A 23-year-old hiker missing in Montana's Beartooth Mountains since early July is believed to have died in a sudden rock slide. The body of Tatum Morell, a Montana State University graduate student in engineering, was discovered Saturday in a gully below Whitetail Peak, one of five area peaks over 12,000 feet tall that the avid hiker from Ketchum, Idaho, had hoped to climb on a solo trip, reports Fox News. She is believed to have been "caught in a significant rock slide and suffered fatal injuries" after her last contact on July 1, Red Lodge Fire Rescue said, per People. It noted her body "was mostly buried under rocks."
The area in which Morell's body was found had been searched numerous times since she failed to return as planned on July 5, per the Mercury News. It was her first time hiking the Beartooth Mountains, though she'd completed similar treks before, reports the Billings Gazette. She'd spoken to her mother via satellite phone on July 1. The following day, she reportedly left her tent near Shadow Lake to set out on the West Fork Trailhead near Red Lodge, close to the Wyoming border, intending to climb Whitetail Peak.
Morell's tent, which had some of her gear inside, was found earlier in the search near Shadow Lake. Her body was perhaps only a half mile away, Carbon County Sheriff Josh McQuillan said, per the Gazette. A group of hikers initially spotted gear amid debris before calling first responders and providing GPS coordinates, McQuillan said. "After almost two months of extensive search efforts, we are relieved that [Morell] is able to be returned to her family," said Red Lodge Fire Rescue Assistant Chief Jon Trapp. He added the effort to find her "surpassed anything I've seen in my 17 years with Search and Rescue operations." (Read more hiker death stories.)