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Backpacker Dies of Apparent Hypothermia in Zion Narrows

One visitor died and another required medical attention after attempting to tackle a popular trail in unusually cold conditions.

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A backpacker passed away during an overnight hike of the Narrows in Zion National Park, the National Park Service says. 

The 31-year-old hiker, who has not yet been identified, was attempting to complete a 16-mile trip with her husband when they became “dangerously cold” and developed hypothermic symptoms at night, the husband told park authorities. In the morning, about 1.5 miles from the north end of Riverside Walk, the paved trail leading to the Narrows, the husband left to find help. While he was gone, fellow park visitors encountered the woman unresponsive, and administered CPR until park search and rescue personnel arrived.

Upon arrival, first responders administered emergency aid, but were unable to revive the woman. According to the NPS, more than 20 search and rescue team members were involved in the response. Although the Washington County Sheriff’s Office, Utah Office of the Medical Examiner, and the NPS are still investigating the cause of death, authorities suspect she died of hypothermia. Her husband was later rescued and received treatment for hypothermia at the park’s emergency operations center; information on his current condition was not available.

According to AccuWeather, Wednesday’s weather ranged from a high of 55 degrees to a low of 14 degrees in Zion—chillier than Zion’s average November low of 37 degrees. Hypothermia occurs when a person’s body temperature drops dangerously below 98°F. Canyon streams like those in the Narrows can speed up the process of hypothermia, since immersion in water makes people lose body heat more quickly.

Hypothermia isn’t the only potential danger while hiking the Narrows: In August, rising floodwaters swept 29-year-old hiker Jetal Agnihotri downstream and away from her friends. Four days later, searchers found her body several miles away.


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