Body of Graduate Student Recovered in Montana’s Beartooth Mountains After Missing for Nearly 2 Months

Tatum Morrel, 23, died during a hiking trip in Beartooth Mountains, Montana.
Red Lodge Fire Rescue

Rescuers believe Tatum Morell, 23, was climbing Whitetail Peak when she got caught in a significant rockslide and suffered fatal injuries around July 2, officials said.

The body of a 23-year-old woman who went missing in Montana’s Beartooth Mountains last month after a solo hiking trip was discovered by a group of hikers on Saturday, officials said.

Tatum Morell’s body was found buried under rocks, well below the Whitetail couloir, according to Red Lodge Fire Rescue news release.

The hikers first found a piece of hiking equipment on the trail that led them to the young woman’s body, KTVQ News reported. 

Two Bear Air and Yellowstone County Sheriff helicopters worked with Carbon County Sheriff’s Department and fire and rescue crews to retrieve Morell’s body from the rugged mountains and bring her home, the release said.

Rescuers believe Morell was climbing Whitetail Peak when she got caught in a significant rock slide and suffered fatal injuries around July 2, the release said.

“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 news outlet reported.

“Finding her, especially buried in that rockslide answered a lot of questions as to why our ground crews couldn't find her, why helicopters couldn’t find her, and even why search dogs couldn’t find her. That helps us a lot with putting the pieces of the puzzle together.”

Officials said the area she was located in had been searched many times by rescue crews, but since she had been mostly buried under rocks, it made it extremely difficult for crews to locate her, Red Lodge Fire Rescue said.

The family met with recovery teams and Red Lodge Fire Rescue personnel at the Red Lodge Airport, officials said.

The young woman, who was a graduate student at Montana State University, was described as an “avid and experienced hiker,” CBS reported. 

According to Morell's LinkedIn page, she graduated in 2019 from California Polytechnic State University, San Luis Obispo, with an undergraduate degree in biomedical engineering.

Officials said Morell planned to climb five mountain peaks over 12,000 feet in the West Fork of Rock Creek near Red Lodge Montana, the release said.

The last time family members heard from Morell was on July 1. She had camped at Shadow Lake and used an InReach satellite communicator to call he mother in Ketchum, Idaho. It is believed she left her tent on July 2 and never returned, officials said, CBS News reported.

On July 5, authorities kicked off an intensive search in the rugged, rocky terrain of the Beartooth Mountains. Search efforts were scaled back on July 10 after authorities determined that it was unlikely Morell was still alive, KTVQ reported. 

The family of Morell expressed their gratitude to Red Lodge Fire Rescue and the Carbon County Sheriff’s Department and all the volunteers and search crews for helping the family get closure. 

The announcement that was made over social media prompted heartfelt responses, with some who didn’t know even know Morell but in some way, felt like they did.

One person wrote, “I’ve been following this one…it moved me. She was a fierce, courageous young lady out doing what she loved solo,” he said.  “May she Rest In Peace and her family have loving closure.”

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