humans, and attack only when people try to “handle” them. So do not approach when you see them.
The scorpion bite, altough painful, does not develop a serious medical condition. Never leave a tent open; close it tightly and carefully; check closely the sleeping bag before getting into it, or when wrapping it up; check and shake the boots and clothes before wearing them; always wear shoes in campgrounds; pay attention to woods, logs, rocks, before moving them.
Red ants bites are painful. Avoid disturbing their nests or spilling food. Apply cold water compresses, use Hydrocortisone ointment on the bitten area, and pain killers. Same recommendation for the above condition, too. These over the counter medications should be available in every backpack.
River and Flash Floods. Avoid camping in dry washes. Your tent pitched there can be taken away, out of the blue, by a wall of dirty, muddy water fed by a runoff from a faraway thunderstorm, let alone a storm happening in your area.
It is not recommended to swim in the Colorado River, due to treacherous and powerful currents, and very cold water (45-50F; 7-10C).
Grand Canyon National Park