GREAT FALLS — Rescuers have recovered the body of missing hiker Tatum Morell. She was found by climbers on Saturday, August 21, below the Whitetail couloir, according to a news release from Red Lodge Fire Rescue.
Morell, a 23-year-old Montana State University graduate student from Idaho, hiked out on the West Fork Trailhead, about 14 miles West of Red Lodge, on the afternoon of Thursday, July 1st.
Red Lodge Fire Rescue said that a Two Bear Air helicopter and the Yellowstone County Sheriff's Office helicopter worked with them and the Carbon County Sheriff’s Office to recover her body from the rugged mountains. The recovery teams were met by her family and Red Lodge Fire Rescue personnel at the Red Lodge Airport.
Rescuers believe that Tatum was climbing Whitetail Peak when she was caught in a significant rock slide and was fatally injured. The area where she was located had been searched numerous times by rescue crews. However, due to the fact that she was mostly buried under rocks, she was extremely difficult to find.
“After almost two months of extensive search efforts, we are relieved that she is able to be returned to her family,” said Assistant Chief Jon Trapp with Red Lodge Fire Rescue. “The effort volunteers put into finding Tatum surpassed anything I’ve seen in my 17 years with Search and Rescue operations; it was absolutely incredible.”
Tatum was an experienced hiker who planned to climb five mountain peaks over 12000’ in the West Fork of Rock Creek near Red Lodge. She backpacked into the area, camped at Shadow Lake on Thursday, July 1st, and contacted her family via an InReach satellite communicator that evening. That was her last communication with her family. It is believed that she left her tent on July 2nd and didn’t return.
Rescuers began searching the area on July 5th focusing on Silver Run, Whitetail, Sundance, Bowback and Castle mountains. Rescue efforts included cell phone and InReach “pings”, information searches on her personal accounts, mountain rescue teams, search dog teams, ground search teams and visual, infrared, Recco and cell phone tracking aerial searches.
The vast search area contained countless rock fields, car-sized boulders, scree fields, and snowfields and some areas required technical experience and advanced backcountry knowledge. The size of the search area and the difficulty of the terrain made searching extremely dangerous to rescuers.
Red Lodge Fire Rescue, the Carbon County Sheriff, and the family of Tatum Morell thanked all of the agencies and volunteers that assisted in the search efforts.