Rescuers have recovered the body of the missing hiker Tatum Morell. Climbers discovered Morell on Saturday, August 21, well below the Whitetail Couloir near Red Lodge, MT.
Rescuers believe Tatum was climbing Whitetail Peak when she was caught in a significant rock slide and suffered fatal injuries. The area where she was located had been searched numerous times by rescue crews. However, because Tatum 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. 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.”
– Assistant Chief Jon Trapp with Red Lodge Fire Rescue
Two Bear Air and the Yellowstone County Sheriff helicopter worked together with Red Lodge Fire Rescue and the Carbon County Sheriff’s office to recover her body from the rugged mountains. Her family and Red Lodge Fire Rescue personnel met the recovery teams at the Red Lodge Airport.
Morell was an avid and experienced hiker who planned to climb five mountain peaks over 12000’ in the West Fork of Rock Creek near Red Lodge, MT. She had prepared for these hikes through a lifetime of backcountry trips and adventures with her family and by herself. She backpacked into the area, camped at Shadow Lake on Thursday, July 1st, and contacted her family via an InReach satellite communicator that evening. This was her last communication with her family. It is believed that she left her tent on July 2nd and didn’t return.
Rescuers have been extensively searching the rugged mountains that rise above 12,000 feet since July 5th. The challenging search area contains countless rock fields, car-sized boulders, scree fields, and snowfields. Searching the area requires technical experience and advanced backcountry knowledge. The size of the search area and the difficulty of the terrain makes searching extremely dangerous to rescuers.
Mountain rescue teams, search dog teams, and ground search teams have put hundreds of rescue hours into searching the area, including searching all possible routes, mountain peaks, ridges, as well as the area around her tent. Search efforts included multiple aerial searches by Red Lodge Fire Rescue, the Yellowstone County Sheriff’s office, Two Bear Air, the Army National Guard, and Gallatin County SAR. In addition to ground and air searching, the rescuers used multiple high-resolution visual and infrared cameras, cell phone tracking, and Recco technologies. Tatum’s family has been in the area providing detailed information to search managers.
Tatum’s family added:
“Tate was a fiercely independent, adventurous soul who loved the mountains. We find some solace in knowing she passed in a place she loved.”
Red Lodge Fire Rescue and the Carbon County Sheriff’s Office will continue search efforts on a limited but continuous basis for the foreseeable future. There will be limited area searches by trained rescuers, investigation of specifically identified targets, and periodic searches by search dog teams.
“I am impressed with the outstanding commitment of all the volunteers on this search operation. Every search technique and technical capability was utilized. We had support from local, state, regional and federal resources.”
– Josh McQuillan, Carbon County Sheriff
Tatum’s family, the Carbon County Sheriff’s office, and Red Lodge Fire Rescue appreciate all of the efforts of the supporting agencies and organizations: Yellowstone County Sheriff, Gallatin County SAR, Park County WY SAR, Big Horn County SAR, the US Forest Service, the Army National Guard, Montana FWP, Palisades Ranches, Jackson Hole Search Dogs, Absaroka Search Dogs, Western Montana Search Dogs, Coconino County Sheriff’s Office, Gallatin County Sheriff’s Office, MSU Police, Garmin InReach, Gaia GPS, the many people who volunteered time to search and support the effort and the many people who have offered their assistance.
The family asks that people who wish to commemorate Tatum’s life please make donations in her honor to Red Lodge Fire Rescue at redlodgefire.com.