A group of hikers exploring Whitetail Peak in the Beartooth Mountains, Montana discovered the body of a woman who went missing in early July. The group found the 23-year-old hiker, Tatum Morell, on Saturday. Following intense weather conditions, crews recovered her from the mountains Sunday. Carbon County Sheriff Josh McQuillan said, “It appears that she was caught in a rock slide.”
According to the Billings Gazette, the hikers who discovered the body stumbled on a piece of hiking gear that did not belong to the woman. However they scanned the area of the rock slide, and their eyes caught on something amid the debris. Upon finding the Montana hiker’s body, they contacted first responders, sharing theirs and Morell’s coordinates.
The sheriff stated that items found with the body matched what Morell had taken with her on her hike. They were, therefore, able to positively identify the body. Further, the landslide that caused the woman’s death created difficulty determining where Morell had been when the incident took place. Authorities estimated she had been half a mile from her campsite in Shadow Lake.
Supposedly, Morell had last made contact with her family on July 1st using a Garmin InReach satellite communicator. According to the AP, the hiker had planned to trek to the top of five mountain peaks in the areas north of Yellowstone National Park. She’d planned on concluding her trip on July 5th.
Morell’s Family Finds Solace as the Hiker “Passed In a Place She Loved”
According to the Gazette, Morell was a graduate student pursuing engineering at Montana State University. The Idaho native was an experienced hiker and had made multiple treks into the mountains before.
However, the July hike was her first into the Beartooth Mountains. The hiker initially began at West Fork Trailhead.
An earlier July video statement featured commentary from Morell’s family. Prior to the discovery of the woman’s body, her mother said, “Tate was a fiercely independent, adventurous soul who loved the mountains. We find some solace in knowing she passed in a place she loved.” The video also featured Morell’s brother Josh as well as her father.
The statement went public after searchers in the Beartooth Mountains claimed it was unlikely Morell had survived.
Hikers Have Faced Extreme Conditions Throughout the Summer Months
While Morell’s death is no doubt tragic, she’s not the only hiker to go missing this summer. Amid record-setting heat out west in Death Valley this July, a 68-year-old hiker was found dead two miles from the closest road in the California national park.
At the time, authorities were unsure what caused the man’s death. However, they did say he, “set out on a planned 12-mile hike…when the humidity hit an oppressive 91 percent and highs were a thermometer-shattering 118.”
While saddening, it’s also puzzling that several lone hikers have gone missing on hikes this summer. Part of the reason could be attributed to climate change. Others, such as in Morell’s case, could simply be freak accidents. Regardless, hikers should keep their wits about them and prepare for the worst, especially when traveling alone.