Rescuers searching for hiker missing in Beartooth Mountains

July 7, 2021 GMT

BILLINGS, Mont. (AP) — Search and rescue teams on the ground and in the air are looking for a Montana State University graduate student who has not been in contact with her family since last week, when she started a hike in the Beartooth Mountains, north of Yellowstone National Park.

Tatum Morell, 23, left Red Lodge for a hike on July 1, the Carbon County sheriff’s office said. She contacted her mother in Ketchum, Idaho, with a satellite device that evening, but hasn’t been heard from since. Garmin inReach, the satellite device company, has been unable to get a signal from the device, officials said.

Morell is an experienced hiker and had planned to hike to the top of five mountain peaks in the area, the sheriff’s office said. She was expected to return Sunday, or Monday at the latest.

Because she was overdue and had not contacted family, search and rescue was called on Monday, said Amy Hyfield, a public information officer for Red Lodge Fire and Rescue.

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Searchers found Morell’s tent Monday evening in the Shadow Lake area, at an elevation of about 10,000 feet (3,000 meters), but there was no sign of Morell other than items she left in her tent.

“We think she left her campsite on Friday morning to climb one of the peaks and did not return,” Hyfield told The Billings Gazette.

Montana National Guard and Two Bear Air helicopters are searching for Morell. Two Bear Air searched Tuesday around peaks that are over 12,000 feet (3,600 meters) in elevation that searchers believe Morell might have tried to climb, Hyfield said.

Search and Rescue teams from Yellowstone, Gallatin and Big Horn counties in Montana and Park County in Wyoming joined the effort Wednesday, along with the U.S. Forest Service and three search dog teams. They planned to search along approaches and routes Morell might have taken to summit the peaks while dogs search the area around her camp, Hyfield said.

The routes being searched are high in elevation and relatively technical with car-sized boulders, loose stones and snowfields, officials said. This was Morell’s first trip to the Beartooth Mountains, but she recently climbed five peaks in five days in Gallatin County, Hyfield said.